Age was once one of the most contested issues in hockey. The World Hockey Association was pretty adamant in its proclamation that players had to be at least 20-years-old before they could play pro.
Of course, all that business ended when Ken Linseman went to court to prove that, at 19, he was more than old enough to play his favorite sport on a professional basis. The NHL odds offered by sportsbooks are unlikely to change in the wake of recent talks of bringing the age debate back to the fro, but there’s good reason to expect a raucous to be raised over this issue.
Ken took the powers that be to court to prove that if he was old enough to vote and go to war at 19, he could play hockey professionally. Ken proceeded to lead the Birmingham Bulls in points in the regular season, so clearly he knew what he was saying.And because of Linseman’s actions, the NHL started permitting 18-year-old players to play.
The NHL has benefited immensely from the decision to change the draft age. However, forty years, later, even with the young guns taking on superstar roles quicker then ever, rumors have begun to emerge about the NHL taking the draft age from 18 back to 19.
There are a few dimensions to consider with this issue. Naturally, the NHL would appreciate having an additional twelve months to assess their draft-eligible prospects. On the flip-side, the CHL would also enjoy having its more impressive 18-year-old athletes around for an additional season.
And if that trend continued, one assumes that even minor hockey would be affected. But the issue here isn’t whether or not professional hockey would benefit from increasing the draft age but if young athletes are willing to put up with such a ruling.
While the NHL could probably overcome any legal attempt to block its efforts in this area, if the NHL ever tried to increase the draft age, the NHL Players Association would resist.
The Players Association has all the power they would ever need to debilitate the NHL’s efforts. Sports has shown before just how powerful players can be if they put their minds to the task of fighting dominant leagues.
Maurice Clarett from Ohio State University took offense with the idea that recruits had to be three years removed from high school before they could be drafted by the NFL. That was back in 2004. Maurice took his case to federal court and won.
The victory was appealed and eventually overturned. But the situation showed the power that players could wield if they put their minds to the task. The NHLPA and the league could come to an understanding.
If the NHL is that determined to increase the draft age, they can make it happen. But they would have to play ball with the players association. Even then, another Ken Linseman could arise and throw a spanner in the works.
For now, no one knows just how serious the NHL is with regards to the draft age. But they probably know that it will be an uphill battle if they ever attempted to initiate the change.