Sauer – the fifth-winningest coach in college history
– writes a bi-weekly column for Inside College Hockey.com.
"The Dean" was the head coach for 31 years at Colorado
College and Wisconsin, where he won two national titles. Sauer
retired at the end of the 2001-02 season.
Editions of The Dean's List
early departures for the pros
this year's rule changes
rinks, old and new
listening pleasure, find The
Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.
of the fun in doing this column is the opportunity to interact
with you, the hockey fan. Please send your questions or comments
an incoming athlete, what commitment should I expect to make
on the college level?
– Kelly B., Milwaukee, Wis.
yeas my response to that question has been that education
is the most important starting point. Academics do not take
a back seat. In recruiting, I always told players they should
be concerned about education and they should take care of
their job in the classroom before coming to the rink on a
off-ice conditioning, practice, studies and traveling to games,
the demands on athletes today are time-consuming. I always
told my incoming freshmen that the first thing they have to
learn is time management.
Dean's List by Jeff Sauer
I am fortunate
to have been selected to be an assistant coach for the United States
team in the world junior hockey championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia,
at Christmas time. Because of that position, I was asked to observe
and evaluate some candidates for the team who are playing Major
A junior hockey in Toronto last weekend.
It got my mind
wandering back 30 years ago when I was Bob Johnson's assistant coach
at Wisconsin and Major A players were still alive in recruiting
for the colleges. I remember flying to Winnipeg and watching the
Flin Flon Bombers with Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach and hoping
we could get them to become a Badger. Then the next weekend traveling
to Montreal to watch the Ottawa 67s with Denis Potvin, and then
going to a rink to watch Lanny McDonald play.
I bring this
up only because in watching my first Major junior game in a long
time last weekend, I noticed a great difference. First of all, the
players on those teams may be eligible to play in the world junior
tournament, but not in college hockey.
look back at the players I scouted and I saw players who were unbelievably
talented. I look at today's players and I can't say the same thing.
Now I know with expansion in the National Hockey League and the
increased number of teams, some of those major junior kids will
make it to the NHL.
But I saw a
lot of kids who never will make it too, and I saw a number of kids
who would benefit from playing college hockey, if they could get
the chance. I started thinking that under NCAA rules, it is sad
that a number of these players never get the opportunity to play
in college. Quite honestly for many of these young men, the chances
of playing in the NHL are slim. Yet they don't get the opportunity
to play in college and get a degree should their NHL dream pan out.
Why do many
of these kids play Major junior hockey instead of staying eligible
the Major junior level does a good job of promoting and advertising
their product. Many kids in Canada don't hear about the college
option. We can't promote our game under NCAA rules. We are handcuffed
by the rules. So it's tough to get the word out by sending out a
brochure to a young kid or to keep a finger on younger kids to tell
them how to stay eligible for the college game.
Now Dany Heatley
was an exception. As a talented player from Calgary, Alberta, he
had Major junior teams after him. Because his dad played college
hockey at Wisconsin, he was aware of what college hockey was about
and he elected to become a Badger where he became an All-American.
I saw him play for the Atlanta Thrashers last week in Chicago and
the way he greeted old teammates and friends, I think he's happy
about his decision. But there are not a lot of guys like Heater.
So how does
this system change? How do we convince more players to go to college
instead of Major junior?
game has to work through league commissioners to try and get legislation
to the NCAA so that college coaches can spread information about
the game to younger players. I really think this would be better
for all of hockey.
It would expand
the talent pool so that the college game could get more players.
It would benefit a number of kids in Canada and the U.S. who could
still grow in the game, but also would have a college degree 30
years from now if they don't turn out to be a Hall of Famer like
Bobby Clarke or Denis Potvin.