In college hockey recruiting, the 'verbal commitment' is highly prevalent. This verbal 'gentlemans agreement' takes place between the coaching staff of a college hockey program and a prospective student-athlete.
The verbal commitment was born out of the necessity of Division I hockey programs to compete with the Canadian Hockey League for highly skilled hockey players. The CHL has a distinct advantage because it holds an entry draft each spring for players who are 15 and 16 years old.
These young hockey players have a big decision to make. To pursue their dream of playing in the NHL by playing Major Junior in Canada or to hold out for a Division I college hockey opportunity.
As a result, Division I hockey programs need to make these players aware that an opportunity with their program is possible so that they have a reason to wait until the 12th grade to sign a National Letter of Intent and to finish high school before going to school.
In the meantime, these players can play Tier I Junior in the United States Hockey League, Tier 2 Junior in various leagues, or Prep/high school hockey in order to maintain their amateur status with the NCAA.
The NCAA considers Major Junior hockey in Canada to be a professional league, and therefore any player in that league has given up their amateur status and is no longer eligible to play in the NCAA. There are some exceptions to this Major Junior rule.
There is a 'gentlemans agreement' among NCAA hockey coaches to uphold verbal agreements. Although, it is rare that a coaching staff will 'de-commit' a player, it is not in writing so it is prudent to be cautious and ask questions. When a coaching staff changes you might be in jeopardy of losing your commitment to that team.
The biggest decision a young male hockey player will need to make is whether to pursue Major Junior or NCAA hockey. There is no correct answer and a decision should be made on an individual basis.
What is right for your son and family? Be sure you are prepared with the facts because when agents and general managers are involved it can become cloudy.