College hockey leagues link up to retain U.S. players

College hockey has quietly watched as Canada’s three major junior leagues — the Quebec Major Junior,

College hockey has quietly watched as Canada’s three major junior leagues — the Quebec Major Junior, Ontario and Western hockey leagues — have made inroads into luring American-born players to their teams. It has also done little to stem the tide of college players leaving school to go to the major junior leagues.

Finally, the six college hockey leagues are doing something about it.

The Hockey Commissioners Association announced the formation of College Hockey Inc. The purpose of the organization is to promote the game, and also to provide infor­mation to prospective student-athletes on the benefits of playing college hockey as opposed to going to the junior ranks.

“There have been a lot of init­iatives that the commissioners and the coaches have wanted to undertake over the past years about promoting the game, marketing the game and getting the word out about college hockey to kids who don’t get it, whether they be in Canada or the United States,” ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell said. “The Canadian Hockey League [which represents the three major junior leagues] has made strides in the last few years to hire their own marketing guy, and get the word out. They now have programs in the U.S. They’re getting their word out to kids in California and Texas.

“While we have a relationship with USA Hockey and college hockey is pretty prominent in the areas where it’s known, there are a lot of areas that are untapped and kids don’t know about college hockey. Kids in California may not know they have an option to go and play at Boston University or BC [Boston College]. That may seem strange to some people because we’re in this [college hockey] world, but there are kids who don’t know it.”

To that end, the HCA hired Paul Kelly to be the executive director of College Hockey Inc. Kelly, a Boston-based lawyer, was the exec­utive director of the National Hockey League Players Association for two years. He was fired from that position on Aug. 31 for reasons that remain unclear.

But that didn’t deter the HCA from interviewing and hiring Kelly.

“It’s certainly an asset,” Hagwell said. “We bandied about this discussion of do you have to have the [hockey] background, and so on. Some of the requirements when we posted the job was that you have to have an understanding of the sport of college hockey in general, not just the programs, but what some of the issues were. We met with Paul and, given his background with the NHLPA and his connections in the sport at the higher level, [and] he certainly has connections and knows people at the college level, so that’s a big bonus for him to step in. He’s sharp, he knows of the issues and he’s done his homework, so it’s a big plus.”

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Seth Appert is thrilled to have Kelly on board.

“To get a person of his stature to join our ranks, and to help pos­ition and promote college hockey is going to help us from an NHL perspective, and from our battle against major junior,” said Appert, who is president of the American Hockey Coaches Association. “All those things are very exciting. It was a really good day for college hockey [Tuesday] to see a guy like Paul join us.”

Kelly is looking forward to the challenge.

“I am very pleased to undertake this exciting new venture,” Kelly said. “It will be a privilege to represent the many fine schools and elite athletes that play hockey on the college level here in the United States. College hockey not only grooms well-rounded future NHL stars, but it is essential to the overall growth of this great sport.”

Boy for Leamans

Union coach Nate Leaman and his wife, Alice, became parents for the first time Sunday.

Alice gave birth to a baby boy. Tyler Walker Leaman came in at six pounds, four ounces.

“Not much sleep, but a lot of joy,” Nate Leaman said. “You’re for­tunate to have a staff like I do, that have been with me for some time, and pick up the slack, to be honest. I don’t think our program can be successful with me being away if I didn’t have the staff like I did.”

Jooris to Dutchmen

Josh Jooris, a forward for the Central Canadian Hockey League’s Burlington Cougars, has made a verbal commitment to Union for next season.

The 19-year-old Jooris, who is 6-foot and 179 pounds, leads the team in scoring, and is second in the CCHL, with 11 goals and 47 assists in 25 games. He has a team-best defensive rating of plus-37. Jooris leads the Cougars with 17 power-play assists, and is second with three game-winning goals.

Burlington is tied for first place in the 11-team West Division with an 18-4-1 record.

The Dutchmen now have six players committed for next season.

Local update

Here’s a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region did over the past week.

— Quinnipiac senior forward Mike Atkinson (Kinderhook) scored a goal in the Bobcats’ 3-2 win last Saturday at Cornell.

— St. Lawrence senior forward Tara Akstull (Clifton Park) picked up an assist in the Saints’ 4-3 loss to Ohio State last Friday.

Morrison gets four

Conor Morrison became the first Harvard player in over 10 years to score four goals in a game when he did it Tuesday against Boston University.

However, it was done in a losing cause. The Crimson blew a 5-4 lead and lost, 6-5. Zach Cohen scored with 19.5 seconds left in regulation to tie it for the Terriers. Chris Connolly won it at 2:18 of OT. Since opening the season with a 5-3 win over Dartmouth, Harvard is 0-5-2 in its last seven games.

Chris Bala was the last Crimson player to score four goals in a game. Bala did it against Vermont on March 6, 1998.

Categories: College Sports

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