The University Cup final got some nice praise from CBC broadcasters Ron MacLean and Don Cherry between last night's Hockey Night in Canada games. On their studio show setting up the Edmonton-Calgary contest, they decided to show some great end-to-end footage from the UNB-Alberta clash to prove MacLean's point about how good university hockey is. MacLean praised the speed of play and the amount of chances particularly highly, and even Grapes acknowledged that it was a good game. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate the clip yet: it doesn't seem to be in any of the CBC archived clips from the game and a YouTube search went nowhere. If anyone happens to know how to get it, let me know.
This isn't an isolated burst of praise for CIS hockey: such influential people as Bob McCown and Gare Joyce have come out in strong support of the quality of play. It may not have the highest-level stars that major junior boasts, but there's a tremendous amount of skilled former junior stars plying their trade in CIS competition. My coworker Mike Woods wrote an interesting feature comparing junior and CIS hockey a while back, and one of the most intriguing parts was the thoughts of Queen's head coach Brett Gibson. Gibson's had a significant amount of experience in major junior, the ECHL and CIS play, and said CIS hockey is pretty comparable to some of the pro minor leagues. Obviously, he's somewhat biased by his current job, but it doesn't diminish the point that there's some good hockey going on at the university level. There have been several players who have made the jump from playing at the CIS level to NHL careers, like Randy Gregg, Steve Rucchin and Mathieu Darche. There's quite a few high-calibre current players as well, like Jared Aulin, Jordan Smith, Rob Hennigar and Ian McDonald. It seems people are starting to catch on to the quality of CIS hockey: it would be great for the league if that trend continues.