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College a Springboard to NHL

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
You can watch the best hockey from the CCHA and Hockey East  all winter long on Leafs TV!

by Brian Bileski
January 11, 2005

The college game has delivered some exceptional hockey players to the NHL in the last few decades. Over that period the level of competition and passion for the sport has grown with an incredible surge as fans are attending games in record numbers. The pace of the college hockey game is fast and tough, minus the fighting and hard checking you find in the Canadian junior game.

Many of today's greatest players honed their skills in the NCAA before jumping to best league in the world. Some skated for four years until they were seniors bearing the captain's "C', while others blew up during their freshmen season, then headed straight to the big leagues. Guys like Brian Leetch, John Michael Liles, Brian Gionta and Danny Heatley played at least one year of college hockey and are now household names to any fan out there.

Scouts are scouring the NCAA searching for the next big thing. Some

NHL Players NCAA Scoring
Player GP G A PTS.
Dany Heatley
Wisconsin 1999-01
84 52 61 113
Brian Gionta
Boston College 1997-01
164 123 109 232
John M. Liles
Michigan State 1999-03
162 44 94 138
Brian Leetch
Boston College 1986-87
37 9 38 47
guys have opted out of playing in the Ontario Hockey League just so they can get that college experience that so many juniors never have the chance to live.

Andrew Cogliano could have been a superstar in the OHL but instead chose Red Berenson's Wolverines at the University of Michigan to develop his game. Now he'll probably be the college rookie of the year and a potential Hobey Baker Candidate.

Meanwhile, Justin Vaive, son of former Leafs' sniper Rick Vaive, was a 3rd round OHL pick but is currently training in Ann Arbor at the United States National Team Development Program while he decides which scholarship he'll accept in the next year or so. There are so many Canadians playing hockey at schools in the United States this year and many more heading south of the border in the years to follow.

So why is the choice to head to an American school becoming so popular these days?

Obviously there are a number of reasons. Nothing beats playing hockey and earning a degree while the cost of education is absolutely nothing. Most American schools have hefty tuition fees; fees that are in the tens of thousands of dollars range. How can anybody turn down the opportunity to graduate from a top academic program for the minimal cost of slapping pucks and making glove saves?

Aside from playing the game you've got to love the college life. It's such a great time of life to enjoy while learning and understanding who you are and what you want to do with your life. With a degree upon finishing up four years of school hearing the words, "You're cut from the team", from a club's general manager might be a little easier to swallow.

Besides, who doesn't enjoy the college life? If it's anything like the University of Western Ontario, then life is a breeze for these guys, balanced between keg parties, dates with girls who want to be with a varsity athlete and the occasional study hall period.

Is life this tough in the OHL?

Check out next week's article as Brian Bileski goes twenty questions with Canadian junior Gold Medalist and Michigan Wolverines freshman, Andrew Cogliano.

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