Michigan Tech's Eric Kattelus of the WCHA.
College vs. the NHL. It seems pretty simple. One is professional, one isn’t. One has guys who have physically matured earlier than the other. Some people claim that college is more “pure” and prefer to follow the youngsters, others enjoy the level of play at the professional level.
Me? I’m finding myself more and more torn. See, I work at a university with a Division I NCAA team. That, combined with other circles I’m in, makes me privy to all the dirt and some of the most personal information on these kids. I know first hand what brats — and worse – they can be (don’t ask, I won’t tell). In the past, I’ve rolled my eyes and passed on the discounted tickets to the games, preferring the professionalism and focus of the NHL. We are talking men as opposed to boys, after all. But recently, I have found myself pondering this very issue and wondering if indeed, the NHL is the better product.
In my last article, The Increasingly Vanilla NHL, I expressed my disgust at the media cleansing these poor boys go through. Stripped of all personality, we hear the same mantras from the players: “We’re not getting pucks in the net,” “We need to play the whole 60 minutes,” “I like to golf and play Xbox in my spare time.” There’s no need to interview these guys live anymore. Just pull footage from the archives.
Conversely, college players have yet to be muzzled. For example, the NCAA playoffs this past weekend had creative features. Guys wittingly tease each other in interviews. Open hearted and honest discussion of the game, the opponents and the players themselves appear in all broadcasts, and post game interviews reveal frustration, heartbreak and yes, even that dirty player you play against. Clever and creative comments abound from the boys. What a treat to see that hockey players actually do have personalites. And I’m not buying that it’s because they’re in college and hence smarter than your average professional hockey player. Remember, I know these kids.
Adam Murray and Corson Cramer shake hands after a WCHA playoff series.
But that’s not all. Go to a college game in your city. You’ll see how different the atmosphere is. Hang out post-game at the favorite local bar near the school on a Saturday night and you’ll probably see the players. Not only that, but they’re approachable and might even have a drink or two with you. None of the pretense is present, no walls are erected and no one is getting in trouble for hanging out with “commoners,” or fans as they’re usually called. These guys are still just kids having fun. I don’t know about you, but I find it quite enjoyable to see that there are real people under those uniforms.
So, where does this leave me? It leaves me foregoing my season tickets to the Colorado Avalanche this year and instead purchasing NCAA hockey tickets for the first time ever. Yep, they’ve not only succeeded in driving any personality from the NHL, but they’ve succeeded in driving loyal fans from the game as well.
Gary Bettman, are you listening? I know I’m not the only one.
Photos: By Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2009-2010. All Rights Reserved.