Article by: Tim Turk Hockey
Since the turn of the century, American collegiate hockey has steadily grown in size as well as scope, prompting college coaches to begin exploring talent prospects from outside the US to bolster their expanding squad lists. The first place college coaches turn their attention to is Canada. Every year, Canadian athletes make the short journey in thousands across the US border to try their chances at the highest level of college hockey athletics in the United States.
The reason is simple enough: Funding for athletics in Canada is meager compared to what is obtainable in the US. According to an article published in Maclean, as of 2016, Canadian schools were restricted from offering college athletic scholarships that exceeded tuition fees. In Canada, tuition fees go as high as $5,000 a year, whereas the average Canadian sports scholarship is a comparatively small at $1,060. This figure is minor compared to what’s on offer in the United States. A number of US scholarships offer student athletes a full-package that covers virtually everything so long as certain academic and social benchmarks are met. The average tuition for a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athlete is around $25,000. These scholarships could easily rise as high as $50,000 in some cases.
The result of this is that American schools are the most likely to attract the best athletes in the world, an inviting prospect for a most competitive hockey atmosphere. At present, there are about 163 men’s and 103 women’s college hockey scholarship schemes in the US, the majority of which are located in Northern and North-eastern US. Because of this culture, there is a higher significance of opportunity for college hockey in the US than anywhere else in the world. Recent statistics show that around one-third of the current NHL players started their careers playing the sport at the college level at some point.
This is why most American universities are capable of recruiting and honing talent that will eventually compete in major sports leagues. Every year, lots of US hockey scholarships are made open to Canadian athletes. However, one must first to be recruited to play at a United States college before they are eligible to enjoy an American athletic scholarship. The recruiting process is not exactly like other collegiate sports.
Here’s the difference,
Coaches expect athletes to play several years of Junior hockey in a North American league before they can attend university under scholarship. The hockey recruiting process also takes a longer time and is a tad more complicated process than any other college sport.
College tuition and other requisite fees in Canadian universities are expected to climb over $9,000 by 2019. Hence the situation is not exactly encouraging for athletes from lower-income families to stay in Canada. This suggests that Canadian universities have been losing out on the best athletic talent, due to so many leaving for the US to play in a more favorable environment.
However, there’s been strong movements to improve the situation. Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) recently started a women’s hockey pilot project offering a deal with more scholarship incentives to see if it keeps athletic talent in the country. Around 4,000 Canadians are on NCAA lists in the US, and this figure includes approximately 400 female hockey players.
University of Regina coach Sarah Hodges tells The Globe and Mail that, “the fact they can be offered full tuition and living expenses, it changes the game a whole lot. That’s something we can offer now that we couldn’t before. If we can get them here to visit and see what we offer, we’re usually pretty successful.”
While the US might be the athletic powerhouse, where big teams offer scholarships to new college recruits, while also increasing opportunities for foreign hockey athletes, the onus now rests on the Canadian system to up their game to catch up. Canadian student-athletes are made to endure various obstacles in the recruiting process in the US compared to American athletes. These obstacles will pose little problems if steps are made to revamp the situation in their home country. CIS might not catch-up with NCAA anytime soon, but if policies are improved, and more money is made available, it will do a lot in hopes of creating a higher-quality league.