The OHL: Snatchin Your People Up

Submitted by JimLahey on July 27th, 2011 at 10:08 PM

My Knowledge

I don't know John Gibson, and I have absolutely no insight at all into what happened. His situation is different than others, mostly because he is already drafted, and high. If I was a betting man, I would guess that his NHL team encouraged this move, but that is simply a guess. They may not have "encouraged" it so much as they made it clear which path they would prefer. And when the people who you hope will be paying you millions of dollars in the near future tell you their preference, it can be a strong incentive.

My Opinion

You guys are going to get even more upset when you read my fictional story, which is actually a hybrid of several true stories I've personally experienced (or close friends have). Don't be mad. The OHL is a business, they make money when they lure good players in and win. That is there job. Don't get upset at them for doing their job.

The NCAA has rules in place that make it impossible to compete for a kid who is even slightly leaning towards the OHL. It's like Tyson in his prime fighting Ali in his prime, except Ali has a gun.


First, let me talk you guys off the ledge. I was upset about him leaving for a few reasons:

1. I knew how upset you guys would be. Your, like, my internet buddies, yo.

2. He wasn't just committed, he signed an LOI. He had a lot of time to make his decision, make the goddamn choice BEFORE!

3. Our goalie recruiting is totally messed up now.

Now the part where you back up.

1. If you read my posts in other threads, you may remember that I am not that high on Gibson. He's good, but I don't find him particularly spectacular. How does he compare to Jack Campbell? He doesn't, and it isn't even close.

2. He would have left before making a huge impact. Obviously, he is dead set on making the show. Even if he had enrolled, he probably would have peaced out immediately upon realizing that he could play professionally in the AHL. This would also allow him to get a signing bonus. Roughly, his bonous would have been something in the 200k range, maybe a bit higher. 200k spread over three years: 67k a year +  AHL Salary (about 58k) = $122,000 per year before taxes. The same logic of this argument applies to Jack Campbell, and his money would have been even larger. Don't fret over it.

3. We will get another good goalie. I promise. Michigan is the most prestigious hockey program in the country. Furthermore, goaltenders are far and away the most difficult position to project from level to level. It might be better to get a guy ranked 90/100 who stays for all four seasons then to get a 98/100 if he'll leave the first chance he gets.

The Interesting Part

So what the hell happens when a rock-solid college commit bolts for the OHL? Well, I've seen it unfold many times. Here is how it might go from the perspective of the prospect in chronological order:

- You let people know you're committed to College X, all is well.

- You still get drafted to the O, but you don't care, you're a loyal guy.

- You will get multiple phone calls from owners, GM's, scouts, etc. Sorry fellas, I'm going to School X.

- You will get a phone call from a number you don't recognize. This will be the first of many. You'll answer and they will say "Hey, its ****". And you will become amazingly excited because you're speaking to a current NHL superstar who, as coincidence would have it, played for the exact same OHL team that is courting you! He'll talk up the team, coaches, city, and the OHL path in general. He'll act like you're already best friends, and tell you to call him any time and that he'd love to meet you in person. "Come out for a game", he'll say, "I'll leave tickets and dressing room passes for you and your family at will call".

If it's Windsor, you might get a call from Taylor Hall, for Sarnia, Steven Stamkos will do. Get the picture?

- After this, you're still solid to School X, but man was it cool talking to that famous player. Next time the OHL GM calls, you're a bit less hostile than usual.

- Finally, you agree to go with your family to the OHL city to at least hear the coaches out. Its always smart to weigh out your options, right?

- You will arrive in the city and head straight to the arena. WOW! This place is amazing. I could totally see myself playing here! Oh, whats this? It's a bunch of current and former players hanging out in the player's lounge on the PS3. Sweet, they know my name!

- They invite me to hang out at the mall with them. My parents are talking to the coaches so thats cool. We get in one of their cars.

"Nice car, your parents bought you this?"

"Nah, bought this after I signed in the show, pretty sweet eh?

"Pretty sweet is right"

- We get to the mall. These guys are so cool and hilarious. Always joking around. Man, they have a lot of money, look at all the stuff they're buying! Those NHL bonuses must be huge. Everyone at the mall recognizes them and asks for autographs. Must be nice to be a celebrity.

- My parents call, it's dinner time. The boys drop me off at the coaches house. What a house! I've never been to a house this big before, and on the water.

- After an unbelievable waterside BBQ meal, the boys call me back and say they're taking me out on the town. I can borrow a nice shirt, no problem.

- We get to the bar district, everyone is saying things to us as we pass down the sidewalk.

"Boys, take home the championship!" "Beat Team X!" "Great win last week!"

- We get to a bar with a 50 foot line at the door, and I'm underaged. No big deal, the bouncer shakes everyones hand and lets us in. We settle in a booth and the bottles start flowing.

- I start walking around with my new friends. Since when do hot girls I've never met just start flirting with me? That one must have been 25. People I don't know keep buying me drinks, I haven't spent a dime yet, how'd I get so drunk?

- Closing time, one of the guys pays the thousand dollar tab and i follow them out, joining a group of girls I swear weren't this hot 5 drinks ago. Oh well.

Then it happens, the final straw.

- As we're walking back to the hotel, player X grabs my shoulder and says

"Look man, I totally respect that you want to go to college. I seriously considered it too. But you wanna live like this?...come play with us. I got drafted in the first round and they gave me 300 grand. I'll be a millionaire before you start sophomore year."

- Normally I would find this arrogant and rude, but right now I'm tripping out on drinks and ladies in tight skirts. He's right, this is the only way to live.

- So I'll go on for a few more weeks pretending I'm not going to the OHL.

Finally I'll admit to myself what I want to do.

Then I'll spend a few weeks feeling guilty.

 Then I'll spend a few more weeks deciding how to break the news.

But eventually, I'll do it.

And then I'll be one of them

...and life will be good.


The story I just told you is a slight exagerration of several experiences. But that is basically how it goes. The story is not meant to tell exactly what happened, but rather the way the prospect would remember it the day after. Also, I'm not trying to glorify the OHL lifestyle, but thats what they'll make it look like when they're courting you.





July 27th, 2011 at 10:26 PM ^

a rather difficult set of circumstances to turn down, to be completely fair.  Maybe we need to recruit Mormons? 

Back to seriousness, who does Michigan set its sights on for 2012?  Anybody really good still available?  Does Michigan go hard after the two best it can find for 2012, or somebody pretty good that the coaches think can do well enough 2012 and a star for 2013?  Anybody know if Adam Janecyk is actually Tiny Moses in disguise?  How do we make sure that Shawn Hunwick doesn't hurt his groin at any point during the season?


July 27th, 2011 at 10:34 PM ^

I just think the timing is the biggest issue in this case, especially if the "ordered new pads w this in mind months ago and only told the coaches today" story is correct.

Guess if you're that good, reputation doesn't matter all too much, but that is the item that really gets to me.

Thanks, as always, for the real-life perspective Lahey.


July 27th, 2011 at 10:38 PM ^

God love this blog for drawing a guy like Lahey out of the woodwork to help us all understand these things 1000x better than any of us (okay maybe most) would have ever otherwise done.

All hail mgoblog.

Mr Mackey

July 27th, 2011 at 10:45 PM ^

Thanks to our resident OHL lover (or whatever you were called out as being in the other thread)

That Ali - Tyson analogy was magical.

Great story, and I just wish I was good enough to have the dilemma that he went through. Best of luck to Josh, and let's hope we can pick up another good goalie. Do you have any in mind, JimLahey, or do you mainly focus on NHL prospects?


July 27th, 2011 at 11:06 PM ^

Actually, I mostly deal with 14-16 year olds because that's when OHL careers begin. The problem is that I only deal with Ontario and that limits my exposure to Michigan prospects because they draw most of their guys from Michigan. I might be able to come up with something if I ask around though.

Blue In NC

July 28th, 2011 at 12:17 AM ^

If you are referencing my comment about "the resident OHL suckup" in the Gibson thread, I clearly stated that I did not mean JH.  I have found JH's comments interesting, informative and balanced and it's been great reading.  What I find distasteful is some of the OHL recruiting methods and JH's diary lays that out more clearly but I don't see him as advocating only for the OHL.

JH, thanks again for the interesting reading and your real world perspective.

Look Up_See Blue

July 27th, 2011 at 11:17 PM ^

God Damn I felt like I was being courted to play in the OHL the whole damn time I was reading that. Having 4 years of experience working in professional baseball this isn't far from the truth. I know Hockey and Baseball are two different sports but in the end, that's the only difference is the sport. They wine and dine you and you hook up with broads that you never thought you could and don't even have to try to do it. it's how the business is run. At the end of the day, Michigan probably doesn't want someone to become a part of the team that doesn't really want to be there anyway.


July 28th, 2011 at 12:43 AM ^

Honestly the ohl guys sound like jagoffs. Even if I was at the club I would think this. However, I am just a cynical asshole and think everyone is full of shit.


July 28th, 2011 at 7:16 AM ^

Totally understandable point of view. Frankly, some of them are complete idiots, but probably no more so than some of the college guys. The whole "club scene" was mostly meant to represent the illusion from the perspective of the potential recruit. I went to bars very rarely, instead opting to spend most of my free nights getting drunk in the garage with my buddies listening to Tragically Hip albums.

I had 4 very close friends on my team and they didn't have even a hint of arrogance, although two of them are first round picks, the other a 3rd. Like anything else, if you gather 20-25 males under the age of 21, your going to get some good guys, and some douchebags.


