Harvard's freshman hockey team has corralled seven top Canadian stickmen for the upcoming season.
Most top Canadian stickmen have traditionally stayed in Canada skating in Junior "A" or other Canadian minor leagues. It was through these highly competitive teams that most Canadian hockey players reached the pros.
In the last few years, however, several changes have convinced many northern stars to renounce the Canadian minor leagues for American ice action.
The advent of University hockey recruitment, with its expenses-paid excursions to American schools, have encouraged many hockey stars to look south.
Canadians also witnessed the success of several college players in the NHL--like former Montreal Canadian goalie Ken Dryden (Cornell '69).
Dave Bell is one Canadian who found Crimson freshman hockey appealing. The diminutive Edmunton winger passed up a possible $125 a week in Junior "A" for Harvard's NCAA competition.
"I choose Harvard because it provides you with more bargaining power if you don't like your pro contract," Bell said last week.
Leading scorer for the Junior "B" Edmunton Meds, Bell was a much sought after player in Ivy bidding. Yale, Cornell and Brown coaches attended Bell's games, invited him down to their rinks and assured his admission.
But after a weekend at Harvard, Bell chose to don Crimson colors. What he called "Bill Cleary's solid coaching," and Harvard's top academic ranking convinced him to come to Cambridge.
Another emigrating Canadian, Kenneth Dummit of Hamilton, was also hot property in collegiate athletic circles. Number one defenseman and former captain of the Junior "B" Dundas Blues, Dummit concurred with Bell's estimation of Harvard.
"Besides a great education, Harvard gives me four years in which to mature as a hockey player," Dummit said.
Known as a big penalty killer, Dummit turned down a multitude of college offers, including a full scholarship to Michigan Tech. Dummit also bucked Junior "A" attempts to remain in Canada.
"There is pressure to stay and play in Canada, but if you do, you can't get a decent education," Dummit said. "If your teammates catch you studying on the team bus, they want to kick you off the squad," he explained.
Ontario's Michael Leckie chose to play on Cambridge ice despite recruiting efforts by several visiting coaches. Yale, Brown, Princeton and Notre Dame all contacted the towering defenseman. But local Harvard alumni heavily influenced Leckie's final decision.
Leckie came to Harvard because of its strong science department, but he also is excited about skating for Harvard's freshman team.
The potential ice policeman is glad he deserted the junior hockey circuit. "Although I'll play about 60 less games a year with Harvard's freshmen team, if I was to stay in Canada, I would miss about two school days a week for traveling," Leckie said.
Living about 2000 miles from Cambridge, Alberta's William Horton was visited by no coaches. Although Brown, Princeton, RPI and Yale accepted the forward, Horton also succumbed to the influence of Harvard alumni.
The Crimson's Canadian admit that they willingly departed the Canadian minor leagues for a college hockey schedule. But, they added, American colleges have stepped up efforts to recruit Canadians.
Notre Dame, Cornell, Yale, Princeton and several other universities have dispatched coaches to watch Junior "B" games in increasing numbers. The rinks are cluttered with collegiate as well as pro representatives.
"Nowadays, the college coaching raids are no different than any other hockey raids, professional or amateur," Bell said. "They are all after the same thing--the best talent they can get."