College hockey players and prospects are experiencing a time period like no other in history. With every current NCAA player getting an extra year of eligibility, the developmental system is trying to crunch two years of players into a single year’s worth of opportunities.
Current NCAA Division 1 players that might have been putting their time in as underclassmen awaiting their opportunity to play, are now facing real possibility of being the odd men out when the new crop of freshmen enter the picture in the fall.
Then there is the issue that is plaguing professional hockey. There is a very high likelihood of a substantial reduction in number of professional teams and playing opportunities. It takes real money to operate a professional level team and the bulk of those funds come from small to mid-sized companies and entrepreneurs. This problem may inspire even more current upperclassmen to take the NCAA up on the opportunity to play for another season.
Has there ever been a time in the history of the game where the ladder of development appeared to have such a low ceiling? I don’t think so and cannot say with certainty to know what’s going to give. I do know that we will see a second season of elevated play in the pay-to-play leagues. That’s assuming there is going to be enough money left over to cover the team fees.
Current players in the 2001-2003 birthyear range will be the most impacted by the state of the game. Many current NCAA Division I players are seriously exploring the possibility of transferring to Division III programs. We will see some of that in the next few weeks and much more before the start of the 2021-22 season.
In any normal season, a twenty-year-old may wait until May or even June for an NCAA Division I opportunity. Those players would be very smart to secure a Division III spot now. Twenty-year-olds from the pay-to-play levels should also consider the better ACHA programs as well. Players that are not willing to face the reality of this year’s situation could easily find themselves in one of the beer leagues next year if they are not very proactive now.
‘I’m already getting calls from twenty-year-old junior players that are now second-guessing their Division I commitment,” said one DIII coach on Monday. “I anticipate a record number of red shirts for next year.”
We are telling players to start planning for next season now. The last thing any hockey player wants is to be on the outside looking in. Hockey players are always going to want to play and should never let themselves become yet another victim of circumstance.
Author: Stephen Heisler
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.
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