July 28th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

part every windsor spitfire that i have ever met has been a douche bag and steve ott is number 1 on that list... steve downie was a pretty cool guy, but that might have been because i bought him a beer at bar when he was 17... but a lot of those guys walk around windsor and act like they're untouchable so they are always getting into trouble and know nothing will happen because there are a couple of former spits on the windsor police force...


July 28th, 2011 at 12:13 PM ^

Mehh. I know what you mean but like I said, a few idiots are determining your perception. Greg Nemisz, Adam Henrique, Harry Young, Eric Wellwood....these are just a few of the great guys I know who played for them recently and they are unreal guys. Not arrogant, very humble....easy to get along with.


July 28th, 2011 at 12:29 PM ^

wellwood... i remember watching him play for sun county when he was really young (12 or 13) and everyone thought then that he would end up being better then kyle...

i wasn't lumping all of the spits into my douche bag comment, i was more or less referring to the guys who hung out with ott... is it wrong that i don't even feel bad for ott that his wife left him for tim gleason? LOL


July 28th, 2011 at 1:59 PM ^

Eric Wellwood will be a much better NHL player than Kyle. He has less natural talent but a killer work ethic off the ice.

Steve Ott is a total dick, but Tim Gleason was his best friend since age 18...I don't know if I'd wish that kind of shitstorm on my worst enemy.


July 28th, 2011 at 6:57 PM ^

that place is a hole and i worked there for 7 years (cook and bartender)... but you have to undstand this about the place, it was never meant for minor hockey!!! problem was they couldn't fill all of the ice time with beer leagues... the only good option was minor hockey...

but hockey was one part of many problems at that place and it got worse when butch took over... i don't know about you, but i'm not a huge fan of the guy...


July 28th, 2011 at 9:04 PM ^

Like 8 years ago maybe? I don't know what he's up to now, but at the time I'm pretty sure he was trying to become an agent. If I'm not mistaken, he represented a kid on Sun County named Adam Verbeem who was one of the best players in Ontario until he stopped growing and his stock tumbled. He got drafted in the last round and I haven't heard about him since.

Butch also used to organize teams for the prospects tournaments, which are a huge deal.


July 28th, 2011 at 8:16 AM ^

No offense, but that is not quite how it goes. When you say exaggeration people should take the "Interesting Part" as just that. Just wanted to shed some light on the topic. Not busting balls.

I have seen this happen first hand in my family. It is not calls from former players and going out on the town that get a player to go to the O. It is player agents/advisors and management from the team getting in a players ear that the O is the fast route NHL. The OHL has more NHL ready guys. The OHL prepares you for the NHL. The system is much the same as the NHL and frankly a lot of former great Canadian NHL'ers come back and work in the OHL. They will still promise a college education to appease the parents, but a kid in the OHL rarely gets his degree. Thoughts like this are what cause a kid who has an ultimate dream of playing in the NHL to back out on his LOI and take a chance with the OHL. I do not agree with it and I think if my family could go back and change their decision they would in a heartbeat. With the way the style of play in the NHL now, it is more conducive to college hockey than it has ever been. 



July 28th, 2011 at 8:37 AM ^

No offense taken, and a fair point. However, I simply covered a very small portion of how it goes. Remember when I said that the parents were hanging out with the coaches while the player is with other players? What you just said is exactly what the coaches/advisors would be telling the parents at the same time. Convincing the parents is as or more important than convincing the kids.

So you have a fair point, but hopefully my explanation makes my story seem a bit more plausible now.


July 28th, 2011 at 12:30 PM ^

I can't and won't speculate on Gibson's parents. However, in a generic sense, not applied to Gibson, I believe that parents have a huge role in influencing and guiding their kid's decisions. The value of an education at Michigan is huge, and is something I don't think can be overstated. I would go so far as to say that grounded parents who have experienced the benefit of college are the ones most capable of saying, "we want you to go to Michigan and would be disappointed if you went straight to the OHL."

Your previous series on yourself was very informative. If you could do it over again, what would you do? And if you had a son who could go to Michigan or go to the OHL, what would you counsel?

I can see a kid being awed and impressed by babes and bucks. However, in the end, going to the OHL seems to me most often to be selling out for a bowl of porridge. Not everyone is going to be a star. Reading between the lines, I think that you are inferring Gibson is far from a sure thing in the NHL. He may have gotten a bit of money now, but how long will it last?


