I Wanna Live Forever
I first kicked around the idea of coming up with a list
of inaugural inductees for a fictional College Hockey Hall
of Fame about a month ago, I arbitrarily set the number
of honorees at 10, thinking the hardest part would be making
the final few cuts.
Man, was I wrong. I didn’t even come
remotely close to reaching double digits.
There are a lot of great players, coaches,
and administrators deserving of a spot in the College Hockey
Hall of Fame – if such a place existed – but
I felt the first inductees had to be absolute no-brainers.
When you heard their name mentioned, you’d nod in
agreement and say to yourself, “Well, of course.”
After a couple hours of informal research
and little success, I wondered if I was being a little too
critical in my assessment. I checked out the early voting
for the Baseball Hall of Fame, knowing there had never been
a unanimous, first-ballot hall-of-famer.
(As an aside, how could Babe Ruth not
be a unanimous pick? Even people who don’t know the
difference between baseball and “Base-ketball”
know Babe Ruth. This would be like the Bible Hall of Fame
selection committee not unanimously voting in Jesus on the
first ballot. “Well, yeah, he was great, but his career
Still, some of totals baffled me. Granted,
there were some early glitches in Hall balloting, but how
was Cy Young not an inaugural member? Rogers Hornsby, who
batted about .750 for his career and could hit a bullet
out of midair with a wet noodle, then tell you the caliber
of the gun from which it was fired, didn’t get in
until 1942, six years after the inaugural class.
Anyway, I decided I wasn’t being too
harsh, and I wasn’t an idiot. So I stuck with my list.
Here’s what I came up with, in no particular order
• Hobart Amory Hare
Baker, Princeton: Gee, ya think? An inaugural
member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, there’s a college
hockey trophy of some import that bears his name. An exceptional
athlete in terms of talent and character, he took one
minor penalty in his college career. Heck, he’s
in the College Football Hall of Fame, he was a fighter
pilot at a time when flying an airplane was roughly equivalent
to piloting Doc Brown’s tricked-out Delorean from
“Back to the Future,” and he’s the only
college hockey player on whom F. Scott Fitzgerald based
a character (Amory Blaine in “This Side of Paradise.”)
• Herb Brooks, Minnesota:
Never mind that he coached the Gophers for seven seasons,
making four trips to the Frozen Four and winning three
national titles. And never mind that he coached the 1980
U.S. Olympic hockey team to the greatest upset in sports
history – or at least the event by which all other
upsets are measured. By guiding that team to the gold
medal, Brooks did more to promote the quality of player
found in college hockey (albeit indirectly) than anyone
in the history of the game.
• Ken Dryden, Cornell:
A three-time first-team All-American, his career winning
percentage of .944 (76-4-1) is an untouchable record.
As a sophomore, he backstopped the Big Red to a national
title, posting a 26-0-1 record, a 1.46 goals against average,
and a .945 save percentage. Additional cool Dryden note:
He shared goaltending duties in the fabled 1972 Summit
Series with another ex-collegian, Michigan Tech’s
• Bob Johnson, Wisconsin:
When INCH named Badger Bob its top college coach ever
three years ago, we heard nary an objection. In 12 seasons,
he guided the fledgling Wisconsin program to four Frozen
Fours and three NCAA championships, and the players he
recruited went on to win a national championship for the
Badgers under Jeff Sauer in 1983. He further proved his
coaching prowess by piloting the Pittsburgh Penguins to
a Stanley Cup in 1991 and, for good measure, he's credited
with giving us the phrase, "It's a great day for
• Bill Masterton,
Denver: Remembered for the fatal brain injury
he suffered in 1968 while playing for the Minnesota North
Stars, Masterton led DU to NCAA championships in 1960
and 1961 – the ’61 club was arguably the best
team in college hockey history. The two-time All-American
scored 196 points in three seasons. A testament to his
skill – failing to crack the Montreal Canadiens’
roster after two years in the minors, he left hockey,
got his master’s degree, worked a white-collar job
for two years while playing semi-pro hockey, and spent
one season with the U.S. National Team. When the NHL expanded
in ’67, he made the Stars’ roster.
• John Mayasich,
Minnesota: In 111 career games, he scored 144
goals and 154 assists, including 80 points in 30 games
as a senior. He’s still the Gophers’ career
points leader. Some credit him for pioneering the use
of the slap shot. How good was he? John Mariucci called
him a “bigger, