"I didn't expect to be doing this now, I expected to be working the the NHLPA" Kelly told The Pipeline Show Tueday night.The basic premise of his new job is to promote the college game by getting information about education out to the players and their families. Kelly is also gathering feedback from those closest to the game.
"We're out there in the early stages trying to connect with the coaches. Learn about their suggestions, gripes."One of the biggest "gripes" that NCAA coaches have right now is players they've spent years recruiting, bolting for the CHL. In recent years John Carlson who was set to play at the University of Massachusetts ended up in London. Cam Fowler was slated to skate with Notre Dame but chose Windsor instead and John Moore picked Kitchener over Colorado College. We asked Kelly if the rumors of CHL teams paying players under the table are true and how much they affect NCAA teams losing players.
"I know that that's happening, it's not supposed to happen but it's happening. Scouts know it's happening, teams know it's happening, players know it's happening, and frankly it's happening primarily with American players. Those elite American players who are being lured to come up over the border, there is certainly benefits being paid which are not being reflected or publicly made available. It's happening, and anybody who doesn't think it's happening has their head in the sand."Kelly also feels that Canadian hockey players who are hoping to play the NCAA game are being steered towards the CHL.
"The Canadian Hockey League is taking steps to try to block that path. They've done it a number of different ways, primarily by basically shutting down the places those players can play when they're 16 and 17 years of age.
TPS pointed out that there are 11 Junior 'A' leagues across the country that continually feed the NCAA game. A quick check of the AJHL website and we find that 25 current AJHL players are committed to NCAA schools in the coming years and 223 AJHL alumni are playing south of the border this year. In the BCHL there are 48 current players that have committed to NCAA schools.
Kelly believes that Hockey Canada and the CHL have "partnered" with some junior A and B leagues, particularly in Ontario, and are "almost forcing" players to go the CHL route. Kelly feels that a lot of the Canadian Junior A Hockey Leagues are too watered down and young players aren't playing against the best competition.
"It may be, what they ought to think about is putting together a two tiered system where they keep the elite guys together so that they can play at a competitive high level rather then have them step down and risk regressing as far as their hockey development."I'm still not sure how Hockey Canada and the CHL are playing a part in this?
The former NHLPA boss is also of the opinion that the educational package a player receives by playing in the NCAA trumps the one he might earn in the CHL, despite the fact that every CHL player receives a paid year of schooling for every season he plays.
"If you study the numbers, the guys that are availing themselves to that package are the guys who ultimately don't make it and have to go back to school, and if you study the numbers it's a fairly small number of players who are taking advantage of it. The education package frankly has a bit of holes in it, it isn't an absolute blank cheque; it's not a $50,000 per year scholarship that you would get if you were attending a Michigan or a Notre Dame."One thing we did agree on is that forcing a kid to make a decision about his hockey future at the age of 14 or 15 is too young. I threw out my solution that a player should have until he's 17 or 18 before he decides on his future, whether it's the CHL or the NCAA.
"I agree with your original proposition, that we're taking kids who don't drive cars, who don't have a real sense of maturity or judgment and we're forcing them to make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. It's too early. Frankly I would like to see all of these drafts be delayed until the kids are 16."But the NCAA would have to stop looking at the CHL as a "pro league" and instead view it the same as a junior A league, and whether or not Kelly can convince the institution which is college hockey remains to be seen.
You can here more of what Kelly thinks of the CHL, his ways to improve the college game and how feels about the current NHLPA and whether the door is still open for him to return to the NHLPA by clicking here.