Chris Pryor

Reversing the trend

 

By Chris Pryor

Over the years, for whatever the reason, our sport has gotten younger and younger. From the NHL down to the high school level we are increasingly getting younger. Is this the right path?

At the NHL level, it’s a young man’s game. Not only does the speed make it conducive for young legs, but the schedule makes it increasingly harder for old legs to keep up. There was a time when freshmen in college were not allowed to participate. In high school you have freshmen (14-year-olds) playing against seniors (18-year-olds). At this level in particular, you not only have the obvious difference in age but the wide gap in how a 14-year-old sees life vs. an 18-year-old. Is there a correct formula? When is the right time?

Many arguments can be made pro vs. con or vise versa. I would say one should look at individual cases and make decisions according to that particular situation. I’m not sure if its right to put a young player in a compromising situation if that player isn’t physically or mentally ready to handle it.

Time is on our side when players are young. What’s the rush? What are we trying to gain here? But to say all freshmen shouldn’t be allowed to play varsity or all college freshmen should not be allowed to participate their first year is a little extreme. There are programs that like to have 20-year-old first-year players and others take the kids right out of high school. Common sense would say that the older, more physically-mature player is more ready to play than a younger counterpart.

There are exceptions to every rule and individual cases should be dealt with differently, but one thing to remember is that patience is a virtue here. When in doubt, caution on the side of age; another year of physical maturity will make a huge difference in not only how they handle the game on the ice, but also how they deal with off-ice situations.

Chris Pryor is the director of hockey operations for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is in charge of the amateur and pro scouting departments. A native of St. Paul, Pryor spent eight seasons as a scout for the Flyers. He played parts of six seasons in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars and New York Islanders. If you have a question for a pro hockey scout, e-mail it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..