October 09, 2012
If the NCAA has enough time on its hands to regulate bagels, perhaps it needs to produce a how-to guide for agents who advise NHL draft picks whose hearts are set on college hockey.
Last June was probably the greatest month of barred Wisconsin Badgers recruit (and, perhaps by the end of this week, the newest Kelowna Rocket) Nicolas Kerdiles' life. He was drafted in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks. Apparently the best thing he could have done if he had wanted to play for the Badgers was lock himself in his hotel room during the NHL combine in Toronto, three weeks before he was drafted by the Ducks. Instead, he wanted to soak up the experience like any 18-year-old would. That led to, as as Andy Johnson at Bucky's 5th Quarter reported, photos circulating on Facebook and Twitter of the 18-year-old left wing holding up supplements promoting an energy drink and at dinner with well-known agents, including his family adviser, Ian Pulver. That alone might not have been enough to warrant the one-year ban, but it could have started a viral trail.
Sources told Bucky's 5th Quarter Sunday the situation started because a photo surfaced of Kerdiles out to dinner at the NHL Draft combine with representatives from Pulver Sports.
... it's certainly not an NCAA violation to be at the dinner, but the student-athlete would be required to pay for his own meal.
It's also not against the rules for a student-athlete to associate with an advisor, as long as the player doesn't receive any special benefits. The student-athlete is also required to compensate the advisor for any services provided.
Even if Kerdiles did get a free meal, a one-year suspension is like sending someone to the gas chamber for jaywalking. There has to be more to do with this than just a picture of a kid out to dinner.
When Bucky's 5th Quarter started to do some digging, it took us less than 10 minutes to find another possible NCAA violation. Posted directly from the Twitter account of agent Ian Pulver, there is a picture of Kerdiles, Yakupov and Galchenyuk at the NHL scouting combine in Toronto.
In the picture ... you can see the three players holding up and promoting supplements from BioSteel Sports.
... The tweet from the agent reads, "@pulversports: @BioSteelSports at NHL Combine @NicKerdiles @AGally94 and the Yak. @Igor_Larionov @dtolensky"
@pulversports (Ian Pulver), @Igor_Larionov (Igor Larionov) and @dtolensky (Daniel Tolensky) are owners/employees of Pulver Sports. @AGally94 (Alex Galchenyuk) and Yak (Nail Yakupov) are two Pulver clients, who went No. 3 and No. 1 in the NHL Draft to Montreal and Edmonton, respectively.
The picture has been deleted from Pulver's twitter account since the time of this initial report.
NCAA players are not allowed to receive free gifts, and they are certainly not allowed to have agents tweet pictures of them promoting products. This appears to be a violation of NCAA rules. (Bucky's 5th Quarter)
The NCAA is that ticky-tacky over amateurism violations, even at a level of sport where a head football coach pulls down $4 million US for a 13-game season. John Infante at the Bylaw Blog notes the photos that Johnson dug up might not have been enough to warrant a suspension. However, he points out:
Kerdiles and Pulver Sports seemed to be very close. Closer than might be necessary for the agency to simply advise Kerdiles regarding the NHL draft and possible contract offers. That raises the possibility of more serious violations.
Kerdiles obviously cannot afford to miss an entire season. Joining the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks, who claimed him on Monday would keep him eligible for the Badgers for next season, but that sounds like too lateral a move for someone who excelled at that level with the U.S. under-18 team.
The NCAA is not likely to change any time soon. They sweat the small stuff that much. The onus falls on the teenaged athlete and his advisers to make sure everything is by the (very thick) rulebook. It's chilling that Kerdiles could lose out on his dream of playing college hockey over something that started rather innocuously, with a couple photos on Facebook and Twitter. The facts are not yet all in, so it's probably not fair to wonder what this means for Pulver Sports. It's had eligibility snafus with two June draft picks, first Nail Yakupov and now Nicolas Kerdiles.
(Stick tap: Chris Peters.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.