The age-old debate

The war of words between Manitoba coach Brian Dobie and Frank McCrystal over the Bisons having so many junior players is fun to observe, to say the least.

"You know where football coaches get screwed up? They seem to forget this is an educational institution and an educational issue. It's not a football issue. Football is a part of the University of Manitoba, and part of the unification of universities across the country. University is the key word here, and sport is the second element in that issue. I stand by that as an educator. Most guys coaching football have never frigging taught a day in their life in a school, so don't talk to me about that." -- Dobie

Some would call it obfuscation (a 10-dollar word for baffle 'em with bullflop), but it's a master framing job by Dobie. Calling the man on that is very tough to do without throwing stones at the U of M's academic merits.

It's true that there are late-20-somethings on the Bisons who get to play the game and pursue an advanced degree. But the tail wags the dog here: It's a physical game, it's a developmental league, and 26 players who are 25 or older is an affront to the game.

In the Ontario, Western and Quebec major junior hockey leagues, there are plenty of young men who benefit from an overage season. It's a good thing, but major junior hockey clubs are nevertheless limited to three 20-year-olds. Why? Because it's a developmental league; some people can stand with a little extra development, but there are limits.

A few years ago in Junior A (or Tier II) hockey, it was commonplace to see teams load up with 15, 16 overage players for a run at the Royal Bank Cup. Eventually, Hockey Canada said enough's enough, and capped teams at nine 20-year-olds for a given game.

The same principle exists in some of the lower-level minor-league hockey circuits. It's also at play in some of the independent baseball leagues, where teams can only have a few players who have more than four or five seasons of pro experience.

The CIS needs to cap how many players 25 or older a team can dress at about 10-12 per team. That would open a window to the individuals who come into university a bit late and want to get an education and play. But 26 on one team? Common sense has to prevail.

(Oh, and FYI, to Brian Dobie, Tom Denison was not "27 and 28" when he won his back-to-back Hec Crightons at Queen's. He was 24 and 25.)

Criticism of Bison players' ages draws Dobie's ire (Kevin Mitchell, Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
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