Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scott Harrington did go south — southwest Ontario

Apologies for having two junior hockey posts in one day, but it didn't escape noticeKingston native Scott Harrington attended a London Knights mini-camp. Presumably, he spent most of his time in the city checking out the girls the library at Western.

There is no begrudging Harrington and his people being disingenuous ahead of the OHL draft. He's a 16-year-old with a shot at the NHL The real beef is everyone — players, parents, agents, GMs, owners — is lying without consequences. That's a great lesson being imparted.

If you no rules, you have no game, it's that simple. A top prospect and his family should have some say in where he plays hockey at age 16. A commenter on one OHL forum nailed it — "Either you think that players should be slaves and report to whatever lame team drafts them, or you think that teams should be held accountable and stop running programs that people don't want to report to."

In the middle, there is a difference, though, between concerns about schooling and playing close to home and just doing it because of good old-fashioned under-the-table payola. There's also a difference between having a few teams you won't report to and gaming the system to go to one team.

It is noteworthy that one paper in an OHL market did say it's time to reform the draft. That was nice to see. (It would have been nicer if there hadn't been seven paragraphs spent on what Eric Lindros did 20 years ago; get over it.) That's neither here nor there. Take is away, Ady Vos:
The practice of players dictating where they will play still goes on. And it's wrong.

The latest example came just last month when the London Knights selected Kingston's Scott Harrington at the OHL Priority Draft.

Ranked by everyone as one of the top two players available, 18 teams bypassed the 16-year-old defenceman before the perennial powerhouse Knights called his name at the 19th position.

Eighteen teams decided to pass on a player scouts considered to be a sure thing.

Boy what a surprise. Or was it?

Harrington had been telling anyone who would listen that he planned to play college hockey in the United States. The OHL wasn't an option.

'Don't waste a pick on me, I'm going south of the border' was Harrington's repeated message to OHL teams.

That's great. U. S. scholarships are an avenue chosen by many players. But once a player declares he's going south, he should go south. Eliminate his name from the draft eligible list.

Mere minutes after the Knights made the announcement Harrington and his camp said they would at least listen to what London had to say.

Of course they did.

This sure smells like the two parties had an agreement before the draft.

While most teams didn't want to risk a first round pick on a player who said he wouldn't report, the Knights did just that and now it appears to be paying off.

Of course both sides will deny there was a deal in place before the draft.

... If Harrington does in fact play in London this year, the other OHL teams should file a protest. Players deceiving teams about their intentions shouldn't be allowed the privilege of playing in it. It makes a farce out of the draft.
Hey, it doesn't make a farce out of draft day any more than The Royal Mavesty (Rhymes With...) typically does.

Point being, though, fans are supporting the league on the presumption it's a fair fight and it clearly isn't. What goes on in the OHL shows clear disregard for the fans' trust. That's why what Harrington, et al., did sticks in people's craw, even if they understand why a player has to protect his self-interest. Meantime, it would be nice if the more major media stopped acting like nothing is amiss, when this clearly doesn't sit well with people.

The empathy is with fans, not the franchises. What's to stop Kingston Frontenacs owner Doug Springer from doing what London's Dale and Mark Hunter are clearly doing?

Time for OHL to clean up draft (Ady Vos, Belleville Intelligencer, May 27)


Dennis Prouse said...

The Hunters, involved in some controversial dealings with players? No way. This thing stinks to high heaven, and David Branch should be mortified.

Two things they can do to fix this:

First, improve the compensation for teams whose first round pick doesn't report. Right now it is a second rounder -- they simply have to make it a first rounder. That will make teams less risk adverse.

Secondly, send the auditors in to have a full look at London's books. They will whine that they are being targeted, and the answer is, yes, they are. If anything is amiss, go right after them.

The fact that the Lindros saga still rankles 20 years later says a lot about the Lindros family, not those still writing about it. Their diva behaviour, combined with their general lack of likeability, set a new standard for obnoxious hockey families everywhere to emulate.

sager said...

Good stuff, Dennis. The point I was trying to make goes more to ethics and transparency.

It would almost be better if a player like Harrington would be forced to declare his intentions in writing, rather than just have the nuclear option. Meantime, if he doesn't want to be drafted, make him sit out half a season and let him sign wherever he wants, and make it known what he's getting. That would be too honest, though.

The rub is David Branch only cares if players go to the OHL instead of the NCAA, not which teams.

As for the Lindroses, whatever people thought of them, it's not worth hanging on to.