There was big news in the Ontario League on Thursday , as Yahoo Sports reported that the league will be making significant changes to the player benefits package that their players receive.
Most significant is a raise to the monthly stipend that players will receive. Previously, players received about $50 per week, with overage players receiving slightly more. Now, players will be reimbursed for up to $470 worth of monthly expenses that seem wide enough--cell phone bills and movie nights were the two examples listed--that no player should have difficulty reaching it.
It will be the OHL's first raise in the player stipend since the early 1980's , and OHL commissioner David Branch couldn't pat himself on the back enough for it:
"We are constantly, regularly, always challenging how we can improve things for our players on and off the ice," Branch told Yahoo Canada on Thursday. "We recognize that they are the most important people in the game."
Again, first pay raise in 30 years.
The OHL will also allow teams to give players up to $1000 for on- and off-ice training in the offseason.
Finally, the OHL will make some changes in the amount of time players have to access their education packages in their post-OHL career. Players that leave the OHL in their 19-year-old year will now have until 18 months after the end of what would have been their 20-year-old year in the league. The league will also amend their player agreement so that signing an AHL contract does not void a player's education benefits.
That change is certainly a step in the right direction, though the fact remains that a very low percentage of players are willing to give up competitive hockey careers at age 20 in order to cash in on their education benefits, especially if they're in the AHL and that close to making the NHL.
These changes are nice, though not necessarily ground-breaking. Does a college education *and* the opportunity at playing pro hockey get trumped by a free cell phone and an education if you're willing to give up your hockey career? Probably not. But these changes likely will only make it more difficult for NCAA schools to compete against the OHL in recruiting young prospects. It also likely widens the gap between the NCAA and CHL, for those that argue that CHL players should be allowed to play in the NCAA after they play in the CHL.