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Few Quebec players choose U.S. route

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#1 Rock


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Posted 31 March 2005 - 07:36 AM

Few Quebec players choose U.S. route
Hockey Choices: Our province lags far behind the rest of Canada in the number of youngsters who combine hockey and education by pursuing a college scholarship south of the border. One reason is what some call the 'Quebec mentality'

The Gazette

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The American poet Robert Frost wasn't thinking about hockey when he wrote those lines, but they apply to a group of young Quebecers who have opted for the road less travelled by.

Many young hockey players in Quebec dream of playing professionally, of finding fame and fortune in the National Hockey League. They begin playing in house leagues and progress through travelling teams. The best are drafted by the province's 12 Midget Triple-A teams and then are steered into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A precious few make it to the highest level.

But each year, there is a small group of players who take a different route. They decide to combine hockey and education, opting to pursue a college scholarship in the United States.

This is one area in which Quebec lags far behind the rest of Canada. There are more than 400 Canadians playing hockey at the 57 schools that compete in NCAA Division I hockey. Only 26 of those players are from Quebec.

There are a number of reasons why there are relatively few Quebec players. The most significant factor may be what Clarkson University freshman David Cayer calls the "mentality" in Quebec.

"Everyone thinks there's only one way to go," Cayer said. "You play midget and then you go to the 'Q.' If you don't make it, then there's nowhere to go."

That's the mentality Jacques Gauvin has been fighting since he returned to Quebec a decade ago. A former professional scout, Gauvin has made it his mission to educate young Quebecers about the options available to them.

"I don't care whether a player wants to play major junior, but I want him to make that decision after he has all the information available to him," Gauvin said. "When I was in western Canada, the kids were supplied with that information. It's more difficult here in Quebec because of the system."

Gauvin tries to speak to as many minor-hockey groups as possible, but said he is often frustrated by officials who are "wearing the major-junior jackets."

Each spring, Gauvin holds a showcase in Val Belair, near Quebec City. He invites coaches - "Friends I've made over the years" - to watch 100 young men and women play.

"Each year, we help five to 10 players obtain scholarships," Gauvin said. "There could be more if kids had the right information earlier."

Blair Mackasey, the chief scout for Canada's national junior team, noted that Quebec's distinct society extends to the minor-hockey system.

"In most of the other provinces, the main development league is at the Junior Triple-A level; here in Quebec, the main development league is Midget Triple-A," said Mackasey, who has coached at both the midget and major-junior levels in Quebec.

"In other provinces, the players are exposed to information about major junior and U.S. colleges, and they make a choice when they're 17 or 18 and they're finishing high school," Mackasey explained.

"In Quebec, the kids are pushed into the QMJHL when they're 16. They're a year or two away from being ready to go to college and some parents get anxious. They don't want to wait; they don't want their kids to be left behind."

The age of the players going into major junior is crucial because of the NCAA eligibility requirements. If a player attends a major-junior training camp for more than 48 hours, he is, in effect, barred from playing Division 1 college hockey because the NCAA considers him a professional. But the NCAA rules prevent coaches from getting their message across to young players because they can't contact a player until he is in his final year of high school.

"When coaches come to Quebec, they're often frustrated because you'll see a kid playing in a Junior Triple-A program who could help your team, and then you find out he's played one or two major-junior games," said Jean-Francois Houle, a former Canadiens farmhand who is now an assistant coach at his alma mater, Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.

There are some alternatives en route to a U.S. university. The Quebec Junior Triple-A League has been revitalized in recent years and has taken steps toward steering more players to U.S. colleges. But it is still far behind Triple-A leagues in the rest of Canada.

Other parents are sending their youngsters - boys and girls - to prep schools in the United States.

That's the route Mackasey took with his son, B.J., who is now a junior at Princeton University.

"Major-junior hockey is still the best route to the NHL if you're a top player," Mackasey said unequivocally. "You just have to look at the NHL rosters to see that. But if you're not going to be drafted in the top three rounds (of the NHL draft) and you're a good student, then you should consider going to the U.S.

"When my son was playing Midget Triple-A, he was a 160-pound defenceman," Mackasey added. "He was a good student at Loyola and we looked at several prep schools, and he went to Deerfield. In his case, he made the right decision."

Mackasey noted there seems to be more Quebecers choosing the prep-school route each year. There are more than 70 Quebecers playing boys' hockey at New England prep schools. Many of them have a college hockey scholarship as a goal but, as is the case with major-junior players looking forward to an NHL career, there are no guarantees.

While Tier 2 junior leagues provide the majority of players who play NCAA hockey, the Quebec Junior Triple-A League is at the bottom of that food chain. There are only six Quebec Junior Triple-A players at Division 1 schools. There will be only two more this fall, when Alex Lord of Champlain College and Thomas Sychterz of the Lachine Maroons enroll at Princeton University.

By comparison, the British Columbia Hockey League has nearly 100 graduates playing in Division 1, and there are Tier 2 leagues in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan that have provided more than 50 players each.

One roadblock for Quebec players is language, and this poses problems for both players and U.S. college coaches.

Shaun Hannah, who has attracted six francophones to his program at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., said some coaches are afraid to recruit in Quebec.

"I've heard that," Houle said. "I know there are some coaches who worry about getting lost and not being able to ask for directions. But there are other concerns. Some coaches don't want to waste time in Quebec because they may get excited over a player and then discover he doesn't have the marks or he's played major junior."

The Gazette (Montreal) 2005
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#2 peteyvegas


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Posted 31 March 2005 - 09:07 AM

It's pretty amazing what we dont know about each other. This article failed to mention that some of the finest institutions in the US are hockey schools. Hell, when you graduate Harvard or Princeton, most companies ask you what department you would like to be Vice President of (at the interview). Look at it:
BU, BC, Mich, Yale, RPI, Darthmouth, Brown, Cornell, Colgate, Notre Dame--and the list goes on. You could end up making more money as a result of NOT making it to the NHL. :rolleyes:
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#3 undaimee


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Posted 31 March 2005 - 12:44 PM

well...Michigan isnt top notch...
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#4 David Puddy

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Posted 31 March 2005 - 03:48 PM

It's pretty amazing what we dont know about each other.  This article failed to mention that some of the finest institutions in the US are hockey schools.  Hell, when you graduate Harvard or Princeton, most companies ask you what department you would like to be Vice President of (at the interview).  Look at it:
BU, BC, Mich, Yale, RPI, Darthmouth, Brown, Cornell, Colgate, Notre Dame--and the list goes on.  You could end up making more money as a result of NOT making it to the NHL.    :rolleyes:


I wish :evil:
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#5 Jas0nMacIsaac


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Posted 31 March 2005 - 04:01 PM

Esposito is the next big thing from Quebec, nobody knows if he will go the NCAA route or QMJHL. He is at St Mary's Prep right now. He is the current favorite to go #1 in 2007.
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