July 28th, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

If I could do it again, I would go to the OHL. It worked out well for me, so I'm not going to get into what ifs. The second question is loaded. Would I steer my kid toward college? It depends what kind of person he is, and what he wants to do, and how good he is. There are a few things you guys should consider:

1. Not every good Canadian player can just get a scholarship. The elite schools (Michigan) will ALWAYS favor giving scholarships to American players over Canadians because they like to develop their own, and in-state tuition is way cheaper. My friend skipped the OHL because he wanted to go to Michigan. Well, he had injury problems and wasn't considered good enough. Now he plays for Bowling Green. Not a total loss but I'd take the OHL over Bowling Green all day.

2. If you sign with an OHL club and get injured, they have to pay for you to go to University still. If you verbally commit to a school and then get injured before you sign your LOI, they will give your scholarship to someone else and you will have no options. Let's not act like the NCAA is running some charity here.

3. If you remember my other diary, I was ranked in the top 30 skaters for the entire OHL draft at all positions. Thats Michigan, Ontario, Penn, NY, etc. And I couldn't even get Michigan to say that they would hold a scholarship to me. That's how hard it is when you're Canadian trying to go to Michigan..If your elite, they'll hold a spot....if you're not elite then you just have to wait it out and see if they offer. So you may pass up the O to stay in a lower league and then when the time comes Michigan doesn't even want you. That would suck.

4. The education packages in the OHL are not as bad as some people make them out to be. I have dozens of former teammates who are currently playing quality Canadian college hockey on their former OHL team's dime. You just have to give up the NHL dream and do the smart thing if you realize you won't make it.

I'm not trying to be an OHL slappy here. Far from it, I wanted to go to Michigan. I just hope you guys realize that for some people, it isn't as black and white as it appears to be.


July 28th, 2011 at 6:11 PM ^

your expertise, it is your life, after all.  But just looking at next years roster for Michigan, Serville, DiGiuseppe , Hyman and Guptill are all from Ontario and I would believe that they're on scholarship (while Sparks is from Ontario, but probably isn't on scholarship).  I know that all four of them are pretty/very highly regarded, but highly enough regarded that they would be ranked better than the top 30 overall in the OHL draft, if they weren't considering Michigan?  Is it just that they waited long enough (I realize that Hyman and Guptill were drafted more than a year ago) to get those scholarships, was it Michigan's rush to get a recruiting class together for this year?  What am I missing, or are all of them really just THAT good?

Like I said, I don't mean to doubt you at all you certainly know far, far more than I do about this, I'm just curious for clarification.


July 28th, 2011 at 6:43 PM ^

First of all, those are all very good players. Could be any number of factors...maybe Michigan had their eyes on someone else who went elsewhere, maybe those players fit their system well, maybe Red just rates them extremely high and they are THAT good. It could also be that they were willing to accept a schollie from any top school. I wanted Michigan or nothing. I don't know, but my point is that for top guys, the decision has to be made at age 15-17 and taking the college route brings a lot of uncertainty that we may sometimes fail to see.


July 28th, 2011 at 9:47 AM ^

Like Bluecamo above, I really think its a player development issue, and the maturing process for goalies is markedly different than it was even 15 years ago.  Goalies in hockey are being brought along like pitchers nowadays.  They get drafted, show promise, yet they troll around in minor leagues for years compared to skaters. The hope with goalies is the sooner you see NHL shots, the sooner you mature and become NHL ready.  Goalies in the OHL see more NHL type shots.  We have a great college hockey system and it would have been my dream in high school to play for a school like Michigan, but for an elite player like Gibson or Campbell, the OHL makes too much sense.  If you were in their shoes (or skates) would you rather take shots from an Abdelkader/Eaves (top college players) everyday in practice or a Stamkos/Tavares?

You go to the O to get to the show.

Blue In NC

July 28th, 2011 at 12:30 PM ^

Wait, what?  I get your point but you use Abs and Eaves and "top college players"???  Sorry, that is a fail.

Maybe mention Toews, Gerbe, Parise, St. Loius, Tim Thomas, J Johnson, Cammalleri, Kesler, D Keith, Heatley, Kessel, Wheeler, Oshie, Max Pacioretty, etc.  

I am not going to argue that college and OHL are the same talent level but there have been elite players come through the college ranks and your use of Abs and Eaves as the top players is laughable.


Edit: and yes UM is the #1 school at producing NHL players.


July 28th, 2011 at 9:11 AM ^

If parents truly value their child getting a good education, they don't allow—yes, parents can do that—their son to ditch a college degree at one of the preeminent educational institutions in the world for the quick money and cheap allure of the OHL or other professional leagues. That's their right, but it's tremendously short-sighted.

As much as this late decision sucks for Red and the program, it might be better to have happened now. Given the attitude of Gibson's family toward education, it's very likely that he would have left after his freshman or sophomore seasons anyhow. Red can put his efforts into finding a goalie who actually wants to be at the University of Michigan rather than simply biding his time until he gets a professional contract. I'll take one Shawn Hunwick over ten Gibsons.