EDMONTON (CUP) — Inspired by the success of the annual CanAm volleyball tournament that routinely draws some of the top teams from across North America, the University of Alberta athletics department threw down the gauntlet and challenged NCAA division-one hockey teams to help them create a similar event on the ice in the fall or at Christmas. However, so far, not a single NCAA team has picked up the university’s challenge, and it looks unlikely that the competition will get off the ground for 2006.
Unlike in volleyball, where CIS schools can generally offer more scholarships and provide more competitive programs and leagues for their recruits, NCAA hockey teams are wary of facing off against CIS schools, who they’re in direct competition with for players.
As Saskatchewan Huskies head coach, Dave Adolph, noted continual losses by US schools in tournaments against CIS schools could make the NCAA route less attractive and push kids into the Canadian Hockey League, which is where CIS schools draw much of their talent from.
“It’s a huge opportunity to promote CIS versus NCAA, but NCAA doesn’t want any part of it. They don’t want to send their good teams like Minnesota to play in a neutral situation and then lose, because they feel they’re competing against us for athletes,” said Adolph.
“We used to have a tournament at Christmas in Saskatoon called the Chill Out and our mandate then was to try and get one or two U.S. schools as much as possible.
“But as we continued to have success as a program, the top ten or 15 NCAA teams dropped off. They wouldn’t come to our tournament and we started having to get middle-of-the-road teams and even had to look at division-two teams to fill the void.”
Despite pessimism about the opportunity to draw high-calibre NCAA schools, and the fact that U.S. programs can generate more money playing in Stateside tournaments during the pre-season or Christmas time, athletics director Dale Schulha remains optimistic about the prospects for creating the CanAm Challenge.
“We’re putting the challenge out there and hopefully the NCAA will hear that and know that we’re serious about getting their teams here,” said Schula. “We know that we’re going to have to spend some money to bring these teams in and we’re going to have to get some guarantees just like they have to pay us to go down to the States.
“This has been talked about for a long time, but we’ve really never taken hold of it and said we’re going to make it happen. We’re going to do our darndest, we’re prepared to put the money on the table, get the teams here and we’re just hopeful the NCAA teams accept our challenge and come our way.”