Articles, Blog

How to Earn a NCAA Hockey Scholarship

August 17, 2019


Nick: Hey guys! It’s Nick from the Junior
Hockey Truth and on my screen I have a special guest. It’s Steve Thompson. He is the director
of hockey operations for the University of Anchorage Alaska Seawolves. He’s actually
an old teammate of mine. In fact, an old goalie partner of mine back when we played Junior
A together. And Tommy as we affectionately called him, he went through a very interesting
route to getting his scholarship, in that he played as an American, American Junior
A but also came and played in Canada a bit as well. So you’re going to get a really
unique perspective here. And now that he’s on the hockey operations side with an NCAA
school too, you’ll be able to hear firsthand what goes into all of that. So Steve how you
doing, man? Steve: Pretty good, Nick. Good to see you. Nick: Awesome. Awesome to have you here and
to reconnect it’s probably been like… It’s two-thousand fourteen. It’s probably
been six or seven years since we played together. Steve: Two-thousand seven. I think we were
together two-thousand six, two-thousand seven. Nick: Absolutely man. And now you’re on
the hockey operations side it’s kind of cool that we’ve both ended up in the hockey
world. Why don’t we start off by just telling people—you’re from Alaska—why don’t
we start off by telling people how you came through minor hockey. I know you were in Michigan
for a bit ,and how you got into Junior A and just tell people about how you got to where
you are today. Steve: So I started my career up in Anchorage.
I’m from Anchorage originally. When I was sixteen years old I went to a U.S.A. try out
with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and the head scout of Cedar Rapids was the midget
coach in Detroit. So after camp, I didn’t make the Cedar Rapids team but they offered
me to either play in the NAHL with Fargo, who had a team back in the day, or go to Detroit
and play midgets with this head scout on there’s. So I was undecided whether I wanted to go
to junior right away or go and stay in midget. The way it was kind of pushed to me was that
I’d get more games and more experience if I stayed in midget as opposed to being probably
a back up at sixteen in the NA behind a nineteen, twenty year-old guy. And at that age it would
be smarter for me to see more folks, get more game time and develop more. So I ended up
moving at sixteen to Michigan from Alaska, played there for a season and talked with
Troy Mick who was our GM in Vernon. And he pushed for me to come to Vernon, to be play
in B.C., and that’s where I went to next. Nick: And that’s kind of a good segue into
talking about playing in the NCAA. With you now on the hockey operations side you see
it from behind the bench or in the office, so to speak. But you’ve also been through
it as a player, having got your scholarship. Maybe what we could just start with is what
does a school look for in a player they’re recruiting? Steve: I think, kind of the process that I’ve
seen working here, is, first, is on-ice. You need to spark their attention on-ice and every
team has a window of what they need at that point in the next coming season. So once you
kind of meet that criteria and you get selected as a potential player that you want that’s
when you start to look into the off-ice, their academics. Do they have their SAT scores yet?
Do they have their core class requirements that the NC division one needs? That’s where
you kind of start checking your boxes. Can we actually recruit this player? Is this person
going to get accepted to our school with the scores that he has? But first and foremost
they have to be able to play to enquire further down the road. So once you get in contact with them and realize
they have their SAT or ACT scores and that they meet our requirements and that they have
their four classes, check, check, check. Then we’ll start enquiring about official visits,
unofficial visits, start to talk money, how much we’re going to offer them, what they’re
looking for. But that’s kind of the route and how we check our boxes before we approach
the kids. Nick: Ok, there’s a lot of good insider
info that you just spoke of right there. Maybe to start with, just breaking that down because
I think it’s great. Do you guys more often than not reach out to the player first or
do the players sometimes get your attention as well? Steve: You know, being perfectly honest, it’s
about ninety-nine per cent we reach out to them. We’re constantly being emailed by
players who are looking for places to play. And a lot of the times if we haven’t contacted
a team or probably we are already looking at a player who’s trying to fill that role
for the email we get. There are a couple of situations where we do look into a guy and
we may not have seen him but a lot of the times if you’re not playing in the BCHL,
the USHL, or the NAHL, we probably not haven’t seen you. We do go to Alberta quite a bit
and Saskatchewan too. If you’re not one of the top, leading scorers in those leagues
then we’re probably looking at a guy in a different league if we haven’t contacted
you first. Nick: Absolutely. I put together league guides
for all the Junior A leagues out there and the Major Junior ones too. What I noticed
was breaking down the scholarships of each league like BC, tons of scholarships, obviously
USHL, NAHL has a lot of scholarships. But like Saskatchewan maybe it’s only the top
guys that are going out of there and it’s just purely by the numbers. So for players that want to get out there
and put themselves out there, it’s definitely going to be the thing where you want your
play to do the talking, I think, first so you have something to work with, so you can
draw people towards you. With that, I know you guys are in Alaska.
