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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Picture Pages - Saturday in ManchVegas

I'll make this post nice and easy for you and give it to you in the form of pictures from inside and around the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.

With all of the photos I snapped, feel free to click on them to get a grossly larger view of the shot so you can soak in my amateur photography skills with a Kodak EasyShare 37mm Digital Camera.

Five megapixels up in your face!

The Cap'n and Cosby say it's go time for Picture Pages, bitches.

Corporate Cell Phone Retailer Arena - Manchester, NH

Game one on Saturday afternoon featured home-standing UNH and North Dakota. Sure, UNH had the home ice advantage, but North Dakota didn't have to look far to find some "hostile and abusive" local support. In fact, it was right across the street.

Hostile and abusive? You better believe it, baby!

The best part of this sighting is that North Dakota was nicely represented amongst the fans on Saturday. Certainly with everything bad going on in Fargo and UND's home of Grand Forks with the record flooding, there was not a high expectation that Sioux fans would turn out, but they were there and it was great to see them as well.

Pregame warmups behind the UNH goal.

What you're noticing there is that the end zone netting is rather high on the ends.

I mean, REALLY high.

Pre-anthem and introductions. What's a college game without a big flag?

I can't recall being somewhere where even the folks in the upper level end seats were safe from errant pucks and thought this might be a bit of a viewing issue but as you can see from the above photo taken from my seats for the weekend it's not bad.

UNH mascot Wild E. Cat always skates with his head up through the zone.

As for the game itself, it was a life affirmation of hockey for me as a fan. This game was speed, this game was extreme skill, this game was drama - personified. Some folks will see a 6-5 in OT score and think that it was sloppy defense or bad goaltending.

No way.

This game was firewagon hockey born anew. There was only one special teams goal scored in the game, a power play goal for New Hampshire's Mike Sislo and it was the first goal of the game. There were 79 combined shots on goal in the game, a game that was played for 60 minutes and 45 seconds.

Bestill my heart, ye hockey gods.

That said when Pete LeBlanc's rifle-shot one-timer zipped past Sioux goaltender Brad Eidsness for the game winner, some folks were a little hard up on the counting.

Bill Cosby wants you to pay attention during Picture Pages, fools.

LeBlanc's goal was his second of the game, then again, perhaps these UNH fans were just that excited that it blew their hats off on the ice.

Yeah, I'll go with that.

I am disappointed that I was unable to get a shot of the traditional fish thrown on the ice on either night for New Hampshire's first goal.

Whatever it was, salute to the winners of this true instant classic and a tip of the cap to the defeated, they've got nothing to be down about.

Hockey traditions are a beautiful thing

As for the second game of the night, well... It was a laugher. The difference being? I got a seating upgrade thanks to some friends in the BU section who said there was room to spread out.

Hey you! Yeah, you in the glass case of emotion!* Down in front!
(ed. Thanks Pete!)

As you can see, this seating did come with a bit of a visual impairment in the form of a goal judge.

C'est la vie.

The advantage of these seats, however is that they offer the ability to get some cool action photos, even on my crappy camera. At this point in the game while taking photos, Ohio State backup goaltender Cal Heeter was in the game because, well, it was 5-0.

Like I heard a wealthy NESCAC fan say one time,"Go get 'em lad!"

Give 'em the Heeter!

Even with only one BU player in front of the net it's a bad idea to leave him there on his own.

BU's Jason Lawrence working in Holmstrom's office in front of the net.

The other fun I managed to discover taking some of these real cheeseball shots is the joy of getting a photograph that really sums up a game in one shot.

Still an empty net! Still an empty net! Still an empty net!

The red light is on, the goal has been scored and the goaltender is nowhere in the shot. In a game that BU won 8-3, that about sums things up perfectly.

Celebration time. Note to self: Flash OFF next time. Dumb ass.

Tomorrow, a shorter pictorial of my day at the Regional Finals with New Hampshire's Chaw Man and a story about how nothing ever can just be a totally normal weekend away for me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No, Seriously: Up Yours Basketball

I know that the NCAA Basketball tournament is what makes money, and makes people money all the same this time of year and that's good and that's fine.

It can't touch the NCAA Hockey tournament. Can't do it. It's not possible and it'll never be possible.


I'm not going to go throwing the "parity" word around here, that's just too overdone for me.

Before I get talking about how unbelievable Day Two of the tournament was, I want to say that part of me wants to rip ESPN a new one for their abysmal priorities in coverage and inability to handle multiple live broadcasts. ESPN was airing a Maryland-Virginia regular season ACC lacrosse game this afternoon, figuring that for a Saturday, getting as much live sports coverage in as possible would be great.

I like that and that's good. What I don't like is the seeming lack of a backup plan from the folks at ESPN considering that lacrosse games don't end in ties and in the event that the game might go to overtime, you'd need to have a contingency plan just in case.

ESPN2's coverage of the Northeast Regional was delayed until after the second period because the lacrosse game went to an unprecedented seven overtime periods.


