Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Paul Kelly Out, Some Guy Eventually In at College Hockey, Inc.

When College Hockey, Inc., started in 2009, I was optimistic. It seemed like a good idea by the commissioners of the Division I leagues to consolidate under one banner for the expressed purpose of promoting college hockey.

It wasn't a short-term deal. This is a long-term project in every way. It's about educating young teenagers on the importance of keeping the options open. Make sure they don't commit to a Canadian major junior career, one that destroys any chance of ever playing U.S. college hockey. So far, CHI hasn't necessarily reaped a lot of benefits, but you can see things improving in many ways.

College hockey is still churning out professionals, and more guys are leaving options open until later in their youth, meaning they aren't running to the CHL when they are 16, and instead deciding on the NCAA or CHL path at a later age.

It sucks for college hockey to have lost guys like J.T. Miller, Stefan Matteau, and Charlie Coyle recently, but Miller and Matteau waited quite a while before making the jump, and Coyle played a season-plus at Boston University before he did. These losses aren't a good thing for college hockey, but these are kids who might never have even committed to a U.S. college if they had reached this age three years ago.

It's not the impact we all want on the game, but it's an improvement.

Now, we have upheaval. CHI executive director Paul Kelly stepped down Monday, and USCHO reports it's because the Hockey Commissioners Association -- the group that put CHI in place to begin with -- told Kelly to resign or be fired.

An erosion of trust in Kelly from the commissioners of college hockey’s five Division I men’s leagues led them to end Kelly’s two-plus-year term leading the promotional and marketing group.

... Sources described a falling out between the commissioners and Kelly that had been a while in the making, based on a difference of opinions on College Hockey Inc.’s scope.

But the final straw, the sources said, was Kelly recently approaching athletic directors from some ECAC Hockey schools about meeting to give College Hockey Inc. a more leading role in the administration of Division I men’s hockey.

There is the appearance here that Kelly wanted to do more with CHI than just promote the sport. It's something in lock step with a discussion I had with a couple people just last week about CHI one day expanding its scope to do more with the game.

The problem with doing that is it would take some power away from the commissioners. I'm sure guys like Steve Hagwell and Bruce McLeod are thrilled with that thought.

What isn't clear -- and I just don't have a lot of intel on this -- is what exactly Kelly was proposing.

The discussions I've had with people surround the idea of having CHI take over the area of supplemental discipline. Every game has video these days, and there's no reason not to take advantage of it to create a disciplinary system that isn't horribly arbitrary or completely random.

(In other words, one that is unlike what we have in the WCHA.)

I don't know if this is what Kelly was after, or if he wanted more control over something else.

Either way, it probably wasn't the worst idea ever hatched.

Now, HCA is left to look for a new executive director. I'll let Chris Dilks take it from here.

Not to mention that Kelly was handcuffed in how he could sell the sport much of this summer due to college hockey's realignment. Unfortunately, he didn't have the ability to walk away from Bruce McLeod's incompetence and do his own thing the same way that 75% of the teams in Bruce McLeod's league did. Still, Kelly made significant gains in terms of the visibility of college hockey, especially north of the border, and probably did more in two years than the rest of college hockey's leadership had ever done prior to his tenure.

And now, all of the work done by Kelly is basically discredited and undone. Headlines were already going up around Canadian hockey circles yesterday that "Kelly Told to Either Resign or Be Fired". It completely ruined a noble initiative in College Hockey Inc. over a petty power squabble. The commissioner's have said they will rehire someone to run the operation, though the position will likely be different--read: toothless--in nature. I can't imagine who would be foolish enough to take that gig.

I mean no disrespect toward the commissioners, but there is no chance that any Division I conference is in a place where Kelly -- with his expertise and years of experience around the sport -- couldn't be of any help to them. The CCHA is dying, the WCHA almost died, the ECAC -- in my opinion -- is spinning its wheels right now, Hockey East is in very good shape but is hardly perfect, and the NCHC and Big Ten haven't played a single game yet.

Instead of listening to what Kelly had to say, it seems the commissioners decided to get rid of him before he could become a problem.

And by "problem," I mean "a guy who has good ideas that make sense but would make us all look bad because we didn't think of any of it in all these years we've been running these conferences."

Perhaps there is more to it than this -- there usually is -- but this is how it reads to me now. As a supporter of college hockey (I've been a fan of the game a hell of a lot longer than I've been covering it), this is somewhat disconcerting.

1 comment:

Goon said...

Sounds like maybe a few leagues need to go in sperate directions and get new commissoners as well.

I think that Kelly was a wealth of knowledge that they didn't tap when they had a chance.