In Yesterday's New York Times, the Gray Lady ran an article highlighting some of the differences between Major Junior Hockey in the Ontario Hockey League and life as an NCAA hockey player. The article looks through the viewpoints of Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting and Michigan Forward Boo Nieves. It's a brief piece, highlighting some of the advantages and disadvantages of both.
On the early pressure:
DeAngelo and Nieves have been focused on hockey since around the third grade, rising to the top of the many-tiered and colorfully named age groups — mite, squirt, pee wee, bantam, midget. By the time the players were 14, agents or family advisers were in the fold, and a whole conversation was heating up around them: Just how badly, and quickly, did they want to get to the N.H.L.?
"From a parent’s point of view, it’s disappointingly early," Rafael Nieves, Boo’s father, said.
Advantages of the OHL:
O.H.L. people refer to college hockey, a little dismissively, as "a weekend league." DeAngelo’s regular season in Sarnia stretches to 68 games, nearly twice the number of games Nieves will play at Michigan. On trips, DeAngelo rides a bus back and forth across the border to O.H.L. cities like Erie, Pa.; Plymouth, Mich.; and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
All players live with a local family, or billet, that provides room and board. DeAngelo and a teammate occupy basement bedrooms in the home of Sharron Willock, a retired financial adviser and widow.
As an O.H.L. student-athlete, DeAngelo, who has an agent, is paid $50 a week. The Sting are paying for the high school degree DeAngelo is pursuing online. As an elite player, he is guaranteed four years of college tuition. But that arrangement has caveats: DeAngelo has to enroll in a college within 18 months of leaving the team, and the money disappears if he signs an N.H.L. contract.
"I could care less about it," he said of his education package, a defiant edge in his voice. "It’s just something there in case, God forbid, I get hurt or whatever."
Versus life in the NCAA:
“A kid like Boo, we recruit him because of his offensive skill and potential,” Michigan Coach Red Berenson said. “And then we teach him how to play without the puck.”
While DeAngelo often plays at a half-filled RBC Centre, Nieves plays in front of a boisterous student section, all clad in maize yellow, at Yost Arena, a 90-year-old field house renovated to project the university’s well-heeled athletic department. Nieves and his teammates take charter flights to most away games, and they eat a catered dinner, high above the ice, after practice.
And the competition difference:
Nieves does not buy the argument that he would be getting in better game shape in the O.H.L.
“If I were to go there now, as a 19-year-old, I would be playing against 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids,” he said. “Whereas here I’m one of the younger kids in the league, and I’m a sophomore. It’s that experience of playing against older, bigger, faster, stronger.”
N.H.L. Central Scouting had Nieves rated as the top American high school player heading into the 2012 draft. When the Rangers took him in the second round, the TSN analyst Bob McKenzie called him a project who “skates like the wind.”
The entire article is a quality read and definitely worth checking out: LINK