Hockey: High praise from the Bobcat

Bob McCown, the delightfully acerbic host of the FAN 590's drive-time show, Prime Time Sports, apparently has some very nice things to say about university hockey in his new book.

McCown mentioned in passing on his show yesterday that in his new book, McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments (written with support from Mr. Mirtle's colleague, David Naylor), he argues that university hockey is the best hockey to be found outside the NHL.

I'm paraphrasing here, but McCown said something like, "There is plenty of evidence that a university team would cream an OHL team... in many cases you have some very good players who are 27, 28, 29 years old ... and no one goes to see it in this country."

It's really a throwback to the old days of senior amateur hockey in the 1950s, when there was less opportunity to go pro, and many fairly talented players settled into working toward a career and playing hockey on the weekends. In this case, it meant taking a job in a small town like Belleville or Trail, B.C.; nowadays it means getting started on a degree, which is sort of the same thing. Players get to form a bond with a community.

Not to go all Long Tail on y'all, but here's hoping that some of the hockeypucks, to borrow one of the Bobcat's favourite terms of endearment, who pick up The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments are motivated to check out a CIS game in the New Year, or if they already do, go more often.
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  1. I agree with Bob on this one: CIS hockey is frequently pretty high-calibre, particularly with teams featuring major junior vets. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the public perception of it: a sizeable amount of the rabid hockey fans I know at Queen's never go to Gaels' games, even though they're free, because of the perception that it's low-quality hockey. Playing off campus this year certainly doesn't help the cause any, but even during the Jock Harty days it was a small percentage of the hockey fans I knew who would go watch Gaels' games. Let's hope that this book helps reverse the trend.

  2. That's because Queen's *was* low-quality hockey (only now are they finally turning that around). Head on out to UNB and you'll see something very different - same for Alberta, McGill, Lakehead, and the like. Heck, even at St. Mary's the sort of crowd we got at Kill McGill is considered average.

    It's not Bob McCown that draws students to watch their teams - it's winning.

  3. The comment was directed more toward getting the average member of the general public out to check out a game... if one person decides to do so as a byproduct of reading Bobcat's book, which is probably going to sell very well, that can't be anything but good for the university game. You do get 30-somethings out to the university games, even if they didn't go to the school.

  4. It would be great to see more average/older fans at games... that would probably help with the reputation of CIS hockey as well, as I think it would likely get more play in the regular media if the market wasn't as student-focused. In any case, McCown's endorsement should definitely help sell the CIS game to members of both age groups. I'd venture that it's not just the success of the university team, but also the viable hockey alternatives in the market: it might be hard for U of T and Ryerson to compete with the Leafs and the Marlies (who are having attendance troubles of their own), as well as the St. Mike's Majors (but the size of the market might also counter that) Can't speak definitely here, as there don't seem to be posted attendances on the OUA site for most of those teams' games and I haven't been to either arena in person. On the local scene, the Gaels could have a chance to draw off some OHL fans in Kingston if the Fronts keep their current slide up...

  5. Here in Thunder Bay, the semi-private partnership Lakehead University has developed for its hockey program has resulted in attracting children, students, x-gen'ers and 40+ persons to the games.

    The on-ice product is quite good, and as evidenced by the attendance figures of 3000+ average per home game over the last 6 years, this community has really embraced CIS hockey.

    I think Canada will see something special when the national championship comes to this great city in 2009 and 2010.

    Cheers to Bob for attempting to show everyone else in Canada what the good people of Thunder Bay already know, CIS hockey an exciting and fan friendly product.

  6. Had a nice chat with a player from an Atlantic conference university when I was down East in the fall to watch football.

    He had a pretty successful four year career in the OHL but was never drafted mainly because of his poor skating.

    I asked him about the differences in skill level between junior and CIS and his comments were interesting.

    "The game in the OHL has more skill but CIS is better hockey because you're not playing with or against 16 or 17 year olds".