Of all three Canadian Hockey League member organizations, the one with the least overall American presence is likely the QMJHL. The mid-season Charlie Coyle defection to the two-time champion Saint John Sea Dogs notwithstanding, while WHL and OHL teams had a pool of players to draw from states where the NCAA isn't as established, the QMJHL's Eastern American presence is.
The Lewiston MAINEiacs are no more, which left the "Q" as the only CHL league without an American team this past season. As such, a rule was instituted last June to increase the number of Americans drafted. Each team had to take a minimum of two as part of a new development program for the league.
The problem now is that the QMJHL simply can't compete, monetarily, with the NCAA in the East. Especially not after the league's governors put in a provision that attempts to balance the playing field for small-market clubs, capping scholarships.
Aiming to favour its smaller markets, the governors* voted in a new rule concerning "special arrangements" with players. This new rule, starting now, puts an annual limit of $10,000 on scholarships/bursaries allotted to Americans, for a maximum total of $40,000.
This amount is in addition to the one already outlined in the QMJHL's scholastic policy, which puts an annual limit of $5,000 on bursaries awarded to these student athletes, for a possible total of $60,000.
And yet, one year's tuition in colleges such as Boston University, Boston College or Cornell University can easily cost anywhere between $25,000 and $40,000, depending on the program. As such, it's not uncommon for an American player to be offered a full scholarship ranging from $100,000 to $150,000.
"The League's message is paradoxical", according to Jean Gagnon. "On the one hand, for the last year we have been forcing teams to draft two American players, but on the other, we're preventing teams from making competitive offers to these players."
For the Quebec Remparts, they weren't able to recruit Calgary Flames-draftee Jon Gillies, who says in the story that he has two idols: Carey Price and Patrick Roy. Even Roy, who runs the Remparts, couldn't convince Gillies to come play for Quebec. Gillies says he needs the available time for off-ice workouts, but Gagnon is convinced it's due to education cost.
The new rule levels the playing field, because now not even the big market teams can recruit the big American players, according to Gagnon. This isn't the case in other leagues.
For instance, the way its done in the WHL, according to Director of Education Services Jim Donlevy, is that a player will get a scholarship based on "the cost of a publicly funded university in their home province or their home state". The cost is reviewed annually by the league, but a player from California or Arizona or Texas coming north to play in Alberta, even though the education may cost more where they're from, the WHL will still cover a basic education.
That isn't the case in the QMJHL anymore. If publicly-funded education programs cost, say, $25K, a player would need pretty well a full junior career to afford two years of school. NCAA programs out East can still offer full scholarships.
The way Gagnon describes this rule is a paradox. The QMJHL has mandated two new rules pertaining to American players. One that tries to lure them up north, and one that shuts down shop in the interest of promoting small-market clubs.