the thousands of e-mails we get every week, roughly 95 percent
are spam. Seriously. If I walk away from the computer for
an hour, return, and check my inbox, there will be no fewer
than 50 messages extolling the virtues of hoodia, counterfeit
designer handbags, hot stock tips, and Viagra. Of the remaining
five percent, about half are from people telling us we’re
idiots, though that number has dropped drastically since
last month’s INCH Podcast in which we shared our frustrations
regarding overly hostile e-mailers.
That means 2.5 percent of the e-mails each
week are genuine hockey-related questions and/or comments.
Some are easy – will a specific game be televised?
– and some take a little longer to answer. And though
we try to answer legitimate e-mails personally, there are
times we can’t get to every one because we’re
so busy. Like during the season, for example.
There have been recurring themes in our recent
e-mails, however – separate but related questions
in which readers ask, “What’s wrong with Team
X?” and “Is Team Y for real?” As a service
to you, the e-mailer, and the rest of the INCH staff, I’ll
use this forum to respond our most popular queries.
wrong with Boston College?
Beantown e-mailer sent us quite the missive regarding
the Eagles’ ills, touching on the woeful power play
and inconsistent “Yandle-like” (his phrase,
not mine) defensemen. Well, all except one guy, our e-mailer
wrote, is consistent. Unfortunately, he’s consistently
bad. Contributing factors, sure, but he zeroed in on the
one factor I believe is killing BC – lack of leadership.
The Eagles are a young team, with just three seniors
– Brian Boyle, Joe Rooney, and backup goalie Joe
Pearce – on the roster. But last year, they were
even younger, with three seniors and 17 freshmen and sophomores.
The difference is that Chris Collins, Stephen Gionta,
and Peter Harrold are gone. Not only were they excellent
players, but they were also great leaders who provided
a steadying influence for an inexperienced team. They
never panicked and showed up in crucial situations.
In the times I’ve seen Boyle play either in person
or on TV, he’s never struck me as the kind of guy
capable of putting a team on his shoulders and carrying
it. He seems better suited to going out and doing his
own thing, and he’s not able to do that as the Eagles’
captain. Wearing the “C” is an honor, but
some players can’t handle for the responsibility
it carries. Seeing him disappear for long stretches of
important games in the past – or not show up at
all – makes me think Boyle is in that group.
Q. What’s wrong with Wisconsin?
Let’s see … the Badgers lost Joe Pavelski,
Robbie Earl, Adam Burish, Tom Gilbert, and Ryan MacMurchy
from last year’s team. Those were Bucky’s
top five scorers. Ross Carlson, the team’s sixth-leading
scorer last year, has missed all but three games due to
injury. So has Wisconsin’s seventh-leading scorer
from a year ago, Jack Skille. Brian Elliott is good, but
he’d have to be Jedi-good to keep the Badgers afloat
all by himself.
As an aside, how did Wisconsin start the season as the
nation’s top-ranked team? Isn’t the point
of preseason polls to rank the teams according to how
you think they’ll stand at the end of the year?
Based on the two voter-driven polls (the INCH Power Rankings
are compiled by our staff), the preseason rankings reflected
where teams finished last season.
Q. Is Notre Dame for real?
I could cop out and say, ask me again in a month after
the Fighting Irish have played Michigan State, Nebraska-Omaha,
Alaska, and Michigan, and things have come pretty easy
for Notre Dame considering they’ve pretty much been
able to guarantee a tie by scoring one goal a night. But
I think they’re legit, and I think they’ve
got the pieces in place to contend for an NCAA Tournament
berth and a CCHA championship.
David Brown has been phenomenal in goal and even if he
doesn’t maintain his current level of play, he’ll
give the Irish a chance to win every night. Also, coach
Jeff Jackson has put together a balanced offensive attack
– through eight games, 10 different players have
at least one goal and 18 skaters have contributed at least
one point – and the power play and penalty kill
are among the nation’s best.
Q. Is Minnesota for real?
Here’s where I use that mulligan. This is what
I know about the Gophers – they’re awfully
fun to watch, they’re offensively gifted, and they’ve
probably got more talent than any other team in the nation.
That said, I also know they’re young and I’m
not sold on their goaltending. There’s no question
that Minnesota is an NCAA Tournament team. But until I
see how Kellen Briggs and/or Jeff Frazee, the defensive
corps, and the rookie forwards react in tight situations,
I’m not ready to declare the Gophers an elite-level
Q. Is Clarkson for real?
To steal a phrase from ECAC Hockey League beat writer
Joe Gladziszewski, they’re more for real than they’ve
been in a long time. They’re sort of the Bizzaro-world
ECACHL team, one that’d rather win by outscoring
you instead of shutting you down. Sure, David Leggio has
proven capable in goal. Of course, when your mates average
nearly five goals a game, you don’t exactly have
to be Georges Vezina.
They’re another club with fabulous
depth up front – forward Nick Dodge, who was on
the short list of players we seriously considered for
preseason All-America honors, is tied for sixth among
the Golden Knights in scoring with seven points in eight
games. With so many forwards capable of beating opponents
one-on-one, Clarkson should be fun to watch when they
play on the big ice at St. Cloud State later this month
and take part in the Badger Hockey Showdown during the
THE BITTER END
My plea for reasons North
Dakotans are bitter generated some fairly good responses.
One reply, however, stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Here’s what Scott (a.k.a. “Scattman”)
from Bismarck had to say about the matter (shortened for
Check Fan Poll
first Mike Check fan poll as selected by 15 fans from
around the world (ballots submitted prior to Tuesday's
“My best guess why most North Dakotans
are bitter is because this area is a flat pancake, but instead
of being all warm and fluffy it is frigid and hard. The
belief here is that the cold … keeps the riff raff
out of the state. It also keeps out progress.