Obviously, it seems like you’re sticking to the western leagues. How does that change
for the schools that are in different parts of the States? Steve: That’s a good question because a
lot of the Ontario leagues get heavily recruited by the eastern schools. We were in Lake Superior
State last weekend, for instance, and they’re right up there in the UP [Upper Peninsula
of Michigan]. So it’s really easy for them to recruit, those schools, and if you look
at their rosters they’re heavily filled with Ontario players. So a lot of it is relative
to the part of the United States that that school is located in. So just because maybe our school—and that
maybe a great opportunity for a player in one of those conference that’s far away
from us to send an email to get our interest and have them let us know that they’re interested
in coming to see us. Because odds are we haven’t been out to see them if it’s far away because
we have a recruiting budget, so we don’t want to be throwing in two grand to fly all
the way to Ontario if it’s not for a player that we really want or know that they want
to come and play for us. Nick: How do those trips work? Is it coach
going, taking people with him? How often do they happen? Steve: We have two assistants here, so one
will always be with the team and one is always recruiting. That’s kind of how it goes.
Sometimes they’re both recruiting, sometimes they’re both on the bench. More times than
not we have one guy on the road recruiting. We kind of identify some guys that we want
to go see, that we’ve been in contact with who’ve been putting up some good numbers.
We’ll plan our weekends around going to see them and maybe we’ll just fly into British
Columbia and we’ll have four games on a weekend, three games on a weekend. It’s
usually pretty planned out as to who we’re going to see, when we’re going to see them.
They have an itinerary just as much as if they were on the road trip with the team. Nick: Ok, and you guys I would assume return
to, obviously, the same leagues. Do you ever look to the same teams where you’ve had
success recruits before or coaches who you have sent you reliable talent? Steve: Absolutely, and there’s relationships
that you build with different coaches in different leagues, and you want to work with teams that
have been winning. We’re always looking for programs that have success because you
want players to come in and know what takes to win, know what it feels like to win and
have expectations of winning as soon as they get here. So that’s something that we’re
always looking for. Then the relationships with coaches, where you know that they’re
giving us good recruits. They’re not just trying to sell their players to make their
program look better. They’re being honest with their evaluation. Nick: Absolutely. The biggest thing I noticed
coming into junior from midget was this emphasis on winning. I found it in midget, bantam,
your parents are paying for it. It’s minor hockey. Some guys are going to hit sixteen
or seventeen, get a driver’s licence and never put on skates again. But when you get
up into those teenage years and you’re playing junior, this is a business. Some junior teams
have got million-dollar budgets. There’s an expectation there and I think that’s
one of the best things I learned from junior hockey was what it was like to be a winner.
