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Wed., Jan. 13, 2010, 8:25 a.m.

Junior hockey comes under fire

I don't run into the same cast of characters each time I enter the Arena for a Spokane Chiefs' hockey game but there is only one I dread seeing.

I mean it in a nice way but each time I see this gentleman he asks how my investigation into the junior hockey scholarship program is coming along. With everything I have to do, the truth is it's moving along like a glacier.

But it doesn't look like it's going to need a boost from me to percolate into public. Keep reading, just some information to tide you over while the Chiefs are one the road for seven more games, starting tonight in Medicine Hat.

Thanks to Gregg Drinnan's blog, I can almost keep up with Junior Hockey in the limited time I have available. With the constant reminder to check into the scholarship program, each time there is a mention of Paul Kelly, a little bit more comes up.

The two more recent posts Drinnan links are from the Vancouver Province and The Sporting News.

In a nutshell, a player can receive a year of college education, through the scholarship program, for each year of Junior Hockey he plays. UNLESS he goes pro, at which point it is up to the player to negotiate with the NHL team to get money for education if he signs. The scholarship can be used at an American or Canadian college. However, a player is ineligible to play NCAA (American college) hockey once he signs a junior contract, but they can play in Canada.

The interesting point from Kelly, whose job is to sell the NCAA route, in the Vancouver piece as emphasized by Drinnan: “The CHL would prefer I not exist. What they have been telling young kids hasn't always been on the up and up, especially Canadian kids. Now it's time for somebody to call them on the carpet about their college package."

Another part I found interesting, from TSN article: (Kelly) said teams cut deals under the table that pay elite players to break their commitments to U.S. universities. They've been doing it for years. "Everybody knows it's happening. Anyone denying it happens is knowingly providing misinformation."

It is something I've been asking about. I can't recall Spokane cutting deals with players but I hear it has been done by some teams. From what I can tell, it's big-money teams, which throws the balance of power in the WHL out of whack, just like Major League Baseball. Look at the WHL standings and see if you can spot the Yankees and Royals.

Drinnan also sorted through the mid-season Central Scouting rankings of draft eligible North American players. There are no Chiefs on the list, which might explain some of their troubles.

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