Since I was at this game, I only became aware of the issue with ESPN thanks to friends texting me looking for updates since ESPN was only giving periodic highlight snippets during the lacrosse game and asking for patience.

Don't get me wrong, I dig lacrosse. It's a great sport and I love watching the championships. I've got no beef with lacrosse.

I've got a beef with the decision makers who decided that not having another of their cable channels was worthy enough to carry the UND-UNH game while Maryland/Virginia lacrosse played out the longest lacrosse game in history. Picture in picture would've worked out well also, but instead it was all or nothing.

If these were both NCAA Tournament games being played, fine you gotta roll with it and deal.

But a regular season game?! That's dumb, even more so when you've got folks tuning in for an elimination game, an NCAA Tournament game and you're telling them, "You know what? Too bad." I could delve into crazy theories and pile on ESPN again about their more than apparent disdain for hockey as a sport, but I'm not going to do that this time.

This was a flat-out poor decision to not use the wealth of programming options you have available to you to at least give folks a channel to switch to in the meantime while history in another sport played out. Instead, actual college hockey fans get shut out and cold shouldered while they miss the first period and a half of what turned out to be the greatest game of the tournament.

It's late here and there's a lot of things floating through my head and there's no way that it's going to be said coherently and that overtime thriller with New Hampshire and North Dakota did something to me.

It left me unable to put into words what I just watched.

I'm not going to blow it up into a life changing experience kind of thing, that's just histrionics.

I will say this though:

This game between UNH and UND is the game I'd show to people who are on the fence whether or not they can get into hockey. This is the sort of hockey game I want to see each night played in every arena in front of every fan and soon-to-be fan alike.

If that didn't win them over? Tell them the Bemidji State story. They were technically the worst team in the tournament, only getting in there thanks to winning the CHA Tournament auto-bid. They got a date with Notre Dame in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a reward and made the best of it by handing the Irish their lunch. Their reward for that? A date with the rough and tumble Big Red of Cornell who stunned #2 seed in the Midwest Northeastern scoring the game winning goal with under 30 seconds to play.


All of it.

With Bemidji and Cornell facing off for a date to D.C., another #3 or #4 seed will be headed to join fellow #3 Vermont and #4 Miami. Meanwhile in the East, top seed Boston University gets to face their Hockey East mates from UNH, the #3 seed in the region. The winner of this game gets a date with Hockey East cohorts Vermont for a spot in the Finals.

It's amazing that only one top seed survived the opening round. It's thoroughly shocking and completely enthralling and it's great for the sport. Just last year in Denver, I found myself and others complaining that it's always the same bunch of teams trading off spots in the Frozen Four. You could pick out any combination of Boston College, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota or North Dakota and generally get two or three teams in the Frozen Four.

Not this year though. This year is special, a true "anything can happen" kind of year.

It's the kind of year the NCAA Basketball tournament wishes it could get and market the hell out of.

Too bad. It's hockey's turn to tell the Cinderella stories.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Up Yours Basketball

Live From Manchester:

Normally I'd wait until I was home with pictures to upload and all that before writing anything, but yesterday's results demand that something be written in the moment.

The match ups that went down yesterday were:

East Regional
(4) Air Force vs. (1) Michigan
(3) Vermont vs. (2) Yale

West Regional
(4) Miami of Ohio vs. (1) Denver University
(3) Princeton vs. (2) Minnesota-Duluth


Air Force 2 - Michigan 0
Vermont 4 - Yale 1
Miami 4 - Denver 2
UMD 5 - Princeton 4 (OT)

Suck on that March Madness basketball.

Air Force was outshot 43-13 by Michigan. Didn't matter. Falcons goaltender Andrew Volkening has been to the tournament a few times before and it showed. Air Force has been close to pulling the huge upset the last two years in the tournament but just fell short losing to Minnesota in overtime two years ago and Miami last year. Third time's the charm, apparently.

Yale was the new black before this tournament got under way. Lots of folks saw the thumping they put on Cornell in the ECAC Championship game and figured they were hot and could roll their way to a couple more wins and make it to D.C. Meanwhile, Vermont stumbled their way into the tournament and in front of a big crowd in Bridgeport, Connecticut they yanked the crown off the local favorites winning convincingly.

Miami was another school whose regular season ended poorly, getting bounced out of the CCHA Tournament in the quarterfinals. Denver earned a top seed by reaching the WCHA Finals but showed signs of weakness getting humbled by Minnesota-Duluth in the final game. Apparently rest means a lot more to these teams at the end of the year because Miami was ahead 3-0 before Denver could muster a power play goal in the second period, only to cough up a late goal to effectively kill any momentum they might've gained.

As for the final game of the night...

Princeton must feel they're in a bad dream. The Tigers took it to the WCHA Tournament Champions for the better part of 59:15 seconds of regulation. They were getting the good bounces, the better opportunities... Hell, they even scored a power play goal and they suck at that.