And the book that I told you about that I’m writing that’s going to come out next fall
across North America in the bookstores, it’s all about life lessons I learned from hockey
about winning—how to be a winner. Because it’s probably the biggest thing I took away
from it. One thing I tell the guys in my Junior Hockey
Truth book is that, ‘Look, talent helps and who you are helps. But, if you can get
on a winning team in a winning league where they’ve always recruited winners, you’re
going to stand a much better chance of getting scouted,” because you guys are looking for
that kind of stuff. Steve: Sure. Nick: Going back to that original question,
you talked about SAT scores and schooling and how important that is. Maybe you could
go into how much—I don’t know if I want to call it “leeway”—but do [entrance
requirements] change by school? Obviously Harvard’s going to ask for different grades
than, say, you guys. How does that work? Steve: Yes. So every university has a different
standard and it’s got nothing to do with the athletics department. That’s all pre-set
by the university. So like you say, if you’re going to go for the Ivy League program you
have to have much higher SAT scores, your minimum GPA is a lot higher. And then our
school, for instance, Lake Superior State, Denver, all these different schools have criteria
that you must meet. So one of the biggest things, the biggest
advice that I wished I would have had, and I’d like to get out, is just to know about
[the requirements] as soon as possible. You’re fresh in high school; make sure you’re buying
into your schooling right off the bat. Because one thing I didn’t do, when I was a freshman,
sophomore starting high school I took it for granted. I was really invested in hockey and
that’s all I really cared about. I skipped classes and I was doing the bare minimum and
once I got to my junior and senior year that’s when I recognized how important it was. But
it would have made it a lot easier on myself if I would have, from day one, bought into
the fact that I needed a scholarship and that I needed to have good grades to earn that.
So in core classes this is an issue that we see a ton. You’ve got the minimum of how
many core classes you have to complete in order to get a scholarship. And you’ll see these kids, they didn’t
even know it. They didn’t take their math freshman-through-senior year. They didn’t
take enough core science classes. They have a great GPA, they did well on their SATs,
but they only have, you know, fifteen core credits instead of the eighteen or whatever
it is now, and there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s a couple of rules that
you can have where they can take them in the summer time and they will be ineligible to
play for a year. Then in their sophomore year they can start playing, so there are some
loopholes through it but it’s really a pain. If you’re a player who really wants to compete
as a college athlete, I think it’s really important that they take their core credits
every year and they don’t drop any classes, they don’t build their classes up with electives,
and that they make sure they stay on pace from day one. Nick: I tell guys too, ‘You’ve got to
get ahead in those classes. Don’t just sit back and take what you’re supposed to. Because
by the time your reach senior year, grade twelve, you’re going to be, especially if
you’re playing junior—you can’t take the five or six classes a day. You’ve got
practice, you’ve got travelling. So you’ve better get ahead’. I didn’t get to take
any of the fun classes in high school because I didn’t have any free electives to do it.
I was filling everything with core. Steve: Exactly. Nick: Then aligning your stuff to transfer
school between home and wherever you’re playing. You went through the same thing in
midget. Going to a different state— Steve: That’s a big factor as well. You’ll
take potentially the right class in the state you’re in, but then you go to a different
school and it’s not recognized. I think you want a very strong relationship with your
advisor in both your schools. And before you make any decisions you need to speak to an
NCAA representative to make sure this is actually going to work. Because the last thing you
want to do after pouring your life into your sport is find out that there was some little
detail that was missed and you can’t get a scholarship regardless. And that’s not
fair to anyone. Nick: Absolutely, absolutely. When you guys
are recruiting a player and you’ve started talking to him already, you’ve watched him.
How does the process go from there? Do you offer scholarships right off the bat? Do you
talk to the guy throughout the season? Do you say you’re interested? Do you lock this
talent up quickly or do you want to see the guy a couple of times first? Steve: It’s all relative to the player depending
on what age he is. If he’s a younger kid, we might want to look at him longer to make
sure he’s actually developing and improving in the manner which we expect him to. If he’s
a high-end top, elite player, we might want to grab him right away and just take a risk
because we know that every other school is going to be all over him, so it’s almost
first come, first served. You want to make sure that you want to throw the biggest number
at him soonest, so that he takes it and we may have an opportunity to take him from another
school. If he’s a twenty year-old and you know that
he’s probably looking for anything at that point, you have maybe a little more flexibility.
Wait and see where this kid goes. Let’s see how many points he ends up putting up.
