Thursday, August 07, 2008

OHL could ban imports

The Ontario Hockey League might become the first junior league in Canada to close the door on drafting European prospects.

The league's board of governors is expected to table a motion this week to strike its participation in the June import draft of European players. Each of the 60 teams in the Canadian Hockey League, of which the OHL is a member, is allowed two European-drafted players.
I grew up on junior hockey in Western Canada, but it always struck me as strange that the WHL drafted teenage players out of Russia and the Czech Republic. Even so, it was a thrill when players like Petr Nedved, Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa came through town way back when.

Heck, Pavel Brendl, believe it or not, was a great, great player to watch in the early years. Oleg Saprykin, too.

The Kamloops Blazers never seemed to have much luck drafting import players, but there were some that made their mark: Konstantin Panov, Gennady Razin and Ivan Vologjaninov. It really wasn't until the late '90s that the draft even seemed all that important, but these days it the majority of junior clubs have their quota of imports filled.

If all three leagues banned imports, potentially eliminating 120 European players from the league, would that hurt the talent level? Undoubtedly. But I honestly don't believe it would have an affect on the box office draw.

For the sake of the Canadian development system, it makes sense to keep junior hockey as more of a homegrown circuit. The influx of U.S. born players from states like California may be where the next limitations come in this regard.

UPDATE The QMJHL is also contemplating making a similar change.
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18 Comments:

At 2:45 PM, August 07, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

With 60 teams and severe limitations on 16 year olds, I really do not see the need for outright banning the drafting of European players. The two per team limit is perfectly fine.

60 CHL teams and about 130 CJHL teams means there are a TON of spots for Canadian kids to develop at the Jr. A or Major Junior level.

 
At 2:47 PM, August 07, 2008, Blogger Lowetide said...

James: I disagree. The Canadian kids who do make it into the WHL are facing exceptional opposition every night, much of it from Europe.

If you lose any portion of the best players available to you, your league suffers.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

 
At 4:56 PM, August 07, 2008, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

Crazy idea. You don't get better playing against other plugs. You get better playing against top-level talent.
Not to mention how fans would react to seeing two skill players replaced by plumbers.
If I were the WHL, I'd goad the OHL into implementing this idea and then raise the import quota on the W to 4.

 
At 4:57 PM, August 07, 2008, Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

It also would serve to help dry-up the pipeline of NHL players from Europe. This has repercussions on the level of the NHL game in the future.

Instead of getting a player who has a couple years of junior in the North American system who is ready to jump to the NHL, you have osmebody who played in Europe only, still needs to learn the North American system and may be less inclined to come over and do that.

 
At 5:11 PM, August 07, 2008, OpenID tersa said...

The influx of U.S. born players from states like California may be where the next limitations come in this regard.

Uhm. What?

Granted, I'm biased because I'm in California...but there are U.S.-based CHL teams, at least.

Is this a suggestion that the leagues can't draft or sign U.S.-born players unless...what? The state hosts a team? Will kids from Manitoba and the Territories then be excluded from the draft because they don't have teams, either?

I can see the rationale for excluding European players from the draft, but trying to extend it to U.S. born players would get a little dicey.

 
At 5:13 PM, August 07, 2008, Blogger rananda said...

agree that youre def going to have less euro kids interested in the nhl w/o that first taste of canadian juniors. though you have to think if they want to come when theyre 17 to play junior, theyre probably going to want to come when theyre a few years olders in the bigs.

disagree on import juniors being necessarily more ready to play in the nhl (certainly theyre more acclimated to NA life and play). there is ample evidence that russians who have come over to play in the chl have seen their development stunted. teh bashkirovs, who were passed in development by many in their peer group during the sojourn in quebec, are the best example, but there are others. the jury is probably still out with respect to any ascertainable trend though.

 
At 5:24 PM, August 07, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think there should be limitations on kids coming, at 16 or 17, from halfway across the continent to ride the bus from Brandon to Seattle for pocket money.

Junior hockey should be treated more as a developmental league that puts more emphasis on what works for the kids — including better education at least through high school — than creating some sort of a mini-NHL. Only a small fraction of these players are going to be elite athletes.

 
At 5:45 PM, August 07, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Will kids from Manitoba and the Territories then be excluded from the draft because they don't have teams, either?

