Hockey: AUS to cap rosters next season

The Halifax Herald's Glenn MacDonald has a story today about the new roster caps coming next season for hockey rosters. I had intended to post more about this earlier, but the AUS never got back to my e-mail request (and in hindsight I may not have contacted the right person at the AUS) and I didn't have time to pursue on-the-record comments, although I was hearing lots of grumbling in Fredericton. So good job Glenn!

Starting next season, the eight AUS men's hockey teams will be capped or restricted to 21 skaters and unlimited number of goalies. The roster for any CIS game is 18 skaters and 2 goalies, so the new AUS cap means each team will only be able to carry three extra skaters. All season. If a player receives a season-ending injury, you can't replace him on your roster.

Pierre Arsenault, chairman of Atlantic university men’s hockey, told the Herald "Theoretically, if a team got into a situation where they have consumed 21 (spots) and they have a bunch of players hurt, they will go into games playing with less.”

Looking at the normal injury attrition rate in the hard-hitting AUS, I can pretty well guarantee that there will be teams with less than 18 healthy skaters on the ice in games next season. It happens now with unlimited rosters, so it will only be more common. It certainly could make for a self-imposed disadvantage for AUS teams advancing to the University Cup against OUA and Canada West teams without such restrictive rosters.

And why did the AUS do it? Again from Arsenault. "There was concern over the cost of roster sizes and the ability to bring in an unlimited number of players in season or at Christmas time for second semester. Now, once they get to 21, no new players can dress for the remainder of that season."

 No surprise, UNB's Gardiner MacDougall is not happy.
“You kind of put one hand behind your back, no matter who comes out of our league going into nationals,” MacDougall said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “We pride ourselves in the AUS in having the strongest conference, and the goal of our conference is to try and win a national championship each and every year and you want to have everything in place to do that. So why shortcut ourselves in this process?
“We usually have 22 or 23 (skaters on roster),” MacDougall said. “But the last year or two, circumstances like injuries and getting guys at Christmas just fell in our lap, there was resentment at that time. “Whoever’s coming out of our league, you want to go with your best foot forward at nationals and sometimes you need some depth. I don’t think 21 is the number. No CIS league has any type of curtailment with how many players you can have in any sport. Why do we need to put a limit on it?”
The approaching roster caps have already affected recruiting in the AUS this season. My understanding is that current rosters will not be grandfathered going forward to next season; if more than 21 skaters from this year's team were return to school next year, you will have to cut players to get back to the 21 cap.

Looks to me that the AUS was determined to restrict UNB's strong recruiting advantage over the field. In the process, they're making the AUS champion less competitive on the national stage while also marginalizing local Junior A players who no longer will be able to fill depth roles on rosters in the future. On the top AUS teams those 21 spots are going to be mostly Major Junior grads.
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