Mail bag…

First off, let me say that I was really impressed with the response I got from my first Blog post. And even more impressive is that what was written didn’t turn into a message-board-like flame fest.

That said, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to a couple the comments that were left by readers.

Let’s start with the debate about Canadian players. One reader said that one of the major reasons that Michigan Tech has enjoyed an early-season turnaround is due to an influx of Canadian players on their roster. In my opinion, there are two reasons this argument holds no weight: First off, let’s start with the obvious. Of the four freshmen on the MTU roster this season, zero hail from the great land to our North. For that matter, none even played their junior hockey in Canada.

I’m not sure, though, that the icecop27 was necessarily referring to the rookie class. What’s likely standing out is that there are a lot of teams in the nation that rely on older Canadian players to be major contributors. That is definitely a valid point. We all know that Canada has a strong pool of candidates. Heck, most of the kids up there are born in skates. And for some college teams that’s the place to recruit.

icecop27 made reference to Boston College. The Eagles have never been known to go after Canadians by the truckload. There’s a fundamental reason for that, though. For years, there was no need. The Boston area produced top-notch players, so there was little reason for the Eagles to waste money on recruiting visits to Canada when a solid crop of kid existed right in their backyard. As the number of local prospects has slowly diminshed from the Boston area, BC and others have ventured out to lands like Minnesota, Michigan, and yes, even Canada.

BC is more the exception, though, than the rule. Many teams in Hockey East – and across the country for that matter – depend on recruiting Canadian players. For one reason, many Canadians have endured a longer educational process (13 grades instead of 12 in most parts of the country, I believe), and many have played a year or two of junior hockey. The resultant is often an older, more mature player.

Another point made by a reader was that yours truly is a Lowell graduate and that you’d probably see me staying away from any Lowell bias. Both of those facts are indeed true. I did graduate from Lowell (Class of ’96 – two NCAA tournaments, baby!) and I would never want to be biased for or against Lowell or any other team for that matter. That said, after yet another solid weekend of hockey for the River Hawks, they do deserve some recognition. I figured Lowell for a potential ninth or tenth place finish. And while I’m not locking up any playoff spot as of yet, I’m impressed with how the young River Hawks have come out of the gate. For fear of putting the curse on my alma mater, I’ll stop there.

A third reader made a point about the need for Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America to merge. I, for one, am of the opinion that this would be extremely unhealthy for the game of college hockey. Right now, the current landscape leaves no place for a 15-team conference. No team will want to fight for one NCAA berth out of 15. And there’s little attractive (particularly to recruits) about a team that perrenially finishes between 11th and 15th place. Right now some of the programs in each league might easily fall into that category.

The only way to strengthen the current programs and add new ones is to increase exposure for the game. Holy Cross’ win over Minnesota last season was the best thing that ever happened to the small conferences. And even with that, the benefits, it seems, are only being seen by Atlantic Hockey as the CHA struggles to remain afloat.

It’s far too difficult for me to predict the future of the CHA. The merits of the conference are strong. All of the membership (except Robert Morris which is too young to have a legacy) have impressive credentials at either the Division II and Division I levels. The problem now is simply expanding membership. Though it seems the conference has gotten a reprieve from the NCAA, it still faces the possibility that other schools could leave – either by defection for greener pastures or attrition. Should that happen, there’s no way that the NCAA can turn the other cheek. At that point, things could become terminal for this little conference that could (better said “that can”).

Plenty more thoughts for me to share, including my belief that Doctor Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Harvard are becoming synonymous and that Sacred Heart’s 5-4 win over Mercyhurst last Saturday ranks as one of the greatest in college hockey history. But expounding on those thoughts will have to wait for another day.


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