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Life after the Game: Educational Options for Hockey Players with Paul Kelly

Life after the Game: Educational Options for Hockey Players with Paul Kelly

Sean Mitton, Canadian Expat Network
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The average hockey player in the NHL plays for 5 years or about 370 games. Once their career is over then it's on to life after hockey, which means looking at future employment. Certainly an education is beneficial in their next career, however only 23% of today's hockey players have a post secondary education. With that in mind, this article will look at College Hockey with some insights from Paul Kelly formerly the head of the NHLPA and now the head of College Hockey Inc.

Today NCAA hockey is made up of 59 Teams across 6 conferences with a total of approximately 1,500 student athletes. Teams typically play 2 games per week (generally Fri. & Sat.) totaling about 35-40 games a year. At the conclusion of the regular season schedule, each conference holds a playoff with the winner gaining automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament.  Ten at-large bids are selected by an NCAA selection committee and are added to the six automatic qualifiers to make up the four regions, 16 team, NCAA Tournament.  The winner of each regional advance to the The Frozen Four to determine the NCAA Champion.

The argument for college hockey comes from the fact that they are preparing young men for life in hockey or a future career. Paul Kelly stated that 84% of college hockey players go on to get University degrees, whereas only 20% of Junior Hockey players get degrees. "Only 5% of eligible Junior and college hockey players will be drafted by an NHL team, so it's good to have a back plan", Kelly comments.

Compared to other collegiate sports, hockey's 84% graduation rate tops other sports like football (59%) and basketball (45%). Football and Basketball statistics came from a recent Chapel Hill study. The common degrees hockey players enroll in include business and physical therapy.

One of the challenges for College Hockey players who want to play pro stems from the NHL 2005 Collective bargaining agreement. In an effort to keep costs consistent in years in the NHL, a rookie salary cap was instituted during players first 3 years. That's hurt College hockey, as talented players are leaving early. For college players who play a full college career, that three-year clock might not start until age 21, 22 or later, reducing the amount that a player can make in his career.

Those players are also being pressured by agents and general managers. Leaving early has reduced the probability that a student athlete will obtain their degree. If they leave in they're first year that graduation rate is almost nil and leaving after 2 years is about 50%.

There have been a number of successful NHL players who gone through the College system. Those include Zach Parise, Ryan Miller, Chris Dury, Danny Heatley, Dan Boyle and Jonathan Toews to name a few.

While players don't have a crystal ball as to what their future holds, it's always good to consider a degree even if they have a successful NHL career.

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