Congratulations to Merrell Noden ’78 on his fine article on the “juniors” trend in college hockey recruiting (Sports, Jan. 13). Using juniors programs as college hockey’s version of the minor leagues for grooming of players is “a culture that is unique to hockey,” as Dean Peter Quimby pointed out. No other collegiate sport has anything comparable to the farm system college hockey enjoys. Critics like former Harvard hockey coaching legend Bill Cleary say the juniors programs are “absolutely wrong” because there is no academic component to the players’ year(s) playing juniors hockey.
Today, recruiting out of juniors is firmly imbedded in Division I hockey. Despite its shortcomings on the academic side, there is no way to “unring the bell” and return to recruiting exclusively out of high school hockey programs. While I feel more aligned with Coach Cleary on the issue, I fully recognize that juniors programs will dominate college hockey recruiting for the foreseeable future.
The discomfort hockey purists may feel with juniors recruiting is comparable to the angst many Olympic hockey fans have expressed over the fact that we will never see a “Do you believe in miracles” U.S. Olympic gold-medal hockey team consisting exclusively of college hockey players. When the NHL first suspended its 1997–98 season to allow its players to join the U.S. Olympic team, college hockey players lost that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent the U.S. in the winter Olympics for good.
So, on balance, I guess Dean Quimby (faculty adviser to the men’s hockey team) makes an excellent point: “If we’re going to have a hockey team, we might as well have a good one” ... which is precisely what Coach Guy Gadowsky and his staff are doing.