Did they move Brandon to Saskatchewan when I wasn't looking?

 
At 6:02 PM, August 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there should be limitations on kids coming, at 16 or 17, from halfway across the continent to ride the bus from Brandon to Seattle for pocket money.

That's a different matter altogether. Though entirely valid.

To repeal junior hockey slavery you'd probably need to repeal the CHL draft, for starters. Maybe have a territorial rights system as existed in the NHL prior to the introduction of the Entry Draft.

 
At 7:00 PM, August 07, 2008, Anonymous Tim said...

The elephant in the room here is the cost to CHL teams to draft these players. Many times the teams have had limited exposure to the players. They spend huge amounts of cash on relative unknowns who may or may not report, stay or be any good. If these teams knew the investment would be even 50/50 we wouldn't be talking about this.

 
At 9:05 PM, August 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Instead of getting a player who has a couple years of junior in the North American system who is ready to jump to the NHL, you have osmebody who played in Europe only, still needs to learn the North American system and may be less inclined to come over and do that."

Yeah, there's been Hossa, Chara (minors first) and couple of other great Euros coming through CHL but mostly this route has ruined many promising careers for Euros.

How many CHL games Sundin, Forsberg, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Jagr, Selanne, Koivu, Numminen, Kiprusoff, Kovalchuk, Malkin, Ovechkin etc. etc. played?

They should ban Euros in CHL so NHL would get more these superstars later.

This is not anything against CHL because it's a great system for North Americans.

It's just that so many Europeans in CHL face their most meaningful years of developement at the same time as they're trying to adjust to new surroundings. Many of them can't handle everything and they lose confidence.

This talk about language and size of the rink and different style is useless talk. It doesn't matter if the player learns English two years earlier. What matters is that he can play at the NHL level.

Heck, I wish our players could speak English like Lidstrom or score like Ovechkin. Or maybe they could be even better with CHL experience?

 
At 12:16 AM, August 08, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Question: is the CHL actually getting the best Europeans, or are teams for the most part simply filling out their second or third lines?

 
At 3:35 AM, August 08, 2008, Anonymous Eric said...

Adam, it mostly depends on the player's country of origin. I can't think of a single relevant Swede or Finn that went through the CHL & the Russians are pretty scarce, too. For some of the nations with less developed hockey programs, however, you get a lot of the top guys. Slovakia & the Czech Republic are the most notable for producing high-end CHL imports.

 
At 9:46 AM, August 08, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Well that's an interesting point, Eric; I'd been wondering (given the numbers that we've seen recently) why Europeans would even be interested in coming to the CHL at such a young age. However, from what I've heard of Slovakia (in particular) there might be real problems getting access to facilities, equipment, and top competition. Allowing these players in the CHL might be a real help for them, unlike the Swedish junior who is probably better off at home.

Arguably it is not the CHL's job to properly develop Slovakian hockey players. However, they do need to provide a high level of competition for this to work, and I suppose European imports are a more favourable alternative (profit-wise) to contraction.

 
At 10:24 AM, August 08, 2008, Anonymous Dave said...

I agree with Adam just looking at this from a Red Wings perspective. Jan Mursak is from Slovenia and came over right after he was drafted to play in the OHL. Jakub Kindl [Czech] also played in the OHL before moving up to the A. They are players who probably wouldn't have faced a high level of competition staying at home so it made sense for them to come to North America to continue their development.

For the Swedish prospects they either stay and develop in Sweden before coming over or they might get a year or two of seasoning in the AHL [Kronwall, Ritola, Ericsson].

 
At 1:32 AM, August 09, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Under the Czech category, Ales Hemsky was a heck of a Q-leaguer.

 
At 12:46 PM, August 12, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The influx of U.S. born players from states like California may be where the next limitations come in this regard

If the solution is to begin a ban on American and European players, that's ok with me. Those kids will then go to the USHL...the US Major Junior circuit. That league will improve tenfold overnight...and so will U.S. player development.

As an American, I'd certainly welcome that. Canada's loss would be the U.S.'s gain.

 
At 10:34 PM, April 04, 2009, Blogger peter adams said...

is there a rule stating how long an import must play before he is nolonger considered an import, or is he considered an import at all times

 

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