By Fred Wallace
In the matter of the Ontario Hockey League cracking down on illegal procedures, underhanded activities, under-the-table payments & draft manipulation, the OHL to an extent may have authored their own demise.
Here's the example I'll use, and please understand, I chose this one as an illustration and not because I have a beef with the teams, the players or the executives involved.
Matt Duchene, a gifted player for the Central Ontario Wolves in minor hockey, was uncertain about whether he wanted to play in the Ontario Hockey League or combine hockey with his academics and go the NCAA route. Fair enough.
Duchene, all things being equal, probably was the most appealing draft prospect for the 2007 OHL Draft, yet went 5th overall to Brampton; not first to Erie, not second to Windsor, not third to St Mike's, nor fourth to Peterborough.
When the Battalion eventually signed Duchene, much credit was given to the OHL, in particular to Joe Birch, the OHL Director of Recruitment & Education Services.
Birch, who I've heard could sell time pieces to a Swiss watchmaker, swayed Duchene to come to Brampton and enjoy the best of both worlds.
I looked at it and wondered why the OHL would be involved in selling the benefits of an individual franchise, rather than those of the league in general.
For example, would Duchene, or anyone, get better hockey & better educational opportunities in Brampton at pick # 5, than they would 5 miles down the road at St Mike's who passed on him at # 3 ?
I don't think so.
Furthermore, by paving the way to Brampton for Duchene, did the OHL not also skew the very essence of the draft, creating a bonus for Brampton at the # 5 pick, ahead of franchises at Erie, Windsor, St Mike's and Peterborough who didn't get the illusion of preferential treatment from the OHL ?
The OHL has a real clean up job in front of them in this matter, and the clean up needs to start internally.
I'm Fred Wallace