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FNS Photo by David Samson 
University of North Dakota coaches from left to right Brad Berry, Dave Hakstol, Dane Jackson and Karl Goehring watch shootout drills during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four on April 9 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
FNS Photo by David Samson University of North Dakota coaches from left to right Brad Berry, Dave Hakstol, Dane Jackson and Karl Goehring watch shootout drills during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four on April 9 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

College hockey recruiting becoming more cloudy

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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

GRAND FORKS — The recruiting world in college hockey has never been so murky.

After what was described as an “intense” discussion on verbal commitments and whether college hockey teams should honor them at the national meetings this week, coaches walked away from the table not knowing exactly what the future will hold.

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In previous years, coaches had a “gentleman’s agreement” to leave verbally committed players alone, even though it is permissible to contact them until they have signed a letter of intent, per NCAA rules.

With increasing problems in the recruiting world — de-commits by players, reneging on scholarship offers by schools and teams recruiting more players than they have spots available — a number of programs are speaking out in favor of ending the gentleman’s agreement, most notably, the University of Minnesota.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the coaches voted approximately 46-12 in favor of keeping the agreement in place, but at the end of the meeting, one coach acknowledged, “We have people in this room who don’t plan to follow it.”

Since the gentleman’s agreement is nonbinding, there is no recourse for coaches who don’t follow it. Some believe that coaches are already going against the gentleman’s agreement to recruit verbally committed players.

If teams start openly recruiting verbally committed players, college hockey would go the route of college football and basketball, where players are recruited up until the time they sign letters of intent.

Two alternative proposals didn’t gain consensus. On was to honor verbal commitments from just athletes who are seniors or older. The other was to move up the letter of intent signing age by one year.

Gopher coach Don Lucia, the most outspoken critic of the gentleman’s agreement, told the Herald this fall that he has been frustrated by the number of early commitments that are made.

“I find it frustrating that we want to recruit a kid, but we haven’t had a chance to get him to campus,” Lucia said. “Suddenly, someone puts a gun to his head to make a decision, which happens. I don’t think that’s fair either.

“Or else, maybe a kid wants to come here, but we’re full, so he commits somewhere else. All of the sudden, we have a couple of kids sign (pro deals) and spots open up. Why shouldn’t I be able to give that kid a scholarship that we didn’t have a month earlier?”

Lucia also pointed out: “The bottom line is that you work for your institution, not somebody else’s institution. You don’t want to be picking off a kid weeks before signing day, but there are other situations.”

University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol has told the Herald in the past that he doesn’t recruit committed players.

NCAA change? There may be a change coming to the NCAA tournament, but it won’t be to abandon the neutral site regional concept.

There was significant discussion on whether the NCAA should have a day off in between the first-round games and the regional championship.

In the last five years, teams that play in the early game in the first round of the regionals are 16-4 the next day in the regional final. Teams that play on shorter rest are winning just 20 percent of the regional championships.

The NCAA will have to weigh the extra cost of keeping teams and workers around for another day with the leveling of the playing field.

Talking points - The National Collegiate Hockey Conference is considering a different point system for the regular season standings, awarding a team a point for making it to overtime. Right now, it only awards a point for making it to a shootout.

- The NCHC is not expected to change its currently playoff format, which features four best-of-three, first-round series at the home of the higher seed. The winners advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis’ Target Center.

- The national body held further discussions on allowing visors instead of full cages for players, though they are still in an information-gathering phase. The coaches support the change to visors, but it won’t happen the upcoming season.

- No changes are expected to overtime, though discussions were held on making it 4-on-4 or extending it to 10 or 20 minutes to cut down on ties and shootouts. The NCHC is expected to continue using a shootout next season.

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