November 12, 2013 PRINT Bookmark and Share

NLI Primer

Early Signing Period Starts Wednesday

CHN Staff Report

With the National Letter of Intent's early signing period starting Wednesday for college hockey, now is a good time to go over exactly who signs an NLI, what it means, and when the agreement can be put on paper.

What is an NLI?

When you read about a player committing to your favorite program, almost always that's a verbal commitment. That means it's non-binding and, theoretically, that player can de-commit at any point to go to another program without any consequences.

At the same time, under a verbal commitment, the collegiate program could tell a player that things didn't pan out, and he was no longer going to be offered a spot on a college roster.

The NLI eliminates that verbal commitment, and puts the agreement on paper.

The NLI is a one-year contract, essentially. It's a guarantee that the player will attend a school for a period of at least one year, and the school will provide athletic financial aid for a period of at least one year.

Lastly — and to coaches, most importantly — signing an NLI closes the recruitment of a player. Once his NLI is signed no other school can contact or recruit that player.

Who Signs an NLI?

Before a player can sign an NLI, he must be at least a senior in high school. There are plenty of players who verbally commit before their seniors years, and those players are not eligible to sign an NLI until they are seniors.

Also, in order to be eligible to sign an NLI, a player must be receiving an athletic scholarship in his first year at a school. Believe it or not, that can sometimes be rare. Most players in college hockey are not on "full boats," or full, four-year athletic scholarships. A significant portion of players might be under something coaches will call a "2 for 4" agreement, meaning the player pays for his first two seasons and the school will pay for the final two with an athletic scholarship. Players entering a college program under these circumstances will not be eligible to sign an NLI because they are not receiving athletic aid in their first year of competition.

When can a player sign an NLI?

The early signing period starts on Wednesday (Nov. 13) and lasts for one week. After that ends, a player cannot sign again until April 16.

How long is an NLI good for?

Originally NLIs were meant to be signed the year before you start with a college program. However, an NLI can be deferred for up to four years if agreed upon by the school and player. It's possible a player signs an NLI as a 17-year-old senior in high school but defers for three seasons to play junior or prep hockey and doesn't start with his NCAA program until he is 20 years old.

For more information on the NLI, click here to visit their official website.

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