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A 14 Year Old Commits To Boston College, As Hockey Recruiting Grows More Absurd


Pictured, the newest group of BC hockey recruits (OK, not really)
Pictured, the newest group of BC hockey recruits (OK, not really)
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

There's recruiting news to report, so I guess we should talk about it, as a site that talks about such things. 2001-born goaltender Spencer Knight, who is, remarkably, 6'4'' at the age of 14, committed to the Eagles yesterday, becoming BC's first 01-born commitment. If he goes the Thatcher Demko/Katie Burt route and accelerates, we'll see him in 2018-2019. On a more normal trajectory, he'll be here in '19-'20 or '20-'21, presuming Earth isn't wiped out by an asteroid by then, or whatever.

This is, ostensibly, a good thing, coming on the heels of a top 15-year-old, Patrick Giles, committing to the Eagles a few weeks back. Presuming one of the 55,000 things that could prevent a 14-year-old from eventually successfully arriving on campus does not happen, Knight is projected to be an elite talent. It's also, I suppose, a good sign that recruits whose college careers project out to 2022 and 2023 (good Lord) are pledging their future to BC. It's hard to imagine Jerry York will still be coaching at that time, so recruits and their families/advisors are obviously still confident about the future of the program even if York were not to be there.

For whatever reason though, the difference between a 15-year-old committing and a 14-year-old mentally crossed a line for me between mild bemusement/¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and genuine discomfort with the whole thing. Obviously, all parties involved—fans, coaches, parents—would agree that a 14, 15 or even really 16 year old "committing" to a college is pretty much ridiculous, and yet the whole thing continues to get weirder. Oliver Wahlstrom, all of 15 years old, has now committed to two different schools; he committed to Maine at 13, decommitted at 14, and pledged his future to Harvard at 15. The Ivy League school gladly welcomed this pledge in spite of the fact that the kid probably hasn't taken the PSAT yet.

As BC fans, we have been more than willing to ride on the high horse and criticize other programs for increasingly relying on and recruiting ever-older players, from 25-year-old Matt Gilroy's Hobey Baker-winning campaign in 2009 for BU, to the Union team laden with 23- and 24-year-olds that won the national championship in 2013. I certainly don't exclude myself from this, though I agree with opposing fans and journalists who take an approach along the lines of "don't hate the player, hate the game." Additionally, while I don't love that there are teams essentially comprised of men competing against boys, at least those recruited players are adults who are capable of making appropriate and responsible choices about their education and career future. Nobody really thinks a 14-year-old is equipped to do this.

Coaches obviously can't unilaterally disarm in the recruiting game, in either direction. If coaches aren't recruiting the 21-year-old freshmen, someone else will. If coaches aren't recruiting 14 year olds—and presumably soon enough, 13 year olds—someone else will. Hockey coaches also have to deal with the added element of going up against the Canadian Hockey League, which drafts kids at 16 and is certainly in contact with top prospects much earlier than that. As such, I get why BC is recruiting kids straight out of the ticket line at One Direction concerts. But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it or don't find it worthy of criticism.

This is the part at which apologists for the current system will likely ask me what I'd do to change things. I'll be frank and admit that I don't know. My gut reaction is to suggest a rule that kids can't be contacted by programs before age 16. I fully understand that this would almost certainly lead to a vast majority of the top prospects going to the Canadian Hockey League instead of playing in the NCAA. I kind of think that I'd be OK with that. But admittedly, I'm not trying to sell a product, and I don't have a salary that hinges on delivering wins to alumni and fans.

So I guess all I really can do is sit here on the sidelines, throw up another ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and offer up a "welcome to the Heights" to the newest Eagle pledge. Here's hoping there's a sweet Superfan slogan for the class of 2024.