Hey all! On Saturday, the NCAA along with the Universities of North Dakota and Clarkson held the inaugural College Hockey Classic in Winnipeg, MB. Paul Kelly, current Executive Director of NCAA College Hockey Inc. and former Director of the NHLPA also attended the event and hosted an informal presentation for hockey players of the Bantam and Midget levels in the greater Winnipeg area. The intent of the presentation was to provide information to any athletes who consider College Hockey as a viable option for them past their junior hockey careers.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Mr. Kelly afterwards and he afforded Arctic Ice Hockey the luxury of a one-on-one interview.
This is a one-time feature that delves into topics such as Saturday's College Hockey Classic and the current relationship between College Hockey and the CHL.
Hope you enjoy.
Q: What goals did you want to achieve by hosting the College Hockey Classic in
KELLY: We obviously want to expose the college game to the Canadian audience, whether it's done by television broadcast or in person.
The decision to come to
Was there any particular reason for choosing
The University of North Dakota has been so active in scouting and recruiting players from the greater
Were there any different Canadian markets you were exploring to promote
We have looked very seriously at playing in
Does the NCAA plan to host the College Hockey Classic on an annual basis or was this a one-time event?
We certainly don't want it to be a one time thing I don't know that we will be in a position to do it every year but if this is as successful as we believe it will be, then we will try to host this event at least every couple of years and most likely in different cities across Canada.
What was your main objective in this morning's presentation to the attending athletes and their families?
I would say it's the importance of emphasizing education in general. You can never go wrong with improving or advancing your education and you can still continue to develop as a player and make it to the National Hockey League through the NCAA. If for some reason you fall short or an injury cuts your playing career short then the education the NCAA offers will be so valuable. Our programs do a terrific job of educating young men and we not only turn out great hockey players but we also turn out doctors and lawyers and entrepreneurs and scientists; so we want young people to understand the importance of education as part of the whole package.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting today's presentation together?
Identifying, reaching out and contacting young players. This is an element of a recruiting battle that goes on. I know that our presence here probably isn't well received by the Western Hockey League because in their view, we're potentially recruiting away players that may be of interest to them. I'm sure that there are some coaches who may discourage players from coming to this event for that reason, so that's always a little bit of a challenge. I wish it weren't the case because I think it's important for people to hear the information. We're not negative when we talk about other leagues but we try to provide the accurate factual information to the families so that they can make an informed decision about what's the proper path for their kid.
Were you pleased with the overall response that you received?
We thought it was great. I don't know the total number but I came here with 100 t-shirts and I think I have about 20 left so I think we had about 70-75 kids, most of whom were bantam and midget ages which is exactly the target audience we are seeking.
Over the past few years, NCAA Hockey has had issues with athletes withdrawing from their university commitments, instead opting to play hockey in the CHL. Has there been any discussion on how you can curb CHL teams from poaching players after they have committed to universities?
We in fact had that very discussion last week in
Right now it's a one way street; there's no issue with our coaches recruiting their players because their players are already rendered ineligible, so there is no point in it. But we do have the problem of players that have made commitments – particularly written commitments – that continue to get recruited and poached by CHL teams. We did talk about a point after which NCAA committed players can no longer be recruited by CHL teams and our stance is that once a player signs a letter of intent in his senior year of high school to go and attend a certain university that at that point – at least until his first year of college – he should be off limits and not subject to being recruited. We are going to continue this discussion with the CHL and Hockey
This summer, you stated that you hoped the NCAA would tweak its eligibility rules to allow any player who had played less than 10 games in the CHL their NCAA eligibility. Has there been any discussion on retooling of the current rules?
It's still the status quo. These rules cut across all sports so the NCAA doesn't make exceptions that are unique or exclusive to College Hockey. As much as we would like to see that rule changed allowing those kids that maybe just played a handful of games not to lose their eligibility, currently that's not the case. If you play even a single game you are ineligible.
There is an appeal process however. People should know that if you played 8-10 games in the CHL and you decide that you want to play College Hockey, you probably will be able to regain your eligibility. Athletes would most likely have to sit out their first year and then be allowed to play in their second year so playing in the CHL is not completely fatal, but it does have consequences.
The Winnipeg Jets website had a promotional video for tonight's College Hockey Classic presented by Zach Parise. Have you thought about reaching out to other NCAA alumni such as Dany Heatley or Jonathan Toews to help promote the College Hockey brand in Canada?
Actually, we use those players quite a bit once the NHL season has completed and we are doing educational presentations across North America. We almost always have an NHL player or two along with us. In the past we've had Jonathan Toews, Ryan Miller, Zach Parise, Brian Gionta, Hal Gill and others in a long line of players from Canada, the US and from overseas who have helped to promote the game and they are always happy to oblige us when we have asked.
Unless you have specialty cable packages (NHL Network, Big 10 Network), it's rare for
Yes, we actually had discussions with The Score about picking up College Hockey broadcasts. Now that we've had the shake-up of broadcasters in the
Finally, what do you think is the biggest misconception about
I think it's the misconception that Coach Casey Jones mentioned during this mornings presentation. There are people who believe that either you elect to go to the CHL in hopes of making it to the NHL or you elect to go play College Hockey and then end your career. That's a misnomer and it's not what is happening. I would say that a competent player has just as good of a chance of making it to the National Hockey League coming out of one of the elite NCAA college programs as he does the CHL. The colleges today have superior facilities; good coaching and competition that's at the same level if not a higher level because the NCAA has bigger, strong, faster players. [These programs] are turning out really high caliber players and you are seeing an increasing number of college hockey players that are playing in the NHL. That's a myth that we are trying to debunk.