MHL thanks Nick Olynyk, junior hockey expert, for the following excerpt from his Junior Hockey Truth book series. Parents of Bantam and Minor Midget-aged pay close attention.
The Biggest Decision of Your (Son’s) Junior Hockey Career
“Sit down,” the coach said to me, a pen in his hand.
He always was in charge inside his office.
“You’re playing tonight. Read over this form and sign it.”
I looked at my feet. I didn’t know the white socks I was wearing would not fit with my suit that night.
It would be my first Major Junior game. I was 17 and still couldn’t dress myself.
I looked at the form. “WHL Education Agreement” it said in bold letters. There was a series of paragraphs with blanks to fill out. Writing my name was easy. Entering my first choice for a university was not.
It was late September. I should have been cut and gone home weeks ago. Nobody expected me to last this long, so I still hadn’t attended a day of grade 12. How could I suggest what university I’d attend at 21?
I had questions.
“So if I sign this, I lose my NCAA eligibility but I still haven’t made the team?”
“Did you come here to play NCAA? You’ll have to make a decision,” he said.
It wasn’t the kindest answer—they never are—but it was the truth. I was 17, not guaranteed a spot on a WHL team, yet I was guaranteeing that I’d never get an NCAA scholarship.
“Can I talk to my parents first, you know, just to make sure?”
I rushed home, phoned my dad, and that night my parents drove three hours to talk with the coach. The manager came down too. They were in suits, my dad was in jeans.
Over the next 15 minutes, Mom and Dad took everything in. I even saw the coach smile for the first time. When the pen was pulled out, Dad read the contract, looked at me and said, “It’s your career. You’re the expert.”
I peered at the contract for one last time. Truthfully, I wasn’t an expert—not then— but I knew more than my parents. They really didn’t know the in’s and out’s of junior hockey. What should have been a family decision decided months before that moment became my decision in a split-second.
I signed the contract. We all shook hands. The coach gave me a pat on the back.
“One last thing,” he said. “Don’t wear white socks with your dress shoes.”
My junior hockey education had begun…