Baker named CIS player of the year
I had forgotten to post this when it was announced, but Acadia Axemen sniper Kevin Baker was named CIS player of the year at the men's hockey awards ceremony Wednesday night:
Baker, a 26-year-old kinesiology student, led the Axemen to a first-place finish in the AUS standings. He recorded four goals and six assists in five playoff games to help Acadia capture its first conference banner since 1995-96.I talked to Baker last weekend for a preview of the CIS championship this weekend, and he sounds like a standup guy. A former 7th-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings (1999), Baker was last seen playing pro hockey in the Calgary Flames system with Saint John in 2001-02, where he had a respectible 13 goals in 46 games.
"Kevin has been our offensive leader all season long and has continued to score at a torrid pace in the playoffs," Acadia head coach Darren Burns said in a release.
Given the numbers the Kingston, Ont., native has put up in Canadian university hockey — he led the league in scoring this year with 22 goals and 47 points in 27 games — there's no doubt in my mind Baker probably could have had a long career in hockey. Still, it's admirable that at age 23 and playing only as a role player in the AHL, he decided to head to school.
Unfortunately, major-junior hockey puts former players (Baker played three seasons with the OHL's Belleville Bulls) in a position where they only have a few years of playing pro to decide whether they'll use the scholarship monies accumulated playing junior. (Canadian junior hockey teams have programs whereby they develop scholarships for graduating players.)
To me, the CHL should let these kids both fully pursue a pro career and go to school — and do so whenever that might be most convenient. Some players simply take longer to develop, as evidenced by a guy like Martin St. Louis who didn't become an NHL regular until he was 25.
Still, it's good to see the scholarships are coming for kids to play in the Canadian university system.