Unfortunately, playing a solid full 60 minutes is an issue Princeton has had all season long and, amazingly, I've witnessed some of the most glaring failures this team has had this year. Think back to Thanksgiving at the RPI Holiday Tournament. Princeton handled Northeastern quite well in the first game, but against Mercyhurst in the championship... A nightmare.

Mercyhurst jumped out to a 4-0 lead on them in the first period, blowing the doors off of the Tigers but they fought back, and did so impressively scoring four goals in the third, the fourth coming with just two minutes to go in regulation and momentum fully on their side.

That is until 30 seconds later when on a haphazard wraparound attempt after a defensive misplay allowed Lakers winger Scott Pitt to put home the game winner, then later topped off with an empty net goal to seal up the most insane game I've watched all year.

That game could be written off, however, as ECAC Player of the Year Zane Kalemba didn't play. The same can't be said of Princeton's ECAC Semifinals double-overtime failure against Cornell when Princeton jumped ahead 3-1 and had that lead until there were just over two minutes remaining when Cornell pulled to within one and then tied the game with less than 40 seconds to play.

All of these things played out in a nightmare scenario for Princeton again last night when they held a 4-2 lead going into the final minute of play in front of the partisan crowd in Minneapolis.

UMD notches a goal to make things interesting with about 40 seconds to play.

No... Not again...

UMD amps up the pressure in the Princeton zone but get busted for a man in the crease to move the faceoff outside the zone with 12 seconds.

Sigh of relief time - thank goodness.

UMD gets the puck back in deep to the zone on Kalemba...


Kalemba shuttles the puck away in an effort to keep the clock moving...


A UMD player picks it off and is behind the net...

No........ No, no, n-

Players jam to the front and the pass comes out front...


For a lightning-fast put away that gets between Kalemba's pads for the game-tying goal with 0.8 seconds left.

Self explanatory Vader.

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. Two goals allowed in 40 seconds. The overtime was academic, although a semi-questionable tripping call against Princeton was thrown in for extra salt in the wound allowing UMD the man advantage they needed to put the game away in overtime.

Simply ridiculous. What a first day of the tournament. Basketball ain't got shit on hockey, plain and simple.

So now today's games involving a spot in D.C. are:

Vermont vs. Air Force
UMD vs. Miami

Ye gods. Only one higher seed survived yesterday and needed to pull the rabbit out of their hats to do it.

Can anything top yesterday? Maybe some Bemidji magic against Notre Dame would do the trick. Maybe a triple-overtime thriller. Maybe today will be pedestrian and top seeds will hold.


Enjoy the games today folks this tournament is already one for the ages.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On The Road Again - ManchVegas Bound

In a late spur-of-the-moment decision, I'm taking this act on the road one more time before we make the big honkin' road trip to D.C. for the Frozen Four.

This weekend?

Bienvenue? French? Maybe this explains UNH's fortunes...

That's right, we're going to live free or die in Manchester, New Hampshire with the Northeast Regional.

Live Free or Die is New Hampshire's state motto, but it sounds like something Tupac would say.

I know, I know... I'm just sayin'.

Manchester offers up the most intriguing set of teams amongst the four regions and should offer up the best games as well. Bruce Ciskie at FanHouse offers up his quick take on what to look for out of the Northeast, and if you know anything about college hockey, you know that these four teams offer up a ton of college hockey history.

Meet Rhett. He's a bad-ass dog.

I know that mystique and aura are just crappy terms for nostalgia, but this regional offers it up in spades. With Boston University you've got oodles of history and Beanpot Tournament Trophies galore. You've also got them as the #1 overall seed in the tournament and champions of the Hockey East Conference. They're kind of good. They're kind of really, really good.

No, they're not the Blackhawks.

Then there's the University of North Dakota. They were in the Frozen Four last season and were summarily trounced by eventual champions Boston College in the National Semifinals. This year, they come stumbling into the NCAA tournament after slipping up badly in the WCHA Final Five, bowing out there in the semifinals. They were the regular season WCHA champions and took home the MacNaughton Cup.

North Dakota fans are oddly confident heading into the NCAA Tournament, it seems, since some of the fans are already looking ahead to a potential Regional Final matchup with BU.

Why look ahead though? Perhaps it's because perennial Hockey East worryworts from the University of New Hampshire are their opening round opponents.

Oh, bother.

New Hampshire has everything going for them. They've made the tournament and get the guaranteed semi-home game in Manchester. How does this happen, you ask? The NCAA wants to try and guarantee some attendance, so they'll place local teams in Regional sites - almost opposite to how this works with the NCAA Basketball tournament with respect to Regionals.

New Hampshire also comes into this weekend stumbling having lost to Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals, many New Hampshire fans are just waiting for the floor to fall out on them once again.

What are UNH fans like? Think of Red Sox fans before 2004 but without the bad attitudes. They're the Eeyores of college hockey fandom, and I say that with as much care as I can muster. UNH fans are tremendous fans, some of the best all-around in college hockey, they're just down on hockey life.

UNH's matchup with UND, if you believe the fans of each side, is shaping up to be a battle between teams looking for their lives to just be ended in the least painful way possible. Then again, fans operate in extremes. I expect this game to be one of the best of the tournament between two highly-skilled and pedigreed programs.

Rounding out the foursome in Manchester is THE Ohio State University. The Buckeyes are probably best known school of these four, but as is the case with college hockey more often than not, the more well known you are the worse you are at it. While BU is the top seed in the tournament, Ohio State is not the worst team in the field (that distinction belongs to Bemidji State University) which affords OSU more of a chance to win, especially since OSU plays in the CCHA with two other #1 seeds (Michigan and Notre Dame).

Yeah, well how does the band spell it on ice?

Does OSU have a chance? Sure they do, the NCAA Hockey tournament is a bit more susceptible to huge upsets than most other NCAA Tournaments. Ohio State has wins this year against three of the tournaments top seeds from the aforementioned Michigan and Notre Dame as well as Denver University. They've got that going for them, which is nice.

The downside? BU is a monster this season. They've been better than everyone else all year long and they're battle tested after making their way through the Hockey East Tournament. Ohio State may scare them for a bit but I don't really consider them to be much of a threat.

Stranger things have happened, however.

ESPN 2 will be carrying these games and the two premiere hockey gurus the World Wide Leader has to offer will be in the house with John Buccigross and Barry Melrose handling duties for this one. The Regional Final on Sunday will be carried on ESPNU.

I'll have updates periodically posted on my Twitter page, so if you're not following me yet, get off your ass and do it already.

Monday, March 23, 2009

ECAC Weekend With A Twist

Normally I'd make this my recap post from a great weekend in which there were three fantastic hockey games played. Yale's 5-0 whitewashing of Cornell doesn't exactly qualify as a great game, but hey, two one-goal games on Friday night including a double-overtime thriller in which both games winners had to come back from a deficit late in the game to win it is pretty awesome.

Something came to light yesterday thanks to a couple of folks dropping me an e-mail to let me know that there were a couple big time hockey luminaries in attendance in Albany.

One of them is TSN's Bob McKenzie. Now I had assumed that Bob would be in Albany since, you know, his son Mike plays for St. Lawrence. Bob has made a couple of posts on USCHO's message board to say that he was indeed in town and that he tries to be there for all of Mike's games.

Pretty cool dad, wouldn't you say?

Bob was on NHL Live this afternoon discussing his trip into Albany where he let it be known that it was indeed true he wasn't the only familiar NHL face there that weekend. The other guy that was here?

Some might say he's got a complex.

That's right - Gary Bettman.

I'm sure you're wondering what in the world would Gary Bettman be doing at the very poorly attended ECAC Championships in Albany. Perhaps he was learning a few more tricks on how to think a half-empty arena is acceptable for attendance.


Gary might've thought he was in Atlanta, not Albany.

Turns out he was there to support his alma mater.

You see, Gary is a Cornell University graduate, something which Cornell is proud of. I'd like to think that Cornell might want to, you know, keep that one a little more under wraps considering he's not exactly a glowing example of academia.

Oh sure, the title is great, he runs a major professional sports league - a fantastic level of achievement and distinction. Then again, he's helped make the sport into a joke and has mismanaged it into a consistent punchline of how not to do things.


Now here's where I'll out myself a little bit as I was a faceless, anonymous Internet blogger and make it seem as if I knew he was going to be in the house to throw things in his face. I came dressed for insult for Gary.

Any of you who were in attendance at the ECAC Championships may have spotted one suave individual wearing the finest of old school throwback NHL jerseys and it turns out you can really stick out like a sore thumb when sitting in amongst the red and white clad Cornell folks when you're wearing these fine relics of past NHL greatness:

Hockey Joe on a Friday night.

Hockey Joe on a Saturday night.

No, I wasn't decked out in a Red Wings jersey meant to fit in with the Cornell folks. I wasn't wearing a new, snazzy, overpriced Reebok Edge jersey to show how much more money I was willing to fork over to Gary's Empire of Bad Ideas.

Old school, baby.

Old school squads that Gary's Raw Deal helped run out of existence.

I'd love to say I knew that he would be there and I did it on purpose to shove it all in his face and have it be my way of providing him with the middle finger that only Ken Holland can give him best.

You still can't hear me Gary? Allow me to turn it up.

I'd love to say that.

But I can't.

It's pure coincidence that it worked out that way and while that sucks for me that I didn't scheme up this MENSA brainchild of a reminder to Gary that the way things used to be are more beloved and more cherished than anything he's schemed up since taking charge of the league.

I will pat myself on the back for pulling it off anyhow.

I'm just a little disappointed that either I didn't spot Gary myself or he didn't spot me and then commend/berate me on my choice of fashion. I think it would've gone down similar to an infamous movie encounter...

Dream Sequence: Hockey Joe (left) runs into Gary Bettman (right) at the ECAC Championships.

OK so that's a bit overplayed, but that's how it plays out in my head.

Bite me.

Gary, next time you're in Albany I'd love to chat. I'll be easy to find as I'll have another relic from the past to help me stand out, just don't think I'll go changing up my site after we get to talk though. I know you pulled some fun on Wyshynski over at Yahoo because after you talked to him, his link for "Gary Bettman - Commissioner For Life" topics seems to disappear from the right side of his page (although it still can be found at the bottom of entries).

The invitation is always open, just drop me a line next time.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Unreal Weekend

This will be a quick post here to say that yesterday's ECAC Championship games were freaking outstanding.

Yale coming back with two goals in 22 seconds late in the third period to defeat St. Lawrence followed up by Cornell scoring two goals in the final two and a half minutes to force overtime with Princeton and then putting home the game winner in double-overtime makes for a full day of hockey.

Not to mention gathering with some of the hockey compadres after the second game was finally over with at about 11:30 pm. Seven hours of hockey awesomeness makes for a full day.

Adding to the awesome? USCHO has finally posted my story based around Hobart College's hockey program that I had mentioned briefly a day or two ago. I think USCHO was hoping to use it as a feature should Hobart make the Finals and/or win it all.

Alas, Neumann College decided to pee on the parade and win 2-0 in the National Semifinals.

It's not the sarcastic wit-fest you'll find around here normally, this is spruced up a bit. You know, semi-professional and it's a great story nonetheless. Check it out and enjoy.

I'll be back down in Albany this afternoon and tonight for the consolation game between St. Lawrence and Princeton that likely means a spot in the NCAA Tournament is on the line as well as the Championship Game between Yale and Cornell.

I will be posting scoring updates to Twitter, so if you can't find the games on TV or can't make it to the arena or anything else... I got your hook-up.

There'll be crappy amateur photos galore coming soon for this so be ready.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Back To School: ECAC Championships

I'll be there in downtown Albany, New York this afternoon and evening for the ECAC Championships.

You can bet your sweet ass I'll be posting scoring updates to Twitter as well.

It's going to be an Ivy League three-way dance with Yale, Cornell and Princeton taking part with the outliers from St. Lawrence joining the fray. Yale and SLU drop the puck at 4 p.m. while Cornell and Princeton are scheduled to let it drop at 7 p.m.

There is an added fun bonus to being in Albany this weekend. Should the games get done on time this evening, events at the Times Union Center will be wrapping up right before Siena College and Ohio State tip off in the NCAA basketball tournament first round game, set to begin at around 9:40 p.m.

Siena College, of course, is based out of Loudonville, NY - a suburb of Albany.

March Madness, indeed.



Thursday, March 19, 2009

Amherst : A Pictorial. Sort of.

Ahh, Amherst!

Sounds like the name of a crappy morning TV talk show, doesn't it? Doesn't it kind of remind you of something you'd see TV's Danny Tanner on?

"Ahh, Amherst!" It's got a ring to it, doesn't it Saget?

I will say this, Amherst is a nice little place. If you've ever been to a NESCAC college town, you're not unfamiliar with the kind of setting you'll get in Amherst. The place looks and feels like academia come alive. There are no ugly buildings here, just a lot of buildings that feel like they've been around for about 250 years.

That said, Orr Rink, despite being an older facility itself, doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of the old styled buildings around it.

That said, the old barns like this I'm rather partial to because these were meant for hockey to be played in. There's virtually nothing else that a place like this could be used for other than hockey. It's these small cradles of greatness that you can find dotting the landscape all over Massachusetts. Sure Amherst College might be a very well-to-do place, but it's certainly not a place where athletics dictate policy and a small rink like Orr Rink embodies that statement.

Outside of Orr Rink, parking was very hard to find which surprised and horrified me. Arriving there at 5:30 in the afternoon I figured this would give me ample time to snoop around and check out sites around the immediate part of the campus. Finding parking I had assumed would be easy.

Not so fast.

What I'd neglected to do before leaving was to check out and see that Amherst College was the center of the D-III NCAA Playoffs universe that afternoon. Earlier in the day, the Amherst women's hockey team defeated Plattsburgh State to earn a spot in the D-III Women's Frozen Four. That afternoon, the parking was all gone because the Amherst women's basketball team was hosting an NCAA Tournament game in the campus gymnasium, located next to Orr Rink.

Well at least I didn't have to worry about the hockey game being sold out.

Outside of Orr there was a sight that you don't normally see in this part of the country, nevermind at places like Amherst College: Tailgating.

Yes, it's like a crappy paparazzi photo. Shut up.

I was a bit surprised to see anyone out there at all, but I'd guess that given the huge day of NCAA Tournament sports going on that day, and it was beautiful outside... Hey, why not? Burgers, hot dogs, sodas, beers... A nice simple little picnic setting for an uncommonly gorgeous pre-spring day full of playoffs. You can't beat it.

What did catch me off guard is that school shirts and sweatshirts weren't the garment of choice at the tailgate, but rather it was Amherst hats. Hey, whatever gets it done I say. That said, how is it that the dog is the only guy going full out in purple? He can't even get into the game!

Poor guy.

That said, upon walking into Orr Rink I had a quote from the movie Batman repeating in my head over and over and over again...

And purple! I just love purple!

Even Jack's had enough of the purple already.

Yeah, there's purple everywhere inside of Orr Rink. The good folks over at Uni Watch always make it very clear their stance on purple uniforms (they despise it because it's not fear-inducing), and really, I can't fault them too much on this.

Wealthy private institutions in the Northeast can't get enough of it, in both college and high school alike. Big time NESCAC rivals Amherst College and Williams College both bust out purple as their main color and neither of them are particularly well liked amongst their NESCAC compatriots, nevermind everyone else in New England.

My terrible photography skills and sub-par camera don't allow for me to show you just how purple everything is inside of the place, and for that I apologize, but every bit of trim is painted purple, all the bleacher seats are purple and the home team, of course, is decked out in purple. It's quite the sight to behold and is not unlike that of my old high school.

Yeah, like I said, purple at some point was the new black, probably before black was the new black. Maybe black is the new purple. Hmm...

I wasn't high - it looks more purple than this. I swear!

This place really reminds you of what it would be like to play inside a warehouse but this is what helps sell the "roots of American hockey" aura of Orr Rink. I know I'm messing around a lot here about the color scheme and all that but I liked this place a lot, even if it was a bit lacking in team decor.

The FatHead people should start making stuff for smaller colleges.


The best part of taking in a game at this level is that there's not a bad place to watch from unless you doom yourself to a bad location. Obviously there's no fixed seating here so its general admission seating. I managed to place myself in the heart of the Amherst College fan section which, for a game where I had no vested interest in who wins or loses, was OK by me.

I was literally on top of the action. I may have gotten a team busted for too many men on the ice in fact.

The fans at Amherst seem to be good folks and they're vocal when it's called for (just ask the officials) and they're very loud when the team scores. That said, one of the most entertaining cheers I've ever witnessed occurred at this game from an Amherst fan:
Go get 'em lads!
Just fantastic. Sometimes stereotypes are great because they come true right before your eyes.

As for the game itself. Phenomenal. Hobart came out on top with a 2-1 overtime victory and their healthy contingency of fans were rewarded for their long trip out from Geneva, NY for it. Hobart now goes back to their second D-III Frozen Four in four seasons. Not too bad.

Classiest moment in sports.

At the game, I met up with a guy named Larry Carle who you'll get to read about a little more later on either here or on USCHO.com provided they post my story. If not... well, you know you can find it here later on.

Coming up this weekend as part of Back To School it's the D-I ECAC Championships in Albany featuring the top four teams from that conference: Yale, Cornell, Princeton and St. Lawrence (see, I told you they'd be good).

I'll be trolling about in Albany so if you spot me and say hi, I'll accuse you of stalking me and get the Albany P.D. involved.

Or I'll just offer to buy you a beer for being such a loyal follower.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

On The Road - Reminder

This is just a reminder that I'll be at the NCAA D-III Quarterfinals in Amherst, MA today and I will be posting scoring updates on Twitter.


Friday, March 13, 2009

BGSU Update & What The Hell Is A Lord Jeff?

I just wanted to add a couple of things to the Bowling Green Hockey story here so you the faithful few can help the cause as best as one can do on the Internet.

First off, you can do your part to stay apprised on new information and fun ways to try and reach out to the BGSU administration by checking out the Facebook group "Save BGSU Hockey!" and joining up with them. If you're not on Facebook, where the hell have you been?

One thing that's been mentioned in the discussion over there is how, on top of funding for improvements to the hockey team's facilities being cut and the building of the Sebo Center for the football program there's also another massive project underway at Bowling Green that was just announced in December.

The university has unveiled the design of the Stroh Center, the new campus basketball arena. I'm not going to point out the obvious here about their new facility sharing the name of a legendary brewery but I will at least show you this that by doing so, you'll further upset the hockey gods:

Stroh's: Good enough for Mario, yet not good enough for BGSU Hockey

The cost of the Stroh Center is slated to clock in at around $36 million dollars. I guess it would be unreasonable to ask that this be a multi-purpose arena.

Wait? It is?

The 131,000 square-foot building will also house the Champions Court practice facility, a BGSU team store, the BGSU Hall of Fame, the University’s main ticket office, athletic offices for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball, conference and video rooms and sports medicine areas.

Oh, I see. BGSU Hall of Fame? I guess that won't have any mention of hockey there, right? You know, once they make the program a distant memory and all, right? I can see the entry for Rob Blake now...

What's this "hockey" you speak of?

That seems fitting. I'm sure this will be placed right next to the NCAA Championship trophy that'll be covered in dust and buried in the back of the display case behind all the MAC basketball participation trophies.

I guess my point here is that if you're in charge of a university's spending and you're contemplating cutting off programs, ones that at one time were powerful National Championship programs, because of budget concerns... Why build a new arena with that money?

Oh I get it that the Stroh family gave them an $8 million gift to erect something in their name and they're very generous for that, but that's still $28 million coming from elsewhere, $22 million of which is coming from each BGSU student in the form of a $60 student fee.

Real nice, right? I guess asking for fiscal responsibility or accountability or even common sense is asking for the world. Amazing.

I have a feeling we'll be revisiting this story more in the future.

As for actual hockey that's going to be played...

Gross Misconduct is hitting the road for more Back To School action - this time I'll be heading to Amherst, Massachusetts for the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals between the Hobart Statesmen and the Amherst Lord Jeffs.

Wait, the what now? Lord Jeffs?!

Yes, it's true - Division III hockey is made all the more entertaining by the incredible nicknames many of the teams have. In Amherst's case, a ridiculous team nickname is made much less intimidating and impressive when you look at a picture of the man responsible for the name.

Lord Jeffrey Amherst: Supermodel

Be afraid everyone! It's the dandy fops!

With that said, Lord Amherst was a real son of a bitch to deal with during the French and Indian Wars and might be one of the most sadistic people around as he's credited with being the first military man to incorporate germ warfare into his strategy.

I'm not joking. Quoth Lord Amherst:

Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.

Yes, but you see, Native American nicknames are a big problem in college sports.


Aside from that, I don't think I'll be accepting any free gifts the college might hand out, my paranoia level is sky high after reading this. Then again, after reading all that information about Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the Hobart nickname of Statesmen seems even more cartoonish than their logo:

Ooooh... Scary!

Hobart would be better off posting a picture of the least favorite Congressman or Senator at the time to scare people, but they apparently want to avoid rioting. I can't really fault them for that.

Amherst earned their way to the quarterfinals by defeating Babson College 4-1 and Hobart advanced after taking out Nichols College 3-0. The winner of this game advances to Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid to face the winner of the Plattsburgh State-Neumann College game, so to say it's kind of a big deal is an understatement.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cancelling Falcons Crest

I've been jumping back into my collegiate hockey roots here a bit because, frankly, this point of the NHL season bores me while also making me furious. I know that the playoff races are crazy and "anything can shake loose" and all that. I get it, that's great, that's fine. Whatever.

It bores me because you have mediocre teams stepping up their play when they've been sleepwalking all season long and you've got teams that have been legitimately great all year dogging it because they're equal parts injured or bored and have coasted along waiting for the playoffs to begin. It happens every season and it's frustrating to try and cover. I made my calls on who was missing the playoffs before the season was even starting and somehow it's looking like I'm going to be, at worst, 60% correct.

Suck on that Dwayne Klessel.

With that said, it's not all sunshine and rainbows in the college game. It's conference playoff time in Division I and NCAA Tournament time in Division III, and that's the greatest time of the year to be a college hockey fan - but there's dire talk coming out of Ohio.

College Hockey News broke a story discussing the financial muck and mire the Bowling Green University program is in:

Bowling Green school president Dr. Carol Cartwright was rumored to have made a recommendation that cutting hockey be one of the options. University trustee Michael Marsh denied that was the case, and said that decisions on alleviating a large budget shortfall would come from the athletic director Greg Christopher.

If you've been following college hockey for any amount of time, this story line isn't anything new. Last season, Wayne State University ended their program thanks to budget cutbacks in higher education in the state of Michigan. It's an all too familiar story and with college hockey not being one of the cheapest sports to maintain, especially if you don't own your own facility, it's one that hurts schools that haven't been successful at all.

That's not the case with Bowling Green.

Bowling Green University boasts a pretty impressive list of players who have come out of there. Take a look at the names on this list:

Rob Blake: Former L.A. King and current San Jose Sharks defenseman.

Ken Morrow
: Former Islanders defenseman and member of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" Olympic gold medal winners in the Lake Placid games.

George McPhee
: A Hobey Baker Award winner and former NHL'er now currently the general manager of the Washington Capitals.

Dan Bylsma
: Former NHL journeyman and now head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kevin Bieksa
: Current Vancouver Canucks defenseman.

The list of other former players at BGSU includes 80s and 90s hockey "That Guys" like Garry Galley, Todd Rierden, Nelson Emerson, Brian Holzinger, Mike Liut, Paul Ysebaert, and Greg de Vries.

A couple of the other names familiar with Bowling Green hockey come from their 1984 National Championship team.

Oh, did I forget to mention that BGSU won a title? Yeah, these kinds of things can get forgotten about apparently.

A few of the players on that team have moved on to become great coaches in college hockey, among them RIT's Wayne Wilson, Ohio State's John Markell, Clarkson's George Roll and current Bowling Green head coach Scott Paluch.

Roll in particular had a lot to say about this news with Bowling Green. More from the CHN story:

I don't know the specifics. I do know I have a lot of pride from that program, it was the best years or my life, and I hate to see the program being treated this way.

I don't think the program has been supported like it needs to, just from things I've heard. Being there this year (with Clarkson), the rink clearly needs work. There's a lot of talk amongst alumni in the last couple days. We're doing what we can.

This is what it boils down to for programs in positions like this: Donations from the alumni.

What's worse is that BGSU had planned to do improvements to the home rink but eventually cut the budget down for such things so much they bagged it entirely - money likely reallocated and spent on the football program and to make improvements to Doyt Perry Stadium - including the brand new Sebo Center which attaches to the stadium and is meant to be an all-purpose athletic facility.

What's sadder still is that it took donations from NHL players Rob Blake and Nelson Emerson to even get improvements to the team's locker room handled. Don't get me wrong here, money in college is always better spent on education but given how much students fork over to attend there, monies ponied up from state taxpayers or extremely wealthy donors that enjoy seeing their name carved in stone - it probably wouldn't hurt to see a few things kept up to code, at the least.

Shouldn't a former championship program deserve a better fate than this?

What happens next? Will a big donor or two come forth and help, and (pardon the phrasing it can't be helped here) bail out the program and get it set on the correct course? Will there be a farewell tour next season for the Falcons where they, essentially, play a lame duck season knowing full-well that they're done after the year (similar to what happened to Wayne State)?

It's tough to say, but if I'm going to lean any way on this: I have to think the axe is going to fall and Division I hockey gets a team lighter. Why? Simple. The president of Bowling Green State University has overseen this type of thing before.

Dr. Carol Cartwright is an esteemed woman in academia and someone who is highly regarded at being one of the best in the country at running a university. She's also the woman with the blood of the Kent State Golden Flashes hockey program on her hands.

In 1991, Cartwright was named president of Kent State and in 1994, the program called it quits. Cartwright was just named president of Bowling Green State in January and sees a failing and faltering program that is draining money and not making any of it back. Frankly, in her position you can see why she would make a recommendation to cut the program.

The Falcons suffer greatly in attendance, playing to a 40.9% (2,044 out of 5,000) full arena on average, a mark only better than a few schools: American International, Sacred Heart, Bentley, Alabama-Huntsville, and Ohio State.

The first three schools listed there play to less than an average of 500 fans per game in venues that hold less than 2,000 people. Compare that to Alabama-Huntsville who is in a similar situation to Bowling Green meanwhile Ohio State draws nearly 4,200 per game inside the cavernous Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the OSU campus, a facility they share with the basketball team.

If folks aren't going to the games, you're not making ticket revenue, people aren't buying team gear - all of that. Then again, who wants to go to an arena that hasn't seen improvements made to it since the school last won a National Championship.

You get back what you put into things and in the case with the Bowling Green hockey program, it appears not much other than basic maintenance and budgeting has been put into it and it's shown in the standings. They haven't made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990, and they haven't been above .500 since the 1996-1997 season under coach Buddy Powers.

The school is then in the position of deciding whether or not to reward mediocrity and apparently opted not to while ignoring the fact that having sub-par facilities go a long way towards making a program more successful and bringing in better recruits and putting a winner on the ice that folks want to come watch.

In the financial "chicken or egg" way of thinking, the school administrators simply understand that neither the chicken nor the eggs are making any money and that's all that matters. If the eggs weren't rotten or the chickens were more palatable, then maybe BGSU doesn't have to worry.


The administrators don't have the time nor the patience to worry and they need financial results fast and a good way to score a few hundred thousand dollars is to cut off a program that's not getting it done.

At other schools where this has happened, a lack of success can be blamed but ultimately it's not athletics people are plunking their money down for at those schools (namely Fairfield and Iona College most recently). Sure, they've got football teams too but hockey doesn't carry the zest for any of the big money alums from places like that - there's no history for hockey and unless you're hamstrung by Title IX concerns and money worries, football will always stick around.

BGSU has history and a damn good one at that. This isn't going to be a quiet dismissal the way Fairfield, Iona, Wayne State, Findlay, Kent State and Illinois-Chicago were before.

This one will be loud and it will be felt across the hockey landscape and a lot of the blame can rest on the shoulders of the administration that turned their backs on it for so long.

Bowling Green has been given nothing and now there may be nothing to get back. Maybe this can all be averted but with an announcement like this sneaking out at the end of the season, I can't help but figure that bad news for hockey at Bowling Green is coming sooner than not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Deadline - Going Wild!

Very literally I'm going Wild - I've got a new column over at Hockey Wilderness dealing with the Wild... not dealing.

Again, as always, pay a visit over to SBN with neide and buddhafisch they do a KILLER job there covering one of the most frustrating teams in the NHL.

Be nice and lend them a soft shoulder to weep on because their team's management hates the fans a lot.