What's Buzzing:

Buzzing The Net

Quebec Remparts know Mikhail Grigorenko is theirs; tough to see junior fans not know about stars’ status

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

View photo


Grigorenko could be an offensive leader for Team Russia at the WJC (Getty)

The NHL's self-immolation over the small stuff, as you know, has put upwardly mobile major junior stars in limbo. Please excuse being a news cycle late to this, but it is fair to wonder what to make of the Quebec Remparts receiving a guarantee that Buffalo Sabres first-round choice Mikhail Grigorenko will play out the season in the QMJHL.

The Remparts, as you know, briefly carried Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov as an extra import player for much of the season with the apparently belief the 18-year-old Russian might clock some NHL time. The cloud of not-knowing about other the status of certain 18- and 19-year-olds hangs over other teams such as the Saint John Sea Dogs (whose superstar Jonathan Huberdeau will be the most coveted player during the QMJHL trade period) and the OHL's Niagara IceDogs and the Sarnia Sting with superstar Alex Galchenyuk, who is having his way with major junior at age 18.

No doubt this will all unfold on case-by-case, franchise-by-franchise basis when/if there is a season-salvaging deal. Which, please excuse the editorializing, sucks out loud from a strict junior hockey-following perspective.

It is accepted and acknowledge that major junior s a cog in the wheel of the massive hockey industry. The Canadian Hockey League obviously benefits hugely from its symbiotic relationship with the big league. Its selling point is that this is where one can go to see future NHL stars develop. Perhaps that gives it more of a selling point in the boardrooms of media partners and sponsors, though. It's great for getting the CHL on Sportsnet or the U.S. iteration of the NHL Network.

Junior hockey owes its origins to the Original Six era when the big clubs owned and operated their own teams. (Those days ended when the NHL had an epiphany that it ought to expand across the U.S. to California only a near decade after Major League Baseball and the NBA had done so.) So is there that idea of being there for the NHL. It is also implicitly understood that the players who might feel like surrogate sons or brothers are just making a three- or four-year whistle-stop  as they try to hit the jackpot of a long and lucrative big-league career.

At the same time, the fans who support the CHL in 60 arenas spread across nine provinces and four states are not just coming to watch prospects. There's also the hope to see a good game, with the local shinny concern coming out on top. What makes junior hockey so unique in North America and perhaps tough to know is that it's been able to become this quasi-independent, half-amateur, half-professional, development league. The Big Three sports on this continent really have nothing of the sort. Baseball has its layers of farm teams in Minor League Baseball (MiLB) whose regular season and playoffs is only viewed as being in service of the Big Club's priorities. Football and basketball have the NCAA as their free feeder system.

Junior observers can reconcile themselves to seeing the best players move on at age 18 or 19. It is quite possible that John Tavares will be the last superstar to play four full seasons of junior, and that is okay. It's also unfair that J.T. Miller, Team USA's likely captain for the world junior championship, could play in the AHL this season as a 19-year-old while fellow Plymouth Whalers Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell could not since they were already in the CHL at the time they were drafted.

Still, someone needs to say it. It is not like the NHL and NHLPA should give a candy-cane wrapper about the lockout's trickle-down effect on junior teams, their plans, and their fans. It just sucks that hockey consumers in the outposts Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr will never visit, who choose to support a niche league, end up taking collateral damage. It is also not like it is rational or reasonable for a junior fan to wish the NHL stays out until September 2013.

The top league on this hemisphere committing seppuku would be very bad for the industry and almost everyone good enough to move from the CHL. It would be just great to know, even in the event of (don't hold your breath) a mid-January puck drop, what that actually means for the woman in Barrie with a Mark Scheifele jersey. Or the forward-thinking fan of a MasterCard Memorial Cup contender who bought a blank jersey for Christmas and is ready to stitch a star's name on the back if a big trade goes down.

End rant.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (0)
  • Stakes high for Villanova, William & Mary

    Andy Talley and Jimmye Laycock have seen it all in their combined 95 years of coaching. Talley's Villanova Wildcats and Laycock's William & Mary Tribe each enter Saturday's important CAA Football showdown at a bit of a crossroads following their … More »

    AP - Sports - 2 minutes 14 seconds ago
  • Red Bull 'open' to continuing with Renault engines

    Red Bull 'open' to continuing with Renault engines

    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Friday that he hopes his team will continue to race in Formula One next year and indicated it might even carry on using Renault engines. The relationship between the four-time constructor's champion and … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 minutes ago
  • Groin injury expected to rule Goetze out until 2016

    Groin injury expected to rule Goetze out until 2016

    BERLIN (AP) -- Germany forward Mario Goetze could be out until the end of the year with a groin injury he picked up in the loss to Ireland. … More »

    AP - Sports - 7 minutes ago
  • Wade's World: Phillips knows all about interims

    Wade's World: Phillips knows all about interims

    Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips knows what Miami's Dan Campbell is going through. ''I hold the record in that, I think,'' Phillips cracked. Phillips was interim head coach in New Orleans in 1985, Atlanta in 2003, and Houston in 2013, … More »

    AP - Sports - 9 minutes ago
  • Ireland showdown could bring out the best in France

    Ireland showdown could bring out the best in France

    By Julien Pretot CARDIFF (Reuters) - France may have done little to impress in the past four years, but there is nothing like a Rugby World Cup showdown to wake up Les Bleus, and Sunday’s Pool D decider against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium is … More »

    Reuters - 13 minutes ago