It all depends, but you definitely build a relationship personally before you throw any
money. You want to know that he’s a good kid, and he works hard, and he’s got strong
character before you commit this player to being with you for four years. Because I know
our biggest mentality is that you want to have the right culture in the locker room,
and the personalities within that is what really creates that. Nick: Makes sense. How much does a player’s
parents play into that decision as far as you sizing them up? And how much are they
involved? Steve: That’s relative to the players as
well. Some recruits, the parents want to be really involved and they’re calling you
and the other players are speaking with their parents on every decision they make and then
you get some kids who you’re almost exclusively working through them, and their parents trust
that the student’s making the right decision, the player’s making the right decision. But you see it both ways where you have a
parent who’s asking educated questions and is really invested, and you’re really impressed
by the parenting style they have. You make an assumption that the player is going to
be a good player and a good person based upon the parents. You have it the other way where
you meet the parent and you’re like, ’Oh my gosh. I don’t want to take this kid specifically
because I don’t want to have this parent involved’. And you see that a lot in minor
hockey when you see the parents that are constantly bickering at the coaches and constantly creating
problems in the stands with other parents. You see kids that don’t make teams when
they deserve to one hundred per cent because of their parents, which is a shame. Nick: Right. Before I get a flood of emails
coming in from parents that are concerned about how much they should be involved. What
do you think is the right amount? Because I imagine you want a parent who is there and
obviously involved with their kid. But you don’t want a parent that’s overbearing.
What’s kind of a balance? Steve: I think it’s very important for the
parents to be involved and for the kid to talk to their parents. It’s a family decision;
it’s a very big decision. It’s the next four years of your life and of your education,
and a lot of your future is tied into this. So I think it’s important for the parents
to be involved. But I think the parents need to be aware that if they start being really
aggressive and really pressing that it can come across negatively as well. Ask educated
questions but to not be threatening in any way, I guess, if that makes sense. I think
at that age they’re still kids, but they’re almost adults to give them a little bit of
independence. I think it’s good for the players, and it’s also good for us to see
that the player has that ability because you want a mature kid coming in as well. Nick: I think for me when I first left home
for Junior, or actually I guess AAA, at sixteen, my parents were really involved. They were
concerned to get me through high school. In junior, by that point, my parents kind of
came in last minute, and like so many parents that talk to me, they just didn’t know.
They came in and it was just like ‘whoa, my kid’s going to make this decision. What’s
going to happen’? I did an interview with my dad that’s a bonus that I include with
the book. And he just talks about the importance of getting educated about that beforehand.
By the time a parent reaches that scholarship level—eighteen, nineteen, twenty—I think
they know their kid is going somewhere. And for me, when I went off to university
and did a scholarship, I did a fly down and all that kind of stuff and it was just me.
But by that point I was twenty years old and I felt confident. I felt I was making the
right decision. I didn’t feel my parents were adding much at that point because I knew
a lot more than them. At the same time, if they were involved, it’s also nice to have
that reassurance when you’re at that age. It’s like you’re trying to be a man but
you don’t necessarily trust yourself one hundred per cent always. (That kind of advice
is beyond me, I guess, about how to be that kind of parent.) But it’s good for parents
to know that kind of thing. When it comes to advisory, outside of parents,
could you talk about family advisors, the role they play? How common are they? Do players
need one? Just kind of general advice. Steve: I never had one. I played with players
with did. I’m kind of on the fence. I don’t think you need one by any means. I’ve heard
a lot of horror stories where they kind of get in the way and they become more of a negative
than a positive. That’s not always the case. But, I don’t know, it’s a tough question
because they’re definitely helpful in some respects if you get a good one. If you’re
investing in someone to make a decision for you or be very involved with your future,
you want to make sure they have good intentions and that they have a good track record in
what they’ve done. So the biggest thing is if you are going to
go that route, do you research. Speak with players who have worked with them in the past.
