Could EA Sports Hurt College Hockey?

Class of 2010 goalie Jack Campbell chose to play in the OHL over attending Michigan.

Puck Daddy has some interesting news, both for fans of college hockey and video gamers — EA Sports has confirmed that the players and teams from all three junior leagues that form the Canadian Hockey League (the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL) will be in the next installment of their NHL series. The key passage for us Michigan fans is this:

Unlike in video games featuring NCAA sports where player names are made up due to the amateur status of the athletes, the CHL’s inclusion of player names in NHL 11 is to help bring greater awareness to junior hockey according to WHL commissioner Ron Robison.

From Buzzing the Net:

“We view this purely as a promotional exercise. There is really no financial benefit to the Canadian Hockey League or our teams or players. We were just delighted to be asked to be part of it … No, it’s not a commercial venture; it’s really a promotional venture from our standpoint to elevate the awareness of our program.”

With college hockey teams directly competing with the OHL for prospects, anything that increases the exposure for the CHL is probably to the detriment of the college game. As a hockey prospect looking for exposure, having your likeness appear in a top-selling video game has a great appeal, and while there are high-selling games out there for college football, there is no EA Sports College Hockey. Even if there was a college hockey game, as stated above, collegiate players’ amateur status means that their name (and, technically, their likeness, though EA has caught some legal heat for blurring the lines in that regard) can’t appear in the game — that isn’t an issue with the pros in the CHL. It may sound a little crazy, but when selling 16- and 17-year-old prospects on a hockey league, it certainly doesn’t hurt to show them that they’ll be in a video game if they sign on the dotted line.

It has always been tough for college hockey coaches to convince star prospects that spending four years playing in college for free can be a better option than getting paid to play minor league hockey (without having to go to school) — just this past year, Michigan lost the commitment of top goalie prospect Jack Campbell when he signed with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and sophomore forward Robbie Czarnik left the team in the middle of the season to play for the Plymouth Whalers. That task may have become a bit tougher now that EA has partnered with the CHL.

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