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Great Debate: NCAA vs. CHL

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The first Colorado Avalanche Mailbag of the season won’t be posted until tomorrow, but we figured we would give fans a little taste today as a precursor.

The following question came in as a Mailbag request this past weekend, but it started such an interesting and passionate (yet playful) debate that we decided to expand the answers into a separate feature. The question came in as follows:

Please help me and my friends settle a debate we’ve been having for years now. Maybe the opinions of a few players would be nice. If in any year the NCAA Champions faced off against the Memorial Cup Champions, who would win? Would your answer be different if it was a 7 game series versus a single game?  What other factors might go into your decision? Thanks!
Timothy from Flint, Michigan

Definitely a great question. The guys were wondering if you bugged the locker room, Timothy, because they were just having this debate after practice a few days ago.

First, we’ll let the NCAA guys make their cases:

Paul Stastny – University of Denver (2004-06)
“I don’t know. From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, the top guys might be a little more talented in the Memorial Cup, but in the NCAA it’s deeper. Guys are older, stronger and more experienced. I’d give the edge to the NCAA because I’m an NCAA guy and I’ve had this argument with multiple guys. I think in the end NCAA guys are grown into their bodies and are more mature. Over the course of the year or if you played a seven-game series I think they’d come out on top. Lines one through four, I think it’s deeper than it is lines one through four in major junior, but like I said before, in major junior those top lines are pretty top heavy, talented and skilled throughout.”

Brandon Yip – Boston University (2005-09, Member of 2009 National Championship team)
“No doubt, the NCAA. I was part of a national championship team and we had a really good team. A lot of guys have played in the NHL. I think the NCAA would win because it’s an older crew. Guys are anywhere from 19 to 24 or 25. The CHL has great players and a lot of elite players, but I think it has a lot to do with maturity and body strength. College just has more depth, bigger defensemen and more mature guys. I think we’d have the edge. It would be interesting. Maybe we should do it someday. The CHL is used to playing more consecutive games, but the age difference is so large that it would be tough for the CHL to take the win.”

Daniel Winnik – University of New Hampshire (2003-06)
“I’d have to say the NCAA champions. I’m obviously biased, but they would be older, better conditioned, they work out a lot and practice more. I think with the overall depth of an NCAA team, lines three and four would take over their third and fourth lines. The CHL for sure has better skill on their top two lines, but it would come down to size and strength. This is a debate all the time in the dressing room. Major junior guys, especially WHL guys, think it’s the greatest league in the world. Everyone that comes from there thinks that everyone in that league can skate a million miles an hour, score 50 goals and throws boats when he fights. Dutchy will argue that the OHL is great and you’ll get someone from the ‘Q’ saying that league is phenomenal, but I think in the NCAA you can even see the prep work. Just look at points, no one gets 100 points. You don’t even get 70 points in 40 games, and if you do you’re phenomenal. The NCAA is a lot harder and more defensive.”

Now, we’ll turn to the players who came up through the Canadian Hockey League:

Chris Stewart  - Kingston Frontenacs (2004-07)
“Oh, 100 percent, Memorial Cup.  I have to defend my boys. I’d have to go with the CHL. I think we play great hockey out there and it’s the most comparable to pro hockey. It would be a good game. The NCAA might have us in age, but you have to go with the youth. I think the run-and-gun mentality of the CHL would be exciting to watch, but it might be more of a grinder’s game for the NCAA. It would be a good one to see.”

Matt Duchene – Brampton Battalion (2007-09)
“Memorial Cup. I think it’s a different style of game, but I played in the OHL so I have to go with that. You get the older guys in the NCAA. It’s probably a faster game and more North-South, but the CHL has a lot of players with a ton of puck skills and East-West abilities. I think if it’s a one-game showdown it’s tough to pick, but I have to go with the Memorial Cup champs.”

Philippe Dupuis – Hull Olympiques (2001-03), Gatineau Olympiques (2003-04), Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (2004-05), Moncton Wildcats (2005-06)
“You think I’m going to go with college? I’m a ‘Q’ product. The fact that we play more games is big for sure. If you look at the development, a lot of college guys show up in the NHL and they’re maybe not used to the long schedule. We’ve been used to it since we were 16, so I think that’s a big difference. If I had a kid I’d probably send him to college because he’d be better at school and stronger, but if we’re talking just playing the game, I think it’s the Memorial Cup champions for sure. In a seven-game series, without a doubt it’s the Memorial Cup champs. If it’s just one game, it could go both ways. But the fact that we can fight and they can’t is a big advantage too. Is there fighting in this game, or no? That’s another great question.”

In a shocker, the college guys picked the NCAA Champions, while the major junior players picked the Memorial Cup Champions. We’ll have to turn to our resident expert on the subject to cast the deciding vote, and that would be T.J. Galiardi. Galiardi played one year of NCAA hockey at Dartmouth and then another in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen before turning pro.

T.J. Galiardi – Dartmouth College (2006-07), Calgary Hitmen (2007-08)
“This is big for me. That’s real tough. I say overtime CHL victory. I’ll explain why too for everyone out there. Is this a one-game series or a seven-game series? One game, NCAA. Series, CHL. Shoot, I can’t decide right now. Other way around actually. One game, CHL, but best-of-seven NCAA. I think the top-level guys in the CHL are for the most part better than the top-level guys in the NCAA. But if it’s a seven-game series – although college guys are only used to playing one or two games on a weekend,  that would be the disadvantage for them – but I think in college the third and fourth line guys are way better. They’re older, they know their roles and it would come down to that.”
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