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Friday, May 06, 2005

So there's this kid John Tavares in Canada. He's 14 and good at hockey. So good that the OHL is going to allow him to be drafted this year in an attempt to get more fans to their rinks. To relatively sane people this is obviously wrong, but the culture of hockey, especially in Canada, is anything but sane. There are a few people out there getting fed up with the direction things are going. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star is among them. His most recent article ripped the OHL to pieces.

Seriously. This is his lede (he's in Austria for the IIHC World Championships):

It's heartening to know that while the world tries to celebrate the badly battered game of hockey here in Europe, the sociopaths who run the Ontario Hockey League are helping to soil the sport just a little more.
Wow. Sounds like me talking about Terry Foster. The rest of it is equally savage and paints the CHL in a dim light indeed. Cox beautifully sums up any NCAA proponent's argument against the CHL right here:
Anybody with a conscience has had to be troubled by the OHL's act in recent years, how the league has continued to allow teenagers to punch each others' lights out every night so they can impress NHL scouts with their toughness, how teenagers are getting the same $60 a week they were getting more than 40 years ago, how teenagers can be traded from Kingston to Sault Ste. Marie to Plymouth, Mich., in the middle of a high school year without anybody batting an eye.

I should state for the record that the US system is not leaps and bounds better. Goalie recruit Billy Sauer, for instance, moved from upstate New York to Chicago this year to play for the USHL's Chicago Steel. His family did not accompany him. Many of the elite US players end up far away from home playing for the NTDP right here in Ann Arbor or at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota. The life of a teenage hockey player is generally a strange, somewhat sad thing spent far away from home, eating some other mom's dinners. Elite Minnesota high school players and eastern Junior B players manage to avoid getting shipped off at 16, but most kids chase their NHL dreams thousands of miles from where they grew up. At least in the US they aren't spending two weeks at a time on the road, away from anything resembling a classroom, and when they get to college they graduate. The OHL's education packages, which are generally partial and expire if you play more than a year of professional hockey, present a Solomon's choice for fringe NHL prospects--give up the dream you've chased across timezones, provinces, and states since your childhood or risk getting coughed up at 24 or 25 by minor pro hockey without a degree of any kind.

Hockey youths: Go to college. There are sorority girls and education and stuff. It's the bomb, yo, to use the particular vernacular you are accustomed to, dawg.