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Rule changes and recruiting agreements in college hockey

by Amy Moritz

When Bentley scored the game-winning overtime goal against Canisius to take the first game of the Atlantic Hockey  playoff series, the Falcons were very much offsides. The officials missed the call, the play continued and the goal was scored.

The Golden Griffins came back to win the next two games eventually advancing to the Atlantic Hockey Championship game. But that missed offsides call, and a few others in key games over the last few years, is one of the reasons the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee recommended changes to video replay which allowed for a play to be reviewed if an offsides or too many men penalty was missed and a goal was scored.

"It's an evolution to the rule and we've been a piece of that," Canisius coach Dave Smith.

The rest of the rule recommendations are sublte (see this post on SBNation for a good summary of the changes) and among them involve faceoff locations which favor the attacking team, both when the puck goes out of play and in calling a hand pass or high stick.

"The bottom line is that any time you can help try to create offense, it's a good thing," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "We want to increase scoring."

Note that this year all Atlantic Hockey teams will be required to have video replay capabilities as per NCAA rules, although the availability of camera angles may differ from rink to rink.

The subtly of college hockey was in the news around the web this summer after coaches at their annual convention took up the topic of verbal commitments. The coaches have had an informal "gentleman's agreement" in which once a player makes a verbal commitment to a school, other coaches will stop recruiting him.

Some coaches, particularly at the bigger schools, would like that to change.

Here's what happens: A verbal commitment is made before a player can sign an NCAA National Letter of Intent. The verbal is non-binding and happens in every single NCAA sport.

College hockey, however, isn't just recruiting against other schools. It's recruiting against major junior hockey (see: Ontario Hockey League) which means the process extends to athletes at a younger age because once a player signs with a major junior team, he loses his amateur status in the eyes of the NCAA.

Two things tend to happen. The bigger schools stockpile verbal recruits, meaning they make non-binding verbal agreements with more players than they have available scholarships/roster spots. Since many hockey players will enroll at an older age (it's not uncommon to have a 21-year-old freshman on your college hockey roster), schools can push verbal commitments back, keeping a player tied to a school for a number of years before he even signs his letter of intent.

The second thing is that smaller or mid-major programs will hit the youth rinks to find talented players at a young age, recruit them hard and get them to verbally commit before the bigger schools find out about them. The big schools would love a chance to recruit those kids, only after the smaller schools have done the leg work to find them.

Both local coaches support halting the recruiting process once a player has made a verbal commitment.

"I support the verbal commitments and honoring those," Smith said. "I think it's important to have to maintain the integrity of college hockey. We're all in this together. If that young man made a commitment, I don't think he should deal with pressure to go some place else. It's all about what helps college hockey and all boats rise when the best kids decide to play college hockey."

"I'm a proponent of the verbal commitments," Burkholder said. "You're out there working hard and if you get a kid who you feel is right for your program and is a good fit and makes a verbal commitment, no one else should be able to recruit him. ... It's something that as a body we should be monitoring and then if it becomes an issue with some programs, hold them accountable."


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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |