Wisconsin hockey fans received the news they were hoping for Monday, as freshman Nic Kerdiles announced that he would be staying in Madison to play hockey for the Badgers.
Calling it "one of the most difficult experiences of my life," Kerdiles announced his decision to local media Monday afternoon.
"I truly believe that I am meant to be here and meant to continue pursuing my ultimate goal of playing in the NHL. I'm so glad to be able to call myself a Badger," Kerdiles said in a prepared statement.
The blue-chip left winger was initially declared ineligible for a full season on October 5th after the NCAA ruled he had violated his amateur status. That suspension was reduced to 10 games on Friday after an appeal by the university on Kerdiles' behalf.
Sources confirmed to Bucky's 5th Quarter that the investigation started after photos from various social media platforms surfaced involving Kerdiles and advisors from Pulver Sports.
Chris Peters from the United States of Hockey blog shed some more light on the violation in question last week, as his sources believe that Kerdiles may have unintentionally received an improper benefit at the NHL Draft.
Peters reported that while at the NHL Draft, Kerdiles stayed in a hotel room that had initially been paid for by Pulver Sports. The Kerdiles family eventually repaid Pulver for the room.
Kerdiles, who hails from Irvine, Calif., was a second-round draft pick of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks (No. 36 overall) this past June. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound forward was considered by some to be the top recruit in the country for the upcoming season.
Even after the announcement that Kerdiles' suspension had been reduced, many still figured that he would be leaving campus. Kerdiles' WHL rights are owned by the Kelowna Rockets, where he could go and be eligible to play immediately.
However, when asked if there was every any doubt on if he would stay, Kerdiles didn't hesitate.
"I'll be honest with you, no, there was never a doubt," Kerdiles said with a big grin. "This campus is amazing. The facilities unbelievable. Great coaching staff, great teammates."
"It was really an easy decision for my family and I."
A hockey locker room is something that can't be explained with words. If you've never been in one, it's hard to explain the social bond that is held between teammates. Kerdiles spoke about that this afternoon.
"I've got a great group of teammates," Kerdiles added. "They've been behind me since day one that this thing has been blowing up. That's what made my decision a lot easier."
"Great group of guys. They've had my back the whole time."
Throughout the press conference Monday, Kerdiles displayed professionalism and maturity rarely shown for a kid of his age. Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves attributed much of it to his upbringing.
"Every once in a while, you have a true freshman come in who is beyond his years in emotional and mental state, and Nic is one of those young people," Eaves said. "I think it speaks to his upbringing with his mom and dad."
"This has been difficult for them, as well, to understand. But they've kept cool heads. And the upbringing that Nic has had has certainly helped him get through these tough times, no question about that."
Eaves called Kerdiles an impact player, and noted that he'll make a difference to the lineup when he eventually returns.
Unfortunately for Eaves and the Badgers, UW will be without the services of Kerdiles during four WCHA league series. Kerdiles will miss two games each versus Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College, Minnesota and Minnesota State.
The blue-chip left wing sat out two games against Northern Michigan last weekend and will be eligible for his first game action on the road at Denver.
With WCHA and NCAA playoffs as well as the World Junior Championship, Kerdiles is still expected to play upward of 35-40 games this season.
Kerdiles noted that he can't wait for his first game.
"I'm just looking forward to getting back on that ice and rejoining my teammates," he said. "That's going to be November 30th."
"I promise you, I have that date circled on my calendar right now."
Kerdiles' official statement:
I'd like to make a statement here. Dealing with the unexpected questions and controversy surrounding my NCAA eligibility has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I still do not understand everything that has happened to me in this process or why it has happened at all. But I appreciate the support of my teammates, coaches, and the university have shown me through this ordeal. The NCAA appeal decision which reduced the withholding penalty assessed against me allows me to move forward with my character, reputation, and integrity intact. While I'm still disappointed and frustrated that any penalty was imposed, I have considered my options carefully and do not wish to create a continuing distraction for my team or prolong this matter further. My goal is not to turn this situation into any kind of adversity that my team would have to overcome. Therefore, I'm choosing to move forward, put all my energy and focus into being the best student-athlete I can be, and prepare myself to rejoin my teammates competing on the ice as soon as possible. Growing up in California and playing youth hockey, I always looked up to the older players from the area. Most signed to play in the major junior league up north, the WHL, but many made commitments to college. Those guys like Brett Bebe, Garrett Haar, Troy Power, and Rocco Grimaldi, to name a few, showed my family and me another option, a chance to play high level hockey and still continue with earning a degree. That is why I'm here at Wisconsin, to be the best student-athlete I can be, and to work toward my degree at an amazing university. It is my turn to be a role model for young hockey players in California and the West Coast. I take that responsibility very seriously and would be devastated to see any of them change their path from college route to junior just because of the adversity I faced as a student-athlete. I still want to be that role model for California and West Coast hockey players. I want them to consider and understand going the college route. I will pursue that goal by staying here at the University of Wisconsin. By serving a penalty that remains enormously difficult to accept and by representing my university as a true student-athlete. I've loved every second of my first couple of months here, even with all of this stuff going on. I truly believe that I am meant to be here and meant to continue pursuing my ultimate goal of playing in the NHL. I'm so glad to be able to call myself a Badger and to continue doing so. I want to thank my teammates, coaches, and university staff for all their assistance and support, and I look forward to seeing you on the ice very soon. Thank you.
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