NCHC commissioner expects proposal to change recruiting practices in college hockey
ST. PAUL, Minn.—Commissioner Josh Fenton has watched three different National Collegiate Hockey Conference programs win the NCAA national championship in the last three years.
But Fenton doesn't plan on sitting back and enjoying his league's success too much.
The NCHC commissioner laid out bold plans during Tuesday's annual media day at the Xcel Energy Center for the NCHC to take the lead on researching possible changes to coaching limits and overtimes in college hockey, while hinting that changes may soon be coming to recruiting.
Fenton said a committee of college hockey commissioners, athletic directors and coaches is wrapping up two years of work on improving the college hockey recruiting landscape, and he expects legislation to be proposed this fall that would "delay the dates of recruiting activities from how they're currently structured."
Recruiting ages have gotten younger in recent years. Last season, Minnesota received a commitment from a 13-year-old.
Fenton said that the committee took into account the challenges college hockey faces in recruiting players against Canadian major junior teams, which draft players by age 14 or 15.
"This, by far, is the item our committee should be the most proud of," Fenton said. "We believe our proposed model should improve the recruiting experience for everyone involved.
"It's a little premature to share the specifics, however, you will see a model different from other sports and one that will improve the recruiting experience."
The committee also defined that only a signed National Letter of Intent truly constitutes a commitment. Verbal commitments are only intentions.
Years ago, college hockey coaches entered a "gentleman's agreement" not to recruit verbally committed players, but that era is gone.
"We're not here to judge the ethics of honoring different types of commitments," Fenton said.
College hockey programs are currently allowed to have three coaches.
But Fenton wants to study whether they should be able to add more.
Some programs are working around NCAA coaching limits with unofficial, non-coaching roles, like directors of operation, student managers and directors of player development.
"We want to do a preliminary study to see if this is in the best interest of our student-athletes," said Fenton, who acknowledged the added costs.
Fenton also said he plans to survey NCHC players on how they feel about overtime procedures. The NCHC was the first league to try 3-on-3 and Fenton has pushed for the rest of college hockey to adopt that model. The NCHC, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the Big Ten will use 3-on-3s to break ties for league points only this season, while Hockey East, the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey will tie.
Fenton said he doesn't think there's been enough feedback from players on the topic.
"Student-athlete experience does and should matter," Fenton said. "We're hopeful the data collection can go beyond our conference.
"We are fully aware that much of this discussion gets hung up on NCAA selection criteria, the RPI. The aspect of figuring out how 3-on-3 games will or will not be part of that selection process. . . I respect and understand the need for that criteria to be a part of that discussion. It should be. However, we believe this part of the discussion is a math problem that can be figured out. It should not hinder the efforts to something that can help grow and promote this great game."