The Canadian International Hockey League is hoping that 2015 is a happy new year.
To be sure, the CIHL is embracing 2015 and moving ahead with plans to promote its student-athletes at three upcoming showcase tournaments.
All three showcases will be held in Michigan, which makes for easy access for American college hockey scouts. Michigan is home to a number of college hockey programs.
The first, which is slated for January 8-10, will be hosted by the Kalkaska Rhinos of the CIHL. Other teams scheduled to participate are the Batchewana Attack and Espanola Rivermen of the CIHL, the Detroit Fighting Irish of the Midwest Jr. Hockey League and the Central Michigan University Chippewas of the Division 3, American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Then, from February 6-8, the aforementioned Detroit Fighting Irish of the MWJHL will play host to a tournament that will include CIHL teams.
Looking further ahead, the Fighting Irish will play host to yet-another tournament — the CAN-AM Independent International College Showcase — from April 3-5.
One of the top teams in the three-year old MWJHL and coached and managed by seasoned hockey boss Dan Vasquez, the Fighting Irish has already moved more than two dozen players on to ACHA and Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association schools. All players received financial awards of $6,000 or more, Vasquez told HockeyNewsNorth.com.
CIHL founder and president Tim Clayden is appreciative of the opportunity to showcase players from his first-year league — especially the non-American skaters.
“American players understand the NCAA and ACHA college hockey process as they have grown up with the criteria of these university programs,” said Clayden. “It is Canadian and European student-athlete players who need a little more guidance and help with direction and their promotion to the U.S. college level of play.”
Clayden is hopeful that the upcoming showcase tournaments will allow the CIHL to move forward and put behind it what can be best described as a trying four months for the new league, which is now operating with four teams — Batchewana, Espanola, Kalkaska and the Sudbury Royals — following the November departure of four southern Ontario-based entries.
“CIHL Hockey cannot deny that our league has experienced unforeseen growing pains that has hurt our growth in our inaugural season,” said Clayden. “We have had unfortunate issues that have made everything involved that much more difficult.
“But we remain committed to continuing what we have started on behalf of all players and each community that has remained involved,” Clayden continued. “Quitting is not an option. Quitting sends the deepest, insincere message to the student-athlete players and parents and communities that have not quit on our CIHL Hockey vision. Our executive and remaining teams will keep the very same commitment.”
Clayden said that even with the growing pains, there is still a demand for the CIHL Hockey model from not only European and North American players but also from various communities and owners that have inquired about becoming involved as early as next season.
Clayden said he will be more careful in welcoming ownership groups in the future.
“The future is bright with interest,” Clayden added. “However, a proven ownership screening process and expansion committee is now in place to avoid the same pitfalls that CIHL Hockey has experienced this season.”
Clayden said the next three or so months will determine the success of the league in its first season — one that will not be determined by wins and losses but in how many student-athletes the CIHL has helped better prepare for the next level of play.
“Playing in college showcase tournaments in the second half of the season is an expensive undertaking for all teams. Part of the CIHL Hockey vision is to ensure our student-athlete players get out and in front of the schools, through college showcase tournaments, league play and the promotion of individual players to American college and university programs that meet each player’s family budget,” he noted.
FINANCIAL AID, ELIGIBILITY
Clayden pointed out that well in excess of 200 ACHA and Division 3 NCAA schools offer financial aid to gifted student-athletes from the United States, Canada and European countries.
“Due to lack of knowledge of the recruiting process and lack of exposure, thousands of athletes are overlooked every year. CIHL Hockey is committed to changing that for each of its players and teams,” Clayden said firmly.
“You can’t play in college if you are not academically eligible, no matter how good you are. Our newest program, the CIHL Hockey Academy Student-Athlete Players Services, will offer a step-by-step plan that will help talented young hockey players with their promotional needs. Our goal is to help each of our academy-committed players get recruited. Our primary goal is to help athletes find the best situation that meets each individual family budget, while allowing them to continue to participate in a sport they love,” added Clayden.