Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters got a nice Christmas gift from Reebok. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Some pre-Christmas Friday observations for your dining and dancing pleasure:
This piece of news should have all you kids out there practicing your stickhandling until your wrists give out.
Connor McDavid, who doesn’t turn 16 until next month, is on the verge of agreeing to an endorsement deal with Reebok that is set to expire in 2018. And his part-time gig with the equipment manufacturer will provide him with just a little more money than most teenagers who flip burgers or stock grocery shelves when they’re not going to school.
Total value of the deal: $300,000 to $500,000. For a 15-year-old.
Speaking of McDavid and exceptional talents, word is Hockey Canada is intent on keeping the bar extremely high for players applying for exceptional status in the future. All three who have been accepted – John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and McDavid – have proved worthy of the designation and Hockey Canada wants only that ilk of player performing as underagers.
Since the concept was established in 2004, nine players have applied for it and only three have been accepted.
This year there will almost certainly be at least two more. One of them, defenseman Sean Day of the Detroit Compuware under-16 minor midget team, will be of particular interest to Hockey Canada. That’s because, despite the fact Day has not lived a single day in the country, he is intent on representing Canada in international competition.
Day’s parents are both from Canada. His father, Keith, is from Toronto and his mother, Carol, from Burlington, Ont. Keith Day’s work doing global business development for a chemical and plastics company has taken him all over the world. The family was living in Belgium when Sean was born in 1998 and moved to Singapore a year later before Keith was transferred to the Detroit area four years later. For that reason, Sean Day has only a Canadian passport and citizenship, as do his parents.
“We’ve been here since 1993 with green cards because of work,” said Keith, whose four children have been born in Canada, the U.S., Belgium and Singapore. “We haven’t gone for U.S. citizenship. We’re happy being Canadian.”
As much as USA Hockey would love to have his son, Keith Day maintains Sean wants to play for Canada and really doesn’t have a choice in the matter because he doesn’t have an American passport. That could easily be arranged, but Sean is insistent about playing for Canada at this point. The tipping point will come if and when Sean participates in the World Under-18 Championship, since that is an event sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Once you represent one country in an IIHF event, that remains your home country for the rest of your career.
In any event, Day is a clearly a prodigious talent. His coach with Compuware, Andy Copp, marvels at his effortless skating ability.
“The day he enters the OHL,” Copp said, “he’ll be the best skater in the league.”
There are scouts and agents who have seen him play who say they have never seen a better skater.
Day will very likely apply for exceptional status and his father said he would be happy to play in the OHL with whatever team drafts him.
The other player who will likely apply is 14-year-old Tyler Benson from Edmonton, who had 82 points in his first 17 games as a minor bantam. Both Day and Benson have the size to play major junior hockey right now. Day is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and Benson is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds.
Even with Hockey Canada setting the bar high for exceptional players, you’ll probably begin seeing them with a lot more regularity. And that’s because the players minor hockey is producing now are from a generation where the game is an 11- or 12-month pursuit, where parents are willing to spend thousands of dollars outside their regular hockey experience on 1-on-1 coaching, dryland training and spring hockey. And many of them are now attending private sports academies where they can combine school and elite athletics. McDavid, for example, attended a sports school in Toronto where the tuition was $15,000 a year.
Discuss amongst yourselves whether this a good thing, but it is coming.
Sometime Friday, the players are expected to vote in favor of giving their executive committee the authority to file for disclaimer of interest, which would effectively dissolve the union and throw the labor situation into complete chaos.
This is unchartered territory for everyone involved. And it’s scary. If, as some have suggested, all player contracts would be null and void if the NHLPA dissolved, there would be some GMs doing handsprings. I can’t imagine Chuck Fletcher of the Minnesota Wild, Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Ray Shero of the Pittsburgh Penguins would be among them, but some think scorching the earth would bring player costs down.
I’ve had a number of GMs tell me they’d love a system where every player was on a one-year contract and was an unrestricted free agent every year. What drives up the cost of players is supply and demand. If each guy were trying to cut his own deal, the supply would be enormous.
(Editor's Note: The original total worth of McDavid's Reebok contract was reported at $2.5 million. It was later discovered and changed to the number above.)
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.