Anyone who's seen Shane Prince play knows the Ottawa Senators draft pick has some belly fire. Too bad for him that it didn't come out until after he was cut by Team USA on Thursday.
So long as the Canadian Hockey League and the NCAA/USA Hockey are at loggerheads, there will be players who believe choosing the former deep-sixed their chances of wearing the stars and stripes at the world junior championship. An understandably disappointed Prince, a fourth-year Ontario Hockey Leaguer, did not exactly stiff-upper-lip it while returning from the U.S. camp on Thursday. Please bear in mind this is a 19-year-old speaking on an emotional day, so everyone Tweeting that Prince just showed USA Hockey might have a point, but it's a smug point.
Prince told Don Campbell, "I don't know why I expected anything else from USA Hockey ... I don't even know why I ever got invited" and it just goes from there.
It seems more than coincidental that six of seven Canadian Hockey League players who made the final cut have a previous association with USA Hockey's national team development program. Prince, on the other hand, chose to come straight to Canada to play major junior after he was drafted in 2008 by the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers.
USA Hockey's brass has been accused in the past of having a bias against players who take the Canadian option. Prince doesn't disagree.
"When we first arrived, we were all told we would be given fair opportunity," Prince said. "Then I get six, maybe seven shifts. . . . And then when I didn't play the next game, I felt maybe I had an idea of what was happening.
"If that's fair opportunity, would somebody mind letting me know that? I really thought I could be a go-to guy on this team and I was never given that chance." (Ottawa Citizen)
It is tough to prove bias when the process is so subjective.
Those who believe it's a canard that USA Hockey is biased against CHLers will say Prince simply didn't earn his spot. The same could apply to Boston Bruins second-rounder Jared Knight, of the OHL's London Knights, not being invited to the camp.
Other small skilled forwards such as Miami of Ohio's Austin Czarnik, who is a NTDP grad, and Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan, likely simply had better camps and offer more to U.S. coach Dean Blais than Prince. There's no shame in being left off a talented team. Prince has skill and smarts, but it's possible that he just fell into that no-man's land of being a talented player without a clear-cut role to play. It does seem off Team USA would not play him more in order to make sure that was the case, but others were making a stronger case, as Chris Peters noted.
Team USA's cuts were Austin Levi, Brian Ferlin, John Gaudreau, Shane Prince, and Kenny Agostino.
Gaudreau will be eligible for next year's World Junior Championship and will undoubtedly be in the mix. He's a really skilled player with loads of potential.
Ferlin and Agostino both seemed to have momentum coming into camp, but based on reports, did not meet those standards in Alberta. These two guys had a great camp in Lake Placid and a good first half in college. These cuts may be more a result of other guys stepping up, instead of them faltering. The same may be true for Shane Prince. (United States of Hockey)
The only aspect of this where USA Hockey comes off poorly is in the depiction that, as Campbell described it:
U.S. general manager Jim Johannson stood up after a team meal, named the 23 players who made the squad and asked them to leave, and then handed plane tickets to the six who were being sent home. No reasons given, Prince said.
Ouch. There's really no easy way to tell players thanks but no thanks. Many people dislike Hockey Canada's ritual of parading the cut players out one-by-one to face a media scrum. At least then, the player has an exit interview which might help him calm down and saying something he might regret and which might cause a PR headache.
Prince should not be condemned for speaking his mind. The Spencerport, N.Y., native probably comes off to many like he needs an attitude adjustment. I say it makes him look human. Better that someone speak his mind than mouth some "I tried my best" pabulum that sounds like it was spoon-fed to him during a conversation with his agent. He just needs to channel that.
Swinging back to the OHL, this does set up a second-half storyline. How are Prince and Ottawa linemate Tyler Toffoli going to play after each being cut by their national teams?
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).