Decision day

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

It's a decision that faces almost 500 16- and 17-year-old hockey players every year.

It's even more difficult for their parents.

Choosing the OHL?

Or choosing school?

London Knights defenceman Marc Methot remembers the discussions around the dining room table with his mom and dad.

"My parents wanted me to go the school route. I wanted the OHL," Methot recalls.

In the end, the Methots chose the OHL over a scholarship opportunity at a U.S. college.

The NCAA branded major junior hockey a "professional" league in the late 1970s because the players get paid.

Today, players receive $50 a week -- $150 for over-agers -- and the NCAA places sanctions on players if they participate in anything more than 48 hours at an OHL team training camp.

Those sanctions range from having to sit out a full year to being declared ineligible.

Defenceman Danny Syvret was in the same boat.

"When I was younger, I was always good with books," he says. "I'd always wanted an NCAA scholarship. And when London drafted me (in 2001), I was still on the fence.

"I don't think I made my decision until two days before I played my first game as an under-age (during the 2001-02 season). I was still back and forth.

"Then I weighed my options. I knew London had a pretty veteran defence corps, and I knew the next year they would be losing a lot and I could possibly jump in there and play."

Syvret hasn't had any second thoughts about choosing one over the other but knows of players who have.

"Once you make your decision, you've got to ride with it and hope things will turn out.

"When I played junior B in Cambridge, our goaltender, Frank Doyle, played one exhibition game for Sarnia. He had a scholarship to Maine but he couldn't play his first entire year just because of that one exhibition game."

Right-winger Brandon Prust, 20, says playing for the Knights was something he dreamed about as a kid growing up in London.

"My dad and I always went to the Friday night games at the Ice House and the Gardens," he says.

"But one of the reasons I was a year late joining the Knights (at age 18) was I was thinking about a scholarship.

"It was a tough situation. That's the biggest decision I've ever had to make in my hockey career, whether I was going to play that exhibition game.

"My first year at camp, I didn't play it. The second year (2002), I thought, 'You know what? I'm going to take a chance and try and make the Knights.'

"I thought it might be better for my career. Luckily enough, it was. But some young kids might make the wrong decision and go the wrong way, and might get screwed around a bit. But it is one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make."

There is also the issue of a young player leaving home. For Prust, growing up in the city before the family moved to Thorndale, it's been easy.

"It's awesome being able to live with my parents and live in the same city with all my friends," he said. "It's been a bonus for me not having to move away from home."

It's a much different story for 18-year-old right-winger Trevor Kell. His home is Thunder Bay.

"My parents were hoping I would be drafted by Sault Ste. Marie," Kell says.

No such luck.

He was drafted by the Knights in 2003. He was 16 and assigned to the team's Tier 2 affiliate in the village of Wellington, located between Belleville and Kingston.

He joined the Knights a year later.

"I wasn't too sure about moving away from home but (the Knights) convinced me to play there," he says of his first experience away from home.

"My parents didn't really want me to go at such a young age. They just wanted to make sure I was ready for it. At first I felt a little bit scared."

At least being here, he's a little closer to home.

"It's usually a two-day trip," Kell says of the 18-hour drive his parents divide up with an overnight stop in Sault Ste. Marie.

They made it four times last season. His father made it for the first time this season on Easter weekend but his mom didn't come.

"It's not that bad," Kell says about not seeing them.

"There are times I get a little homesick. I talk to them on the phone just about every day and they just got a new digital camera, so they send me pictures of my dog and stuff."


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