Look at the resume of the players that they’ve brought up and where they’ve gone to because
much like the last question about the parents, you can have some advisors that really get
in the way and can be a turn-off to coaches as well. So make sure they have a good relationship
with the coaches that they work with, and that they’re going to be a benefit to your
child and not a hindrance. Nick: Just on that note, for parents that
don’t know what a family advisor does. Maybe just explain that a little bit and how you
come into contact with them at the university now. Steve: It’s more or less an agent, but you
can’t pay them obviously because that’s a NCAA violation there. They more or less
look into, they contact teams, look to find an avenue for a player to go to. They’ll
get in touch with schools. They’ll get in touch with recruits and they’ll make sure
that they get your name out. They kind of just market you as a person. It’s basically
a free agent. I think that they work out deals where if you ever do sign a contract then
they ask for percentages. But I don’t have too much experience because I never had one. Nick: Fair enough. Steve: But my goalie partner in Fairbanks
had one. And you know depending on how well you’re playing that’s how much in contact
they are. If you’re playing really well they’re in contact all the time. Then you
slump junior year, and all of a sudden the family advisor what nowhere to be found. Like
anything, if you look like you’re going to make some money, he’s going to be around.
But if it starts to look like you may not, he probably isn’t going to care as much
as the other guy that’s putting up the points. It’s like anything, right? Nick: Makes sense. Well on the topic of money,
maybe you could describe a bit, NCAA, it’s eighteen full scholarships spread out across
the team. Could you describe, in your experience, how does that break down amongst the players.
How often are you giving out full rides compared to partial rides and that kind of stuff? Steve: That’s a great question because I
know when I was coming up I was convinced that every scholarship was a full ride. I
just assumed when I was younger that if you had a scholarship it meant your schooling
is paid for. People just said they had a scholarship and I assumed always one hundred per cent,
and that’s definitely not the case. Full rides are pretty rare to come by. There aren’t
too many guys on a team that have a full scholarship. A lot of guys are on partials. A lot of guys
are on, you’ll hear the terms ‘three-for-four’, ‘two-for-four’, which means two out of
the four years you’ll get a full, three out of the four years you’ll get a full,
something likes that. There’s a lot of walk-ons, which guys probably don’t recognize either.
We have a handful of guys that I played with that are on full walk-ons. So they’re one
hundred per cent playing, and a lot of guys are in the line up every night. They’re
just not getting any aid. I think that when I was getting recruited
I always felt that that I wasn’t getting a full ride then it wasn’t worth it to me.
Whereas looking back now, just the opportunity to get a scholarship was a huge benefit. Depending
on the school, if you get in-state tuition, if you’re from that state if you have a
partial scholarship, it can almost equal a full scholarship, and there’s a lot of other
scholarship opportunities academically. I know in Alaska, for instance, there’s different
scholarships for if there’s a lake that somebody really likes and has grown up on.
If you send in a two-page essay about what experiences you’ve had on that lake and
why you love it and why it was such a big part of your life, you’ll get two-thousand
dollars. So there are all these opportunities out there,
so I think just doing your homework on scholarships available. If you don’t get a full ride
athletically that you can increase your amount through different avenues and end up walking
away without any student debt. Nick: Absolutely. There’s many different
ways to do it. You’ve also got to look at that scholarship too. There’s something
special about being a hockey player. Where when you finish school and you have that degree
in your pocket but you’re playing on the team. Between just alumni, but also people
recognizing your name. I’ve got buddies, they come from rural Alberta and they work
on Wall Street. I know guys they’ve travelled the States, even myself, what am I doing.
