The situations surrounding Kevin Hayes and Sonny Milano made it an interesting week to be a BC hockey fan. Here we have two hockey players being universally vilified by the teams they've scorned, but take it from the perspective of BC fans and you get two very different reactions.
On the one hand there's Kevin Hayes, drafted 4 years ago by the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the real NHL powerhouses of the last several years. Hayes chose not to sign a contract with the Blackhawks and is now a free agent who can choose to play wherever he likes. Blackhawks fans are pretty salty about it, but it seems obvious to us -- Kevin Hayes is just doing what's best for himself, both from a career standpoint and from a financial standpoint.
On the other hand we have Sonny Milano, one of the most highly-touted NCAA recruits in the entire country. Milano broke from his commitment to playing hockey on the Heights to sign a pro contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets and play with Plymouth of the OHL. The way BC fans are taking it, it was an unforgivable betrayal.
So... what's the difference?
Well, let's start with Kevin Hayes. Ryan Lambert of Yahoo's Puck Daddy had a great post yesterday about why Kevin Hayes doesn't owe anything to the Blackhawks. With rookie pay caps, it gives the impression that entering the NHL workforce as a rookie free agent would be just about deciding where you want to live for the next few years, but there's a pretty massive pay difference between toiling in a good teams' (i.e., the Blackhawks') minor league system, and playing the bulk of the season for the big club in, say, Calgary or Florida. A difference of about 10 times as much, in fact.
But more than anything, Kevin Hayes has never made any kind of commitment to the Blackhawks. A draft is always filled with risks. Maybe the guy you want won't pan out. And if that's the case, you don't have to offer him a contract. And maybe the guy plays 4 years in college, earns his degree, and decides that it's in his best interest to sign elsewhere and make significantly more money while he can.
So, no problem there. But why the animosity toward Milano? In short, he did everything wrong.
Decommits happen all the time and don't necessarily point to disloyalty or indecisiveness (see: Gaudreau, Johnny -- sorry Northeastern). It happens. Situations change. But with Milano, his decommit from Notre Dame to instead say he was coming to the Heights was perhaps a bellwether for things to come.
But Milano left Notre Dame in November. The Irish had plenty of time to fill in with a new recruit, and while it might have been just a warm body compared to Milano in terms of school, they still had that opportunity. Decommits are unfortunate, but okay, it happens.
Fast forward to just two weeks ago. Rumors were swirling about Milano's intentions to forego his college eligibility entirely, and Milano made a point of coming out and re-affirming his commitment to coming to BC. And these weren't your typical "I'm firm in my commitment" quotes...
BC [is] one of the better colleges in history, Jerry York is a great coach, he knows what he’s doing. It’s the best way to get to the NHL.
He clearly didn't think that way, or he wouldn't be going elsewhere.
Every player’s path to achieving his goal of playing in the NHL is different, and the best route for some is not necessarily the best route for others. For me, the opportunity to play in the OHL is the right decision.
Milano somehow made things worse for himself this weekend by coming out with a well-intended but poorly timed statement on his decision making process, essentially saying that he was uncertain the whole time he made those quotes talking about how sure he was that he would be coming to BC and how it's the "best way to get to the NHL."
The problem isn't that Milano "disappointed" any of us as fans. The problem with Milano's decision, and where he differs from the situations with Kevin Hayes and Chicago, is that he intentionally mislead those at BC responsible for putting together a team and left them with no opportunity to find a replacement. Even Chicago will get a draft pick to compensate for Hayes, and Hayes never led anyone to believe anything other than he was keeping his options open.
I'm sure no one thinks Milano intended to screw BC or put them in a tough spot, and after all, he's really just an 18 year old kid trying to make the best decision for himself. And yeah, more than anything, it stings as a fan to lose such a talented player. As Joe will point out tomorrow (spoiler alert!), BC will be okay for the upcoming year, but there's no doubt that Milano's choice left Boston College in worse shape than they could have been going into the season.