The College Hockey Truths - Part 1
This is the first of a five part series that will dive into the college hockey process.
College sports are heavily televised. It is a cornerstone of athletics in America. Young athletes often dream of playing a college sport. It becomes the ideal end of a long career; the pinnacle. It does not matter what sport it is, the goal of playing and competing at the collegiate level is often a big one!
Most all sports are traditional. This means that athletes compete until the end of high school age and then enroll in college. Athletes are 17-18 years old upon entrance to college. The college hockey landscape is vastly different from other sports. This article is meant to outline the process that has become normal, for better or worse, that it may seem.
What if you were told that most college hockey Freshman are age 20 or 21 upon entrance? And then, they likely will not graduate college until they reach age 24 or 25? You might think that sounds crazy. That is the reality. This is not a new phenomenon. This has been a growing trend for college hockey in the last 20 years. It used to be normal for a player to complete high school and go right to college and play hockey. Today, that is not the reality. NCAA college hockey has become more competitive and it has changed the routes players take to compete at that level.
Why is this article being written? Despite the last twenty years of evidence, many hockey players and parents still do not understand the process or the reality of the current situation. When athletes reach their junior and senior years of high school they are surrounded by classmates in other sports that are being recruited by college programs. Many do not know why they are not being recruited, and parents can especially be concerned. A jaded feeling can come over parents and players. Hockey is not cheap, and the time and money investment that sometimes does not produce the results that were desired can cause disenchantment.
If a player moves onto the NCAA collegiate level, they are incredibly fortunate. It is not easy, and it requires sacrifice. This is not to downplay other sports sacrifice to play collegiately, but hockey is simply different.
Why is hockey different?
This article is written to describe the pathway to Men’s College Hockey. The Men’s path is vastly different than women’s hockey which is more likely to follow similar suit to other NCAA sports in regards to age.
We will write a future article for women’s hockey athletes.
There are currently 59 Division 1 Men’s programs (soon to be 63 as additional schools join).
There are currently 84 Division 2/3 Men’s programs (additional programs are being started).
That is a low number of teams compared to other NCAA recognized sports.
Between all divisions there will be about 3500-4300 players competing in any given season. 4323 hockey players were registered by the NCAA in 2020. That number may seem high to people, but it is actually very low.
According to the NCAA, 12.3% of HS athletes moved on to NCAA level hockey. 4.8% to Division 1, and 7.5% to Division 2/3. These numbers are skewed and misleading. These numbers do not reflect a player that directly goes from HS to NCAA. These numbers are total college athletes compared to National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) numbers. Many collegiate players come from Canada or Europe. Those schools and athletes are not in the NFHS study (only American school students). Not all athletes play high school hockey at all. When rosters are examined you will find that all athletes played 1-3 years beyond traditional high school age before entering a college, often times for a club/junior program.
To summarize: There are a low number of teams and the developmental process to achieve a roster spot is longer than other NCAA sports.
In Part 2 of this series, we will examine the makeup of a college roster.