“There is a severe inferiority complex
that has been ingrained in most North Dakotans. The only
time North Dakota receives national exposure is when the
Weather Channel briefly touches on the minus-40 temperatures
or when you talk college hockey. Even when UND is discussed
nationally, North Dakotans feel ... the outside world looks
at them as Minnesota’s annoying, little brother.
“Another problem is that North Dakota,
as a whole, is afraid of change. Instead of embracing the
possibilities this area can offer, they run from them because
it’s CHANGE! Economic growth and industry are passing
this area by, forcing the youth to flee … for good-paying
jobs. This migration leaves behind the older citizens, who
become even more isolationist in their mentality. If this
trend continues I foresee North Dakota as becoming a territory
of South Dakota or a Canadian province.
“If you have any other ideas as to why
you think North Dakotans are bitter, I would love to hear
them. Meanwhile, I will be sitting at my computer praying
for a rescue party to find me!”
I feel your pain, NoDakers. Growing up in
northern Minnesota, the only time we received national exposure
was when a) it was 40-below, b) we got three feet of snow,
or c) hundreds of thousands of acres of forest were on fire.
Even then, our fires never got the attention of fires in
California. A 60-acre fire in the San Fernando Valley leads
the nightly news because it’s within a quarter-mile
of somebody’s house, but a 250,000-acre fire burns
in the Superior National Forest and it’s on page 12B
of your newspaper because the only homes threatened belong
to beavers, woodchucks, and muskrats.
From here on out, then, there is a Mike Check
moratorium on North Dakota negativity (unless you guys rip
me, in which case it’s go time.) And if the Fighting
Sioux win the national title, I would argue for a championship
parade across the entire state starting in Wahpeton, doubling
back in Williston, and ending in the Ralph Engelstad Arena
parking lot. Oh, and everyone in the state would follow
in their cars, just like the Hickory residents did in “Hoosiers.”
I've made a habit of criticizing
you, so I think it's only fair to point out when
you give us here at BU more credit than I do. I figured
we would be down to about 8 or 9 after our loss to Lowell
and you dropped us only two spots. Thanks for the faith.
– Matt Bain; Boston
That little lecture from a couple weeks ago
helped, eh? Seriously, I think BU is a top-eight team nationally,
especially given how well John Curry has played thus far.
I'd feel a little bit better about the Terriers if they'd
score with more consistency. And if they didn't have more
ties as Aston Villa.
Can a scout come look at me?–
Matt; Woodbury, N.J.
Sure ... Cub or Boy?
IT'S GOTTA GO SOMEWHERE...
These notes hang on to Mike Check like K-Fed
hung on to Britney.
• Rare are the Friday and Saturday nights
I’m not in front of the TV watching college hockey,
and I usually manage to wander over to Fox Sports Net North
to watch the Gophers for a period or so. Now, I know my
hearing isn’t that great, but am I the only one who
thinks Doug Woog sounds like he’s got about 75 peanut
M&M’s in his mouth when he’s talking? He
makes Mushmouth from “Fat Albert” sound like
• The NHL released the list of top-selling
jerseys through the league’s online store in October.
No. 1 on the list? Former Shattuck-St. Mary’s standout
Sidney Crosby, but he’s followed by East Lansing native/ex-Michigan
State standout/2001 Hobey Baker Award winner/wearer-of-the-Buffaslug
Ryan Miller. Miller was also named the league’s First
Star (a.k.a. player of the month) for October. Fellow Sabe
and ex-Hobey Baker winner Chris Drury was fifth on the most-popular
• Who was it that said, “Don’t
shoot until you see the whites of their eyes?” If
you answered Revolutionary War Col. William Prescott, you’re
right – at least that’s who generally gets credit
for the line. But had you answered Northern Michigan coach
Walt Kyle, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Through 10 games, the Wildcats have been outshot
by their opponents, 323-178. That’s an average difference
of 14.5 shots per game. The most shots NMU has attempted
this season – 23, in the first game of the year against
Wisconsin in Green Bay and one of three occasions this season
when they’ve attempted 20-plus shots. On the other
hand, ‘Cats foes have taken no fewer than 22 shots,
attempted 29 or more shots seven times, fired 36-plus shots
in five games, and launched 39 or more shots four times.
• In the next Mike Check: In light of
Herb Brooks’ induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame
this weekend (not to mention Calgary Flames owner and head
of the NHL Board of Governors Harley Hotchkiss, a Michigan
State alum) I’ve been thinking, should there be a
College Hockey Hall of Fame? Stupid question – of
course there should. Where should it be located? And if
you had the power to choose the first 10 inductees into
such a hall, who would you select?
likes lists. Sometimes, the Meaning-List will be relevant
to college hockey. Other times it’ll be, well, meaningless.
Programs on My Tivo (In No Particular Order)
Late Late Show, August 27, 2004: The
final show of the Craig Kilborn era. Most of the INCH
staff are big fans of Craiggers, partly due to his work
on ESPN and partly due to his sense of humor. On those
nights I'm working late at INCH World Headquarters, I
often wish I could flick on the tube and catch a game
"Lisa on Ice” episode from The Simpsons
The episode in which Lisa and Bart play on rival hockey
teams. The highlight is Homer seeing German exchange student
Uter in his underwear, yelling, "Look, that boy's
got bosoms!" and chasing him around the locker room
trying to snap him with a towel.
Friday Night Lights: I've not
read the book nor seen the television show, so I figure
that eventually watching the movie will be a good compromise.
About six episodes of The Backyardigans:
Kind of a "in case of emergency, break glass"
thing for the kid. Besides, those little animals can dance
Three episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset
Strip: It's a pretty entertaining show and
since it's critically acclaimed, it makes me feel like
less of an idiot.