Playing for the Lloydminster Bobcats is opening up new opportunities for players.
For many, there isn’t a path to the National Hockey League, as most Canadian Junior Hockey League players go unselected in the NHL entry draft, as the Canadian Hockey League continues to dominate in that regards, however, that doesn’t mean the CJHL isn’t providing opportunities.
Four graduating Bobcats can attest to that.
In June, forward Braden Crone made his commitment to the Concordia University Falcons, a NCAA Div. 3 team that plays out of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association.
Earlier in July, fellow graduate Tanner Dunkle will also take his hockey career to the scholastic level, as he committed to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
And while it hasn’t been announced where they will be playing, both Bobcat graduates Austin McDonald and Grant Baker will be heading to the classroom next season.
“We are being closely followed by schools in all different areas,” said Bobcats head coach Garry VanHereweghe.
“Any time you can have four graduating players find all somewhere where they can go on to combine school and education, certainly that is very important to our program.”
From the highest levels of university hockey on both sides of the border, NCAA Div. 1 in the United States and CIS in Canada, to colleges and lower divisions in both countries, the Bobcats are being looked at from all sides to see if players can make the jump to become student-athletes.
VanHereweghe, and the Bobcats newest coach Gord Thibodeau, have had many years coaching in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and have been helpful in making the contacts with schools around the country to ensure graduating players have a spot to play next season, after their time in Lloydminster is complete. Their track records as coaches who can help move players on has made their previous teams hot spots for players looking for an educational opportunity after the AJHL.
It’s an added bonus when recruiting VanHereweghe said, as players coming into Canada’s junior A leagues are not looking necessarily at a possible future NHL career, but rather, are seeing the CJHL as a chance to earn an education in the future, through hockey.
“That’s one of the big recruiting features any team in the AJHL or any junior league can have is opportunity they can create for players to move on both academically, as well as in their hockey careers,” said VanHereweghe.
“Any time you can combine education and hockey, it’s obviously a real bonus. A lot of kids before they make their decisions, certainly do their research and figure out which teams are moving kids and are successful in moving kids on to the next level.”
Contact is made throughout the season with colleges and universities as the coaches help to find a home for graduating players.
The Bobcats also have a complete player profile on all their players, updated not only with hockey information and statistics, but also academic information. It’s updated on a regular basis and sent to the schools interested in graduating players or a school a player is interested in.