Staying Put Pays Off
It’s easy to question the loyalty of a student-athlete that decides to skip out after only a season or two, and take their chances on a lucrative pro deal.
But this age-old debate need not get bogged down in such simplicities. Only because athletes are under such a microscope do they hear these kinds of criticisms. Fact is, we are in a free society, where such opportunities should be taken advantage of when they can.
The bigger issue for the student-athlete is determining if they are in fact ready and prepared for what lies ahead, and what further benefit
can be achieved by staying.
We can’t deny the selfish aspect of wanting our favorite players to stick around in school, just as we can’t deny some of the selfish aspects of a player leaving school.
But in so many instances, the players are simply seeing stars (and dollars) in their eyes, and are listening to people who do not have, or understand, their best interests.
Honors such as the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award are important because its values are more than just buzzwords—classroom, community, character and competition. These components are part of making a great student athlete even greater. Testing your character, being in school, growing as a person—these things genuinely help an athlete be a better pro, if they choose that path.
In college hockey, in particular, time and again we have seen players leave early—too early—only to find the going rough in the pro or major junior ranks. On the flip side, players that stay four years are almost always rewarded. Their games improve, their work ethic improves, their leadership improves, their strength improves. And many more of those players jump right into the NHL, more so even than many of the blue chippers who left early.
Admittedly, many of the players who stayed four years did not have an otherwise realistic option. But I often look to players like Brendan Morrison, Jeff Halpern and Martin St. Louis as paragons of these virtues—players who stuck around and contributed not only to their universities, but to their own growth. These players assumed
leadership roles in pro hockey, something they were used to because of their roles in college.
Coaches are not going to turn down the amazing blue chippers that want to come to their school. But increasingly, they are finding that having seniors on your roster are as much, if not more, important to having a winning team. No matter how many great players pass through Minnesota, Denver and Wisconsin, for example, it’s interesting to note that those programs all brought in many, many more blue chippers AFTER winning their national championships than before. Many of the integral players to those teams’ most recent national championships were holdover upperclassmen from previous regimes, or from a less successful time period—players that had to stick around by choice, but were leaders on national title teams.
Consequently, as Managing Editor of College Hockey News.com, we wholeheartedly support recognizing these kinds of players—for their contribution to their team, to themselves, and to college hockey as a whole.