ORONO, Maine — Division I college hockey coaches will have a better chance to land players in their battle against the Major Junior hockey leagues thanks to legislation passed by the NCAA last month that will allow them earlier and more frequent contact with potential student-athletes.
The NCAA Board of Directors approved legislation that will allow coaches to begin contacting potential recruits on Jan. 1 of their 10th grade years. The date used to be June 15.
The new legislation also removed limits on the number of telephone calls, emails, social media messages and text messages coaches can send to these recruits beginning Jan. 1 of their sophomore years.
Under the old rules, coaches couldn’t contact a recruit or their families or return calls or emails until June 15 of his sophomore year. And there were limits on the number of calls or emails they could send to the recruits.
Text messaging was not allowed until players signed a National Letter of Intent or paid the financial deposit to attend the university. The earliest that could occur was November of their senior year.
Under the old guidelines, coaches could call recruits just once a month during a 13 1/2-month span from June 15 after their sophomore seasons to July 31 after their junior seasons, according to Eileen Flaherty, the University of Maine’s associate athletic director for compliance.
Beginning Aug. 1 after recruits’ junior years, coaches were allowed to call them once a week. Now there are no such limitations.
Major Junior hockey league players receive stipends from their teams, which makes them professionals in the eyes of the NCAA, and that means they can’t play college hockey in the United States.
The Major Junior leagues don’t have recruiting guidelines, so their coaches can talk to prospective players long before college coaches can and as frequently as they want.
“This is real significant because we’re the only sport that I know of that has to compete with an outside entity for players,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “And [the Major Junior leagues] don’t have any rules regarding when players can be contacted. That puts us at a severe disadvantage.
“Now we can contact them earlier, and this will make it easier for them to gain access to information. They will be able to make a more informed choice [between Major Junior and U.S. college hockey],” said Gendron.
Student-athletes of any age and their parents have always been able to contact the coach to discuss attending the school, and they still can.
“These changes apply just to men’s ice hockey,” stressed Flaherty. “They are in place due to the influence of Major Junior hockey. If anyone has any questions, they should contact that school’s compliance office.”