There's never been any true roadblock to a teenager and his family exploring college hockey independently, but NCAA Division I coaches have long had a beef that their hands are tied when it comes to recruiting.
Now the cuffs are coming off. A College Hockey Inc. release indicates that NCAA coaches will now be able to have contact with players before they come of age for the midget drafts in the Ontario and Quebec leagues. It seems like it would create a more level playing field, although that wouldn't necessarily dictate a different response or a change in behaviour among young players.
The new legislation also removes limits on the number of telephone calls, emails, social media direct messages and text messages that coaches can send to those prospective student-athletes beginning Jan. 1 of their grade 10 year.
Previously, coaches could not contact prospective student-athletes or their families – or even return calls or other messages – until June 15 of a prospect’s grade 10 year. Even then, coaches were limited in the number of calls or emails they could make to an individual prospect.
As a result, many prospective players never knew that NCAA schools had interest in recruiting them – and those who were proactive and contacted schools on their own would not hear back until at least June 15 of their grade 10 year. (College Hockey Inc.)
The never knew wording seems a little alarmist since there are always back channels for a NCAA program to let a player know of its interest.
From Chris Dilks:
This rule change would allow coaches to reach out to players that may not necessarily be considering college hockey as seriously, and allow coaches to make their pitch for why it is the best route of development. (SBN College Hockey)
Time will tell if this has the intended effect. The Western Hockey League drafts players out of the bantam age group, but this creates more competition for the OHL and QMJHL. That probably won't be welcomed initially (you think?), but it doesn't change the reality that regardless of the rules, the onus is still on any team, college or junior, to make a player and his support network feel comfortable with their choice. Who knows, expanded recruiting might help teams get a clearer picture of whether a player really wants to play college hockey or is just using the NCAA option in order to get drafted by a particular CHL franchise.
The same goes for the Canadian Junior Hockey League's members across the country; this might make a few more 16-year-old studs available to Junior A teams, but they have to be attractive places to play. The continued presence of the occasional 'daddy team' in Southern Ontario is bad optically, although the OJHL has mostly done a good job ridding itself of that nepotistic scourge.
Ultimately, no one who is selling a good product should be afraid of more competition, although it does usually mean having to step up your game.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.