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Commentary: Hockey East No Guarantee for Massachusetts Natives

Charlestown, Mass. native Matt Grzelcyk poses with Arlington, Mass. native and Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna.
Charlestown, Mass. native Matt Grzelcyk poses with Arlington, Mass. native and Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna.
Matt Dewkett

A conversation with a recent Hockey East alum and Massachusetts native on Monday afternoon reminded this writer of what a significant accomplishment it is to play for one of the league's 12 member schools for kids who grew up nearby dreaming of hoisting the Beanpot or Lamoriello Trophy.

Hockey East has been considered one of, if not the best conference in college hockey for quite some time now. As it is with many things, which conference gets top billing can be a cyclical kind of thing.

Six of the league's programs are within Massachusetts' borders and three more are an hour to two hours driving from Boston. So it might come as a surprise to many, including the numerous hockey parents and kids dreaming of a spot on a Hockey East roster, that there are very Bay State natives in the league.

Massachusetts Natives in Hockey East

School Mass. Natives on 2014-15 Roster Mass. Natives on Projected 2015-16 Roster
Boston College 8 8
Boston University 11 11
Connecticut 6 6
Maine 6 5
Merrimack 3 4
New Hampshire 3 4
Northeastern 3 6
Notre Dame 1 1
Providence 6 6
UMass Amherst 4 3
UMass Lowell 1 2
Vermont 1 3
Total 53 59

That's not many roster spots for a state that prides itself as one of the hockey hotbeds of the United States. For the most part, BC and BU and can pluck all the top talent out of the state. 35.8 percent of Massachusetts-born players on a Hockey East roster in 2014-15 played for the Eagles or Terriers.

This post isn't to diminish the level of hockey being played or the development of the state's youth hockey players. There are plenty of good hockey players and even a few great ones, as evidenced by this past June's NHL Draft.

It is written to point out that there is no shame in enjoying the game of hockey, playing high school hockey and cherishing the memories of playing this great game with the kids you grew up with.

What's the point of leaving your high school team to fork over thousands of dollars for a midget team that gives false promises of a Division I roster spot?

It's also to remind players and parents that all of these showcases promising Division I college coaches in attendance are nothing more than a money maker for the organizers. The multiple Beantown Classics are mostly good showcases with college coaches and NHL scouts in the rink, but the countless others are mainly filled with false hope.

The message is simple, unless you're the next Jack Eichel or Noah Hanifin, there is no reason to leave your high school team or prep school team for some full season midget squad. As more than a few Hockey East coaches have said to me, paraphrasing, if you're good enough, we will find you.

Enjoy the game and the camaraderie of playing with the kids you grew up with. There's no shame in having a fun and competitive high school hockey experience and not playing beyond.


Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.