Perhaps Canadians would not jump for the dangling carrot — major junior players being eligible for the NCAA — if the country's own brand post-secondary puck received its due more frequently.
Whatever becomes of those agitating for a union in the Canadian Hockey League in the name of education, education, education, remains to be seen. (In the wake of Tuesday's bombshells, one does wonder who would sign a membership card furnished by a group facing serious allegations about its spokesman's identity and past.) During all this tumult and shouting about the CHLPA, though, it's often been overlooked that Canadian Interuniversity Sport is already holding up its end of the bargain on helping junior grads combine a high calibre of hockey with higher education.
The dream-factory economics of developmental hockey in Canada, selling hope, dictates CIS players often perform in front of crowds a fraction of the size of what they experienced as teenagers in the CHL. But the ever-improving quality of play is undeniable. Perennial Top 10 CIS squads attract players who opted to use their junior-league education packages instead of trying their luck with an AHL contract.
The What Should Be — what if CHL grads could go to the NCAA? — is sexier. But let's give the What Is that is the upper echelon of CIS hockey its due.
"The level of play, over the last decade, it's not even comparable between Year 1 and Year 10," says Saskatchewan Huskies coach Dave Adoph, whose team is ranked No. 1 in CIS and will host the University Cup in March, fewer than two months before the WHL's Blades host the MasterCard Memorial Cup. "It's so far superior it's unbelievable.
"It used to be the major junior guys were reluctant to go to university at first because they had been brainwashed from age 16 to go be pro hockey players," adds Adolph, who noted it's possible to play a combined 10 seasons in the CHL and CIS. "That's all they thought of. Now they're required to go to school while they're playing and there's a push to take [university] classes. They're thinking about 'what if I can't play the NHL?' Now the CIS is a good alternative and they can always go play in the Coast league [ECHL] with a degree [after graduating]."
By almost all accounts, that comes back to all three Canadian major junior circuits improving the education packages for former players. Some teams also offer more money to a player who was a hot commodity when he came into the league, which can be problematic. While CIS doesn't offer full athletic scholarships, it also provides assistance to student-athletes who maintain a good academic standing. It's not necessarily a full ride, but it can be one.
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Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
Last edited by Ward Cornell: 11-05-2012 at 08:46 AM.