I’ve lived in the States before and parts that I never thought possible. I mean, I’ve
lived in New York City myself. And I would never have left home had it not been for the
hockey. And I think if hockey can take you from whatever world you grew up in and show
you something much bigger. That itself, as cliché as it sounds, is pretty priceless. Looking back, we’re kind of at that age
now where we’re starting to see all those experiences and the benefits that come from
it, of having been different places and done different things. It’s interesting to hear
just how it goes really beyond the money. But it’s also interesting to hear the truth
about that—what gets offered. From your knowledge and your experience Steve,
what is your opinion on division three scholarships? I know I got mine. I want to hear yours. Steve: My little brother plays division three
out in New York. I was a part of that decision for him. So you can’t get athletic scholarships
in division three in the States. So you can go for student aid based upon your parents’
income, and you can get different packages for academics, but you can’t earn an athletic
scholarship being in division three. But like I said you can nearly get a full
scholarship based upon your academics or your student aid depending upon the income. And
then my brother for instance, my dad’s in the military. There’s a bill that Obama
had passed a few years back that if my dad didn’t go to college, all the money that
he would have used for a degree can be used to go towards any of his kids. So my brother
is going to school for free based on this GI bill, which is great. But I think that a lot of times, players,
they’re so negative about going to division three. They always think they need to be division
one player, they need to go to division one no matter what. And we have some issues where
a player, I truly think that if they went to division three they would play more often.
They would enjoy it and get a great education, and it’s probably a better route instead
of walking on a division one school where they’re going to be in the stands for all
four years. I think that one thing that is so true, and
it’s kind of hard to say, is money does talk. If a school is putting a lot of money
into you and your scholarship is big, they’re going to take a lot more opportunities, they’re
going to be a lot more patient with you. The more scholarship you earn, the more ice time
you’re going to get. As much as no one wants to hear that, it is true. A guy can have a
month of bad on-ice performance, but we’re putting a lot of money into this kid, so we
need to develop him. So instead of putting him in the stands right away, we’re going
to keep putting him in the line up. We’re going to keep watching him grow because we’ve
invested a lot in him. Whereas if the guys a walk-on or is on low money as soon as he
has a bad night he may be in the stands because we haven’t put much into this guy yet. So it’s a lot easier decision for us to
know we’re not losing too much by putting him in the stands whereas this guy, we have
twenty thousand invested in him. We really need him to, one: I think it makes coaches
feel better to know that the true people that they gave money to are in the line up, and
end up playing well, so you’re driving to make it look like you’ve done a good job
with your recruiting. But two: it’s hard to see all that money put into a guy who might
not potentially be in the lineup. That’s something you’ve got to think about.
How much are they willing to give you? Ask a lot of questions because there are a lot
of schools out there that’ll say that ‘this is all we have’ when they probably have
more money, and you just need to negotiate with them. Have some confidence. It’s like
with anything, when making a deal for anything in life; don’t just accept the offer you
get, ask some questions. Get a feel for the university and how much they feel you’re
worth. Nick: Absolutely. For me when I took my scholarship,
I had about five different options. Of course, I wasn’t NCAA eligible, but when I went
to the CIS, which is like our division one, I had like three or four schools that were
legitimately interested. I also had our version of the division three, the colleges interested.
And ultimately, what it came down to was exactly what you were saying, what school seemed the
most invested in me. The school that offered to fly me out, and did fly me out to check
the school, meet some of the guys, check out the facilities, that’s where I ended up
going. So on that note, why don’t you tell people
a little bit about what happens with the fly down. How does the process start? What goes
on during one, maybe about some that you’ve done? Steve: I think the biggest thing is you need
to have all of your academic side done before you can even be offered a fly up. So you have
to have your SAT scores in, you have to have all your core classes, you have to have all
these things checked off first. You might not necessarily have to have them finished
if you’re only a junior in high school, for instance, or whatever age you may be.
But you have to have all of that completed before you can even get on the fly out. For
a lot of guys we’re talking to in the BCHL, for instance, if they haven’t taken their
SATs yet. we can’t even offer them a fly up. So, we’ll have guys that are taking
them in January, and then in February we’ll plan a time for them to come and check it
out. So once you’re eligible for a fly up, we’ll
bring you in and you’ll meet the guys on the team, you’ll see the facilities, you’ll
watch a practice, you’ll get to know the staff, get to see the bells and whistles.
