Here is another article that I submitted for Inside Hockey
Recently, Thomas Welsh committed to Penn State Universityand I interviewed his father Mike via email about his son’s decision to join PSU hockey. Thomas Welsh is a high end recruit from Canada that has decided to attend NCAA
Division I hockey. Thomas is currently attending prep school at Salisbury
inConnecticut. I think you will find the answers to be very interesting.
: I would like to know how you and your son arrived at this decision?
: Coming off of the 2011 Provincial Ontario Bantam AAA Championship and looking towards the next year, Minor Midget, you are at a pivotal time in the Ontario Hockey System. Minor midget year is important as this is your OHL
draft year and there is such a hype surrounding this time. League teams are already structured and do not allow for player movement. Ranking amongst league teams, usually remains the same from first to third, as players have already migrated to the top teams. Player development becomes stagnant as it only comes from your team, and your son plays against and with the same players that he has played with in the league for the last 6 years. The cost of development from minor atom to bantam becomes reality, having spent close to $100,000. Finally, there is the focus that the OHL is the next and only
step for elite players.
: There are a number of reasons we considered USA Prep School vs. Minor Midget.
: When we considered hockey development, competing in Prep Varsity Hockey at the age of 15 offers an opportunity to play with and against older players up to 19 years of age. It offers a competitive loop, prepares your strength and conditioning in a controlled environment, and gives you the opportunity to experience and learn from coaches at that level. The Founder's Hockey League is constantly being watched by Div 1 schools and various levels of Pro Teams along the Eastern seaboard, not to mention that the number of Pro Players present and past along with many the of NHL coaching staff have kids in the Prep League. As a parent, our interest is as strong for academics as hockey development. So when you look at the complete package, Prep school covers it all. It is the right path for hockey development and academic growth, but also an environment for learning life skills and independence. It offers opportunities to discover new skills, likes, and interests and to try new things. It lays a good foundation to all options that may open down the road. Salisbury Prep School has a long history of traditions, is strong academically, creates a "brother hood" atmosphere, and of course has an awesome and outstanding hockey team.
: Why the NCAA over the OHL?
: We met with Paul Kelly a few years back from College Hockey Inc. He made us aware of the endless possibilities that are available through Div 1 and Div 3 hockey programs for athletes. He encouraged players and parents to look long term and to look at the NCAA opportunities for their son. He covered player development, pro opportunities, education, student life, and the long standing tradition unique to each of these Div 1 schools.
The OHL has a lot to offer in terms of hockey development. It also provides educational incentives but with conditions attached. You have to make these decisions as a 16 year old and in the same summer that you are drafted, you will have to change high schools, you will not be able to do a full academic course load, and the OHL voids or limits any future scholarships through an NCAA path.
Thomas was recruited by several OHL teams and we visited their cities and met with OHL team coaches, managers, trainers, owners, and school advisers. We did our due diligence; however, we decided to take a alternative approach. We like to think outside of the box, and instead of following the traditional path for elite players, we felt more comfortable following our own goals and timelines.
Thomas participated in the final selection for Team Ontario U16, and went to the final selection camp for Team Ontario U17 this past July in Thunder Bay. Roster spots are to be finalized in November 2011 and the Head Coach
of the team will be Troy Smith
who is currently the assistant coach of the Kitchener Rangers
- OHL. The feedback that has been received has been very positive and as a result we know that Thomas's hockey development is at a high level and has not been compromised with being down at the Prep school. Basically, our decision has been reinforced that our path and plan are working for us. Central Ontario Scouting director at the time Rob Kitamura now with Tampa Bay as head scout, came to see Thomas and he acknowledge that Thomas is a AA rated player.
: Why PSU? Is it the excitement of playing for a newly formed Big Ten team and league? Also, Is the prospects of getting a high quality education at a school like PSU a major factor?
: We were invited and visited 10 Div 1 schools (Yale, North Eastern, Boston U
, Harvard,Cornell,Michigan,Quinnipiac,Vermont,Penn State, and University of Miami Ohio). When we visited Penn State in September, 2011, we stayed in the city for a couple of days. We got to see the city (HappyValley), toured the campus, went to a pre-game football pep rally, and stayed for a football exhibition game. In addition to visiting the campus and the city, we also met with the Head Coach Guy Gadowsky, and assistant coach Matt Lindsay. There was an immediate connection with the coaching staff when we discussed hockey plans, goals, academics, and sports. When Thomas looked at what PennState
had to offer, he was excited about both the courses available, and the hockey opportunities. The education is high quality and the school is well recognized for many of their academic programs. We knew Thomas wanted to enter the NCAA in 2013. At Penn State this would mean that he would be a part of the inaugural year when Penn State becomes part of the Big 10 Conference
. The media coverage for the Big 10 is broad, well scouted, and the excitement and buzz around the league has everyone talking. Having a chance to play in such a competitive league is an honor and reinforces the notion that hard works pays off. It also supports the idea that you do not always need to follow the common pathway. You can create your own path. It was a win-win situation all around and we have always encouraged Thomas to "think outside of the box."