The following article comes to us from our good friends at Pro Stock Hockey, your online resource for authentic pro stock hockey equipment.
When it comes to getting a full ride — or even a partial scholarship — to continue your playing career in college, hockey isn’t exactly football. Or baseball. Or even basketball.
Making the local all-conference team in high school and signing with State U isn’t the way it works. Nor is it a matter of rocking out a summer league here and a skills camp there, then staying healthy through the prep season.
Maybe there’s a parallel with basketball’s AAU circuit — except that the AAU ballers still play for their high schools.
Simply, the route to college hockey is just different than in other sports. But it’s still a route worth taking.
Plenty of Offers
Even if pro hockey isn’t in your future, college hockey isn’t a bad way to end a playing career. A recent NCAA graduation rate survey found that more than 92 percent of male student hockey players graduated, the highest ranking among any sport and more than eight percentage points higher than the average across all men’s sports.
Across five collegiate levels, there were 164 men’s and 108 women’s varsity hockey teams in 2017. There is scholarship money to be had at every level, though it isn’t technically doled out in athletic scholarships at NCAA Division III schools.
But how to get some of that scratch?
Where Do They Find Players?
Take a look at the roster of the current NCAA champs, University of Minnesota Duluth. Of the 26 players on their 2017-18 roster, 11 came from the United States Hockey League, the top junior hockey league in the U.S.
That’s not exactly a shock. The USHL is the largest supplier of players for the NCAA hockey ranks, and boasts that 95 percent of its players get a shot at Division I college hockey.
Five came from the North American Hockey League, the Tier II level. One came from the USA Hockey U18 team.
Another six came from various junior A hockey leagues — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — under the Canadian Junior Hockey League banner. That’s a notch below the major junior Canadian Hockey League circuit.
Just three came straight from high school, and all of those were Minnesota schools.
Don’t Like Those Numbers?
NCAA Division III champ St. Norbert in De Pere, Wisconsin, casts a wider recruiting net, in a manner of speaking. While Minnesota Duluth is stocked almost exclusively with upper Midwesterners and Canadians, St. Norbert’s roster, though also dotted with players from those locales, includes players from the Chicago area, New York, Alaska, Washington, Sweden and Switzerland. Of course, every one of them came up through the junior hockey ranks rather than high school hockey.
Ultimately, college hockey players, in the main, come from club teams. Nearly 91 percent of male and more than 58 percent of female Division I players in the 2016-17 season played for club teams before college. High school is a comparatively more popular training ground for female players, funneling 38 percent of the D1 players compared to 4.9 percent for the men. National teams made up the rest. And while U.S.-born players grab the lion’s share of the D1 roster spots — about two-thirds of the men’s and half of the women’s — it helps to come from Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts, which combined to provide roughly half of all U.S.-born D1 players.
Go for What You Know
If you play hockey, you already know it has little to do with high schools, few of which have ice rinks. It’s all about tiers. Mites become squirts become pee-wees, bantams and midgets. There are midget minors and midget majors, feeding into Tier I, II and III junior hockey leagues.
After that, here are some things to remember:
Above all, it’s the things you value in a teammate — skating, puck skills, passing, ice awareness, competitiveness, preparation and attitude — that will get you noticed by recruiters. You can bring those attributes to any rink at which you skate, no matter the team or league in which you’re playing.
There is college hockey at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels (D2 schools play D1 hockey), as well as in the NAIA and NJCAA. All except D3 offer some level of athletic scholarships.
Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.