It’s a subtle change, but one that college hockey coaches are celebrating as the NCAA approved new legislation that adjusts recruiting rules for Division I men’s programs.
Coaches are now allowed to contact players beginning Jan. 1 of their sophomore year of high school. Previously, that contact date was June 15.
Restrictions on communication have been lifted. The once-per-month rule on communication through text message and social media direct message has been lifted. In essence, contact through text message and social media is now unlimited. The new recruiting calendar allows coaches to contact players before the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.
Unlike other college sports, hockey is battling for players not just with rival schools but with major junior hockey. Players can be drafted and attend an expense-paid training camp with a team for 48 hours and retain their college eligibility, but anything longer or any signed contract and the NCAA puts up a not-welcome sign.
College coaches have been lobbying for ways to contact potential student-athletes before they make a commitment to a major junior team that cannot be undone.
Moving the contact period back to Jan. 1 helps.
“For us to be able to reach out to families and players at a younger age and have more contact is perfect because we can now combat major junior A in Canada,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “Not only are they getting the top Canadians early but they’ve been able to get a lot of U.S. kids to go over there to play major juniors.
“We just want an opportunity to show them that there are choices at that young age. It allows college coaches to get our message out there at a younger age when they’re making huge life decisions.”
And when kids are making huge life decisions, they are usually turning to texting and social media, which is where lifting the ban restricting those kinds of communications also helps college coaches.
“One of the hardest things to do in recruiting is when you have to go through a coach and say, ‘Hey I’d really like to talk to this young man, but I’ve already called him this week. Can you have him find some time to call me back?’ ” Canisius coach Dave Smith said.
“The texting piece is important. I text with my own children, with my wife, it’s just part of my life. So now that I can fire a recruit a text, it’s more in line with society today. If he doesn’t want to answer, he doesn’t have to. It’s about developing relationships, and it’s a huge win for college hockey.”