There aren’t many win-win situations in hockey.
The sport thrives on competition between players and teams and regardless of how everyone performs on the ice, when the game ends winners are separated from losers with victory.
On the business side of hockey things can be just as intense, there simply aren’t as many penalties handed out.
The Canadian Junior Hockey League recently met up with the National Hockey League with both sides wanting to strengthen the bond between leagues and when all was said and done, a positive solution emerged.
It has yet to be set in motion, but on paper the groundbreaking affiliation between the CJHL and NHL is as win-win as they get.
Effective Immediately, Hockey Canada and the CJHL will partner with the NHL to continue to grow the Junior A game across the country through its trademark events – the World Junior A Challenge, CJHL Prospects Game and RBC Cup.
The CJHL, an association of 10 leagues and over 140 teams spread across Canada, has been looking forward to an agreement with the top hockey league in the world, according to CJHL chair Paul Lake.
The move not only invests in players, coaches and officials in continuing to grow hockey from the ground up for a long time to come, but the increased exposure gives players more options.
“It’s significant because it has taken time, but good things always take time,” said Lake. “I just see it
as recognition of the part that Junior A hockey plays across the country that someone like the NHL recognizes
that there is value to have that relationship.”
From the NHL’s point of view, partnering with a grassroots league ensures that players across the country continue to develop and advance the sport.
"The CJHL plays an important role in developing players and providing national platforms to showcase their great on-ice product,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “We look forward to working with the CJHL to enhance their championship and prospect tournaments."
This agreement also helps the NHL market its brand on a whole new level. Utilizing the Canadian Junior A fan base to showcase the NHL throughout Canadian markets is an important process that will allow hockey to continue thriving.
“There’s brand exposure, whether it’s through signage at our events or a link between NHL.com and the various Junior A league websites across the country, and that’s important to them,” said Scott Smith, chief operating officer with Hockey Canada.
Scouting is an area that both sides will see drastic improvements in with scouts given the opportunity to attend the World Junior A Challenge, CJHL Prospects Game and RBC Cup to get an up close and personal look and the best of the best from around the country.
“It becomes a one-stop shopping spot for all the NHL scouts,” E.J. McGuire, director of NHL Central Scouting, said. “It brings the best CJHL players to us, it brings the best players to one spot and then the scouts who are all on budgets in this air of economic downturn and everything else, flock to these spots and get an economical look at the players.”
In the end it’s all about what’s best for the players and there’s no arguing that this agreement sweetens the pot for them tenfold. More opportunities will arise for the players through enhanced exposure and better scouting.
“I think ultimately there’s an opportunity to ensure that NHL and NHL Central Scouting receives the information that they are looking for and gives us direction on how that information is prepared regarding player evaluation and scouting,” said Smith.
“It’s their choice to play in the CJHL over perhaps a major junior team, but an attractive part of the CJHL is that college and university scouts will also flock to these events,” added McGuire.
“It creates options for the players and that’s a great thing.”