Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Well, it has been said the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Right wing Tyler Pitlick, the Edmonton Oilers second-pick who left Minnesota State for the Medicine Hat Tigers, indirectly proffered a novel recruiting pitch in a Patrick King column on Western Hockey League club.

"Going from a dorm room, a lighter hockey work-load and a busy school schedule to a billet family and a heavy hockey schedule was an adjustment for Pitlick.

" 'At first I thought it was going to be kind of weird living with billets, but my billets are unbelievable people,' he said. 'They’re really nice and they feed me well. In college, you eat horribly. You come home from school at night and you make pizza rolls or something like that. I come home from here from practice and I got steak and potatoes — the works.' " (sportsnet.ca)

Is the kettle ready or is that just steam coming from Paul Kelly's ears? Presumably, the collegians are better looked after than described above. That is also a way to segue into pointing out that as a Minnesotan, Pitlick does represent some new turf the WHL would love to stake out.

"Pitlick, who says his original ambition did not include playing college hockey, says the WHL can make better inroads in the college hockey-mad Minnesota market through better educating prospective players.

" 'No one really even thinks about (going to the WHL) because they don’t know anything about it,' he said. 'Everyone in Minnesota, for the most part, wants to be a Minnesota Gopher. It's just what everyone grows up watching.' "

The dreamed-for Big Ten hockey conference cannot be formed fast enough. It would be one sport that requires helmets and shoulder pads where the Golden Gophers (1-8 in football this fall) could win a Big Ten title.

Meantime, the latest from Kelly, et al., seems to reflect that it is sinking in NCAA rules are more of an opponent for U.S. college hockey as the NHL and Canadian Hockey League. Surely you say the article from last weekend where Kelly and Minnesota coach Don Lucia talking about trying to stem the tide of one-and-done collegians turning pro.

"Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the NCAA, which prohibits players who have signed pro contracts. 'So you'd have to come back (to school) under some structure where nothing was signed,' Kelly said.

"Another issue, Kelly said, is that colleges often recruit players away from the junior leagues by selling the fact that they can leave early.

" 'From the kid's perspective, a young player has more options in college than in juniors," he said. 'If a junior player doesn't make the NHL team, he must go back to juniors. A college player can go to the AHL and make $80,000, $90,000.' " (St. Paul Pioneer Press, Oct. 30)

That is more of a NCAA vs. NCAA thing than anything else.

As for the endless row with major junior hockey, there is no underestimating the culinary aspect, speaking with fork firmly jammed in mouth. It's just amusing how Pitlick cut through a complex issue.

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

(Photo: Getty Images.)

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