There aren't too many hot button issues in the hockey world that get as contentious as the debate over college hockey or major junior. The age-old controversy was ignited again Wednesday morning when Mike McMahon of College Hockey News first reported that Jeremy Bracco was leaving Boston College for the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers.
There's little mystery which side of the aisle this writer stands on. Right or wrong, I'll stand on the side of college hockey all day, all night. Playing hockey at a high level while also receiving a world-class education for free is hard to pass up. Add in all the evidence that college hockey prepares its players for the physicality of the next level by more time in the gym, and it should be easy to see why some would question Bracco's decision.
There has been plenty of speculation. Agents, scouts and former coaches have spoken of academic trouble and a hockey family who wants to be held on a higher pedestal.
However, this isn't about college hockey or major junior. This is about loyalty, making a commitment, and sticking with it. If a player makes a commitment to a team, and teammates, he ought to honor it. The same stands true for the coaches and the schools. This isn't a one-sided debate. It's just as disingenuous for schools to over-commit players as it is for kids to de-commit.
If Bracco had made this decision this past Summer, one could argue the merits of college hockey or major junior. It could have been portrayed as a de-commitment because of the fact Bracco had announced his intentions of playing for Jerry York's Eagles.
But, it would not have been as misguided as the decision was to leave teammates behind in midseason. Jeremy Bracco is a gifted hockey player, but his penchant for making selfish decisions will not sit well as his career progresses.
He could have benefited from the strength and conditioning program at Boston College. He would have learned under the tutelage of the winningest coach in NCAA history. He would have worn the uniform that has sent countless players to the NHL over the past few decades.
Like them or hate them, Boston College has been the leader in producing NHL talent since Jerry York arrives at The Heights in 1994.
If I'm an aspiring hockey player, an agent of a promising prospect or a sane parent, I know what decision I'm making. I'd take the Boston College education and Jerry York's hockey program over the Kitchener Rangers any day of the year.
All this being said, the debate over the better route to the NHL is less important here than the timing of the decision. Backing out on a commitment to teammates and a coaching staff that showed loyalty to the player is an all-too-common trend across sports.
In sports and in life, our culture would be more well served if we showed a little more loyalty and commitment to keeping our word.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.