And I think it’s really important if you’re given an opportunity to get a fly up or a
fly down I recommend taking it. Because like I said, it’s four years of your life. It’s
a huge decision and your entire career as a hockey player, but also your entire career
as a professional based upon, ‘Does that school have the right program that you’re
interested in? Do you even know what you’re interested in’? I think those are questions
that players should probably start asking themselves in junior or senior year in high
school. What do I want to do after school? What do I want to go to school for? Is it
going to be a four year degree where I can do what I want to or is it going to have to
be a post grad after? So there’s a lot of decisions that have
to be made, but I think those are all good questions that have to be asked, and ask the
university once you get there. If you want to medical school—does this have pre-med?
If you want to be, like I did psychology, for instance. So for me to get a four year
in psychology is basically like saying I went to college. In order to be in a field I would
have to go to school for longer. To know: is there a post graduate program there? Can
I continue to go there afterwards? If you build these relationships with your professors,
it’s a lot easier to get into graduate school, so it’s a lot. But I think being prepared
is the best option. So instead of just thinking, Ah, it’s too much; I’ll just go home and
check it out and just go with the flow. I think that’s where the parenting can come
into play. They can do a lot of work for you; they can look into things while you’re focusing
on your junior games. All you’re thinking about is hockey at that point at that age.
So have your parents kind of behind the scenes looking at the academic side while you’re
going into your weekends, and making sure that your scoring as many goals or stopping
as many pucks so you have the opportunity to play. Nick: Yeah, absolutely. You’re parents get
to come on a fly down as well too, one parent anyway. They can check it out, and what I
always found in those situations it wasn’t so much that, you know, it was always my decision,
but because you’re so involved and taking everything in, it’s good to have a parent
there who can help just put things in perspective. They just want to see you be somewhere where
you’re happy, be somewhere that’s going to benefit you. I always found, at least with
my parents, they laid those things out from a logical perspective. It wasn’t such an
emotional decision. I entirely recommend that players who get a chance go check out the
school go do it. I was born in Saskatchewan and haven’t got
a chance to check out Alaska yet, but I have been through UND in North Dakota, and that
rink is probably—there’s probably no other rink like it in the world. Steve: Sure. Nick: When I went through there, I just looked
around, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I would go NCAA next time around’. Between the marble
floors and everything else, and what I’m getting at is that just by being able to see
that, if I would have been able to commit there, knowing that I was coming into that
facility everyday, and seeing how the team interacts, seeing the players, could I see
myself in that environment? If the answer is yes, that starts making the decision a
no-brainer. You don’t question it. The difference between the NCAA and junior is when you commit
to a team you’re pretty much there. It’s the rare one per cent guy that goes back and
tries again or whatever, but it’s not the plan. It’s definitely not. We’re hitting the home stretch here. Let’s
talk a little bit about how does NCAA hockey differ from Junior A, and just the lifestyle
of playing NCAA versus junior. Steve: I think the biggest difference is the
maturity and the age. You go from playing with guys—you know most times it’s eighteen
to twenty year olds when you’re playing junior, your have your rare sixteen to seventeen
year old guys that are in there. Once you get to college, you can have a range from
eighteen years old to twenty-four, twenty-five. It kind of goes that you’re playing against
men all of a sudden. A lot of the guys are bigger, faster, stronger. It’s a much faster
paced game. I think off-ice becomes hugely important. You need to get as big and as strong as you
can to go into the corners, to be able to hold your own. That’s the biggest difference
you see when a freshman comes in. He’s so skilled in junior, he has all the skill set,
but he’s not going into the corners and coming out with the puck as often as he was.
I think the off-ice, hitting the weights, getting big, getting strong, that’s the
biggest difference you’ll see. If you have a player coming in, I think that summer before
coming into university is the biggest summer of his four years probably. The more you can
build and be prepared for that as soon as you step into the rink, those are the guys
who are successful right off the bat. Nick: Awesome, awesome. Just to wrap it up
here maybe you could tell us what’s coming up new for you guys this coming year in two
thousand fourteen. What’s some cool stuff that is coming up at the university? Steve: It’s been a huge—brand new head
coach here, and a new coaching staff and it’s been a great year for us, turning it around.
UA hasn’t been as successful the past few years, and this year we had the opportunity
to earn home-ice advantage and we’re fourteen, eleven and three right not. Potentially, we
could make an NCAA bid if we finish strong here. We have a new athletic director here
in Anchorage, and we just got a one hundred twenty-one million dollar facility put in
on campus, just state of the art. It’s the Alaska Airlines Center. It’s finished in
August, so we got a lot of bright things coming ahead for us. We’re getting a six million
dollar renovation put into our practice facility. The community has been real great. They’ve
put a lot of money into the program and our fans are growing every night this year. We’re ten and three at home, and that’s
helped. We have one of the best home records in the NCAA. That’s helped a ton, so it’s
been a great chance for me to get involved at the right time. Things are turning around.
Our head coach spent the last fifteen years in the ECHL. One of the biggest benefits for
us and for the players here is he knows exactly what it takes to be a professional, and he
has a great relationship with all of the NHL with how long he was in pro hockey. On the
road trips, we have tons of NHL scouts coming in who want to meet our players. More importantly, they’re really close with
our head coach. They want to come in and see him. That relationships the head coaches have
goes a long way because like I was saying earlier it’s no different that us trying
to talk to junior teams we have a relationship with; those NHL teams, they want to talk to
college coaches they have good relationships with. Him having already built those bridges
has been great for our guys. We have some seniors right now who have the Anaheim Ducks,
and Winnipeg was with us this last weekend up in Lake State and they were all over a
few of our guys, so we’re looking to see where they go next, and hopefully getting
a couple contracts up there. Nick: Awesome man. It is a game of relationship
as you can see. Steve: Sure. Sure. Nick: Where can people check out more about
your team and the school. Steve: GoSeawolves.com is our main athletic
website for all of our athletes. We have basketball, mens and womens; we have gymnastics; we have
cross country skiing, downhill skiing; and then hockey here, so we have a little Alaskan
feel with the skiing programs, which is pretty cool. You can check that out, and then [AmericanOneSports.com]
is where all of our games are. I think it’s about five bucks a game or seven dollars a
game, or something that, so anyone can get online and watch the games. We have three
weekends left this season and then the playoffs start. It’s going to be quite the ride here. Nick: Sounds good, man. Steve thank you very
much for sitting down for this info. Some of that knowledge is priceless. It’s insider
stuff. It’s great to catch up with you once again, man. Steve: Alright, see you. Nick: Thanks a lot. Steve: Thanks for having me.

5 Comments

  • Reply Michael Rodriguez February 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    I turned 15 recently. I'm a February 26,1999 I'm 6 feet and 160 pounds. I'm trying to make it somewhere like everyone else. I'm looking to make it any way I can. As a fighter , a 4th line grinder . Anything. I don't care what pro league I could play in. It could be either echl, khl , SM-Liga and any European or American pro leagues. I just want to make it. And from there I could work my way to the ultimate goal of being in the nhl. Can you please get back to me and just tell me what are some tips or give me info about these leagues ? If you can , email me [email protected] it's spelled exactly how it is , I spelled foward indtead of forward in my email lol

  • Reply Michael Rodriguez February 28, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Whats the oldest age allowed in major junior or junior A ?

  • Reply Kevin Wilkinson March 26, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Nick,
    Has any player who plays in the WHL been able to still be eligible to play NCAA. Or, will someone have to get a special contract so you can play NCAA Hockey

  • Reply ZéKiDebord May 8, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Hey Nick, my situation is different, I play roller and ice hockey in Costa Rica, but the downside is most of the kids I'm playing against aren't at my level (my talent level is Bantam AA), and I've thought about playing midget or high school hockey in the States so that I can maybe make it to the USHL or the NCAA Div.1. Any tips?

  • Reply Veins Frozen May 4, 2019 at 5:31 am

    hey Nick’
    I recently turned 15 and would love to play in the ncaa in the future but I’m from Europe. So how do I get recruited to any colleges. Any tips?
    Please respond

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