Back for a second time today and that’s because USHL commissioner Skip Prince has got some people talking.
Prince wrote an open letter to “The Pipeline Show” addressing a number of items such as the differences between the USHL and the CHL along with the possibility of seeing a USHL-CHL game.
The letter was written to supplement an interview that was done on “The Pipeline Show” on Saturday with USHL spokesman Brian Werger. Prince said this afternoon that he didn’t expect the letter to take off like it did.
“What spawned the discussion is the continuing sense that the USHL is and will be recognized as Junior ‘A’ hockey,” Prince said. “The Junior ‘A’ leagues in Canada are handicapped by Major Junior but when the Canadian fan searches to find an easy analogy, it is that we are different.”
Prince added later, “I frankly thought it was good to get it from the horse’s mouth.”
Prince, who was at the league office in Chicago, talked for 20 minutes about a multitude of subjects such as the USHL’s image and the possibility of there being a USHL-CHL game of some type.
He admitted that there has been discussions within the USHL at various levels and discussions with CHL commissioner Dave Branch about a USHL team playing a CHL team.
“The Tier I standards articulate promoting in the future, participation in the Memorial Cup,” Prince said. “And that was 10 years ago. It’s not like we’ve been diligently trying to operate a league that will be competitive in the Memorial Cup. We have a system that’s about delivering kids to the 58 D-1 institutions that play college hockey.”
In regard to his talk with Branch, Prince recalled something he once discussed with his counterpart.
“I started with asking him directly,” said Prince, who has known Branch for many years, “What have you got to win and lose here?”
Prince didn’t give a timeline on when and if a game would occur but he did say there would be plenty challenges that would come with it.
He outlined how both CHL teams and USHL teams play different schedules. Though the CHL plays 12 more games than the USHL, it has a quicker season. The CHL also has games that are played in the middle of the week.
The USHL, on the other hand, plays 60 games a season with the majority coming on the weekend. Prince said to get a game going would mean having to alter schedules for both leagues and, in the case of the CHL, a TV date that’s already been agreed upon.
Prince then brought up the point that if a USHL team were to play a CHL team, they’d have to get clearance from the NCAA.
“If we were to play, who’s rules would we play under?” he said. “If we were playing against NHL signees, we’d have to get an NCAA dispensation because we’d be playing pros.”
Nonetheless, Prince said even with those obstacles he’d be for a game between the two leagues in the hopes of taking what he called “the vicious nationalism” out of the game.
Yet there was one theme that existed in the conversation with Prince and that was the USHL’s image.
Prince said that the CHL is a good league that has done a great job of marketing itself while the USHL is a great league that has done a good job of marketing itself.
“The message we have tended to send in the past really has seemed to sound as if the USHL and college is your choice because you don’t think you are going to make it into the pros and this is an insurance policy,” Prince said. “To a 14-or 15-year-old, we talk to them about their choices. Every one of them is elite and they should think they have a shot of making it to the NHL.”
Prince said the league has worked towards explaining to youth that the USHL provides more options because it gives a player a chance to attend college where as the Major Junior route forces a player to put, “all your eggs in one basket” because college eligibility would be surrendered.
The USHL’s top boss was very complimentary of the Major Junior system in regards to how it markets itself and the type of affect it does have.
Prince admitted that because Major Junior has been around and has become so entrenched in hockey culture, that many youth grow up hearing about the system in the United States and Canada.
He then added that the USHL/college model hasn’t had that long-standing history of being engrained in the hockey culture for some like Major Junior.
“There isn’t an NCAA hockey team to follow in Florida, Texas or California where you’re starting to see more hockey players,” Prince said. “We have to introduce college hockey. A lot of it is what people see and read. By the time a kid is 14 or 15 years old, he knows the last two or three Memorial Cup winners and he knows where Sidney Crosby came from. But he may not know the last three winners of the Clark Cup or where John Carlson came from.”