September 18, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

CHN Mailbag #3: NHL Sponsored Study, Frozen Four Destinations, Recruiting

by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer (@MikeMcMahonCHN)

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Illinois gets the first NHL/NHLPA feasibility study. As for the next four, what schools are you hearing are hoping to receive an opportunity? If you could select the four, where would you go? Eastern Bias here but i like URI, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Seton Hall. — Matt (UConn)

I haven't heard any schools rumored to receive studies after Illinois, but like you, I think there are several interesting candidates. If the NHL is going to sponsor studies, I believe you'll see these are bigger schools. No offense to the small private college, but the NHL is going to want to associate themselves with big names — like Illinois — so I would expect the other four schools to be larger universities. Also, larger universities would theoretically be able to support a program financially, which as we've seen with Penn State and Arizona State, a new program requires significant funding, especially at the start. Larger universities have a larger pool of big donors, typically.

Rutgers is one that stands out. They have a strong club program and supporters of that program have been lobbying for a Division I team. URI I don't think is happening. It has been rumored for years but last I reached out to someone there, which was admittedly a few years ago, I was told that they were not exploring Division I hockey. Of course, that might have changed since then. Navy is in the same boat, where I was told they were not exploring adding new programs last I checked.

Syracuse is interesting. I believe there are Title IX issues there if they were to persue a Division I men's program (they already have a women's program). Both URI and Syracuse would be great fits for Hockey East as a potential 12th team. Seton Hall I don't know enough about.

I do think we'll see some Pac 12 schools explore Division I hockey with the NHL's sponsored studies. Arizona State could use some company. Maybe Stanford, UCLA/USC, Oregon or Washington, in an attempt to capitalize on a growing youth hockey market in California. Alabama is another strong club program that has shown interest, and they're obviously a big state university. 

As for some other wild guesses ... Pittsburgh has hosted a Frozen Four and will host another, so Pitt could be on the list. Indiana seems like a logical fit, obviously with the Big Ten. Buffalo is in a hotspot for hockey. The Carolinas has a growing youth hockey scene, so maybe Duke, Wake Forest or UNC. St. John's, in the heart of New York City, would be unique. With Tampa having so much success with the Frozen Four, you wonder if Florida, Florida State or South Florida (located in Tampa) might have interest. I also think that Temple and Villanova could be successful given their geography.

Why give Boston another Frozen Four so quickly, same with Pittsburgh, rather than go to new cities like Nashville or San Jose or even try something totally different in Canada? Do you think anything like that would work? — Matthew (Grand Rapids)

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say it would be great for some of those cities you mentioned to host the Frozen Four, but they have to bid. That's ultimately what it comes down to.

Boston hosting again makes sense. It's a hotbed for the sport. Personally, I wouldn't be upset if you hosted the event in Boston and Minnesota once every four years, and then rotated some experimental cities in for the other two years. Tampa is such a great take, I'd even be OK with Boston, Minnesota and Tampa three out of every four years, and then one experimental city. 

It's a matter of when for Nashville, I think. San Jose is an interesting city, and I think they would do a great job hosting the event, but people seem to be turned off to the west coast after Anaheim in 1999 (it's never been back again). Las Vegas is another prime location. Some people might say that the NCAA won't want the event so close to gambling, but UNLV is almost right off the strip and the NCAA plays a bowl game there every year.

When you say (in your last mailbag) that some teams are cancelling commitments on players, where do those players go? Do they just end up at another school? Also, why is this accepted as such a common practice? It seems like you should come up with another term because people in college hockey seem to have lost what the definition of "commitment" is. — Chris (Pennsylvania)

A lot of it depends on where those players are in their age cycle. If they're 18 years old, and a school backs out, then they have the opportunity to go back to junior hockey and earn another scholarship elsewhere. But, when it happens late, there is often no place for players to go and some end up Division III and I know of others who simply stop playing.

There's also teams cutting kids (for better recruits), and in some cases those players return to juniors, in others they transfer, and in some cases they go Major Junior.

I spoke with an OHL scout recently, and he joked that they don't use the word "commitment" in Ontario when it comes to kids committing to college programs. They refer to them as placeholders, which seems to be more accurate at times.

I do think there is a correlation between early recruiting and over recruiting. Some teams over recruit because they need to protect themselves in case their younger recruits don't pan out. If college hockey, as a body, found a way to make the recruiting process older, there's not as much time to defer players and there would also be less of a need to protect yourself against kids who don't pan out, because you're recruiting a kid that's more of a known commodity.

But, college hockey has the CHL, which is unique and no other sport deals with a league that could potentially kill someone's eligibility at 14 or 15 year sold.

It's also important to note that recruiting issues aren't exclusive to college hockey. Lacrosse has had issues with younger recruiting, and have taken steps to go in the opposite direction. Football and basketball have their own set of issues.

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