The North American Hockey League has always been about the student-athlete. With the primary goal being advancement of players to the college hockey, the NAHL has gone above and beyond to educate their players and ensure they are informed about the educational process when it comes to advancement. When it comes to advancing players onto the NCAA, the NAHL is one of the best options in North America and one of only two options in the United States that is tuition-free.
In an effort to provide more opportunity each season, every NAHL player attends a mandatory NCAA Pathway seminar. The presentation, run by Director of NCAA Compliance and Education Craig Barnett and Director of Player Personnel Tony Zasowski, takes place at the beginning of the season at the NAHL Showcase.
Barnett is currently the Director of NCAA Compliance and Education for NAHL, NAPHL and NA3HL. He is also a former NCAA I head hockey coach, athletic director and currently serves as Executive Director of the ACHA. Zasowski is a former NCAA hockey player in addition to being a former head coach in the NAHL and NAPHL. Both bring a wealth of knowledge and information that is shared during these seminars along with continued updates and policy changes to make sure everyone stays informed.
The NCAA Pathway seminar educates players on several topics including the path to college hockey and the NAHL's role, differences between NCAA Division I and III hockey, an introduction to the NCAA Eligibility Center and important soon-to-be changes, Academic requirements needed to compete at the NCAA level, and how the college recruiting process works.
The NAHL players and teams also have access to the College Bound Guide, which is exclusive to those players playing in the NAHL. It is meant to educate players on their NCAA options and why being eligible to compete at the next level is so important.
The NAHL and its network of staff, governors and coaches have built up great relationships with the NCAA, College Hockey Inc., the ACHA, as well as, all the college institutions and their scouts and coaches.
In 2014, the NAHL also introduced the NAHL Combines. The purpose of these events are to introduce younger prospects to junior hockey, as well as stress, the importance of education to pursue their future academic and hockey dreams. Many families that attend the NAHL Combines weekend experience are brand new to the benefits and process of junior hockey in North America.
With a record 338 NCAA commitments last season and over 1,300 NAHL alumni currently playing in the NCAA, college hockey offers players the unique opportunity to pursue a professional hockey career at the highest levels while earning a college degree from some of the world's most prestigious institutions of higher learning.
More than 90 percent of college hockey players graduate with a college degree, setting themselves up for success after their hockey career. Each year men's Division I hockey programs award more than $30 million in scholarships, unquestionably the most significant education program in the sport. Hockey is also #1 among men's NCAA sports in graduation rate (92.1%) Every U.S. college boasts thousands of alumni in countless professional fields: business, law, engineering, government, medicine, sports and entertainment. Alumni networks, combined with a degree, put graduates in an ideal position to transition into their post-hockey careers.
Even for those players who reach the highest level, very few play in the NHL past their mid-30s. That leaves decades of life ahead - and college hockey prepares its athletes for both the NHL and what lies beyond.