yankee hockey

GIVING IT THE OLD COLLEGE TRY

Posted in column, Prospects by yankhockey on March 31, 2009

There was a little something you may have noticed going on for the past couple weeks, the NCAA playoffs. No, I’m not talking about basketball, but rather the college hockey tournament which pits the best 16 college teams against each other in single elimination MADNESS!. No really, it’s pretty fun.

This year was kind of an odd one. Many of the teams normally associated with the tournament, the U of Minnesota, Boston College, and Michigan State didn’t make the cut this year, while Air Force, New Hampshire, Miami (Ohio) and lowly Bemidji State not only appeared in the tourney, but managed to upset some tournament stalwarts.

This year Boston University was the number one seeded team, and it seems well founded since they haven’t had much competition so far. They will be playing Vermont, who has a very decent team, in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, in the upset bracket, Bemidji State, who beat surprisingly second seeded Notre Dame and college hockey powerhouse Cornell will be facing the out of no where Miami (Ohio) who had to beat Colorado and Minnesota Duluth, so either team coming out of the lower bracket this year will be a surprising one.

There are two problems with the Frozen Four that make it much less significant then the Final Four. One, they really don’t get the word out enough on the hockey tournament. I realize that hockey doesn’t have the across the board market that basketball does, but there still needs to be more talk, more advertising, and better television deals to really pique the interests of people out there. The second reason is that the best players of college age just aren’t in the NCAA college tournament.

The NBA has a rule that does not allow players to be join the league right out of high school, or even be drafted for that matter. The NHL does not have that restraint. The most significant 18 and 19 year old players often head straight into professional leagues right out of junior. A lot of this has to do with the nature of hockey in Canada, where many of the best players come from. Junior hockey in Canada is as close to professional as you can get without a paycheck. Children are recruited onto teams, often having to leave their homes and schools and live with a surrogate family in another city, they are traded like commodities, and most of all they are taught to see professional hockey as their only goal. In the States junior and high school hockey is not nearly taken to that level. Though some US players do go straight to the pros, many take the college route. Other countries are more like Canada, at least when it comes to college age players drafted into the NHL. Very few European born players come from the college ranks, yet many of the best young stars in the NHL are European born.

Because of all this, the best college age hockey takes place during the world juniors, when the best players under 21 meet in a winner take all tournament. The Frozen Four, by comparison, is little league.

Of course, this is all due to the incredibly international nature of hockey. Though there are a great many good basketball players arriving into the NBA from countries other then the US, the best players are still coming from the college ranks. In the NHL the vast majority of players coming out of college are US players, with Canadians coming from major junior, and European either coming from their own junior leagues, or occasionally the WHL or ECHL where they’ve come to try to prove they can play the North American game. Still, that doesn’t make the Frozen Four insignificant, just less notable, amongst the other college championships. Believe me, NHL teams are watching for that diamond in the rough, and you should watch too. Not because you’re seeing the future of hockey, but because these guys have worked hard all year to be amongst the elite of college hockey and they may not have another moment like this again as they leave with diplomas and enter into the non-sporting workforce, and they’ve earned your attention.

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One Response

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  1. ibarr122 said, on March 31, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Go Bemidji (pronounced Ba-midge-E), previously notable only as a former vacation destination of the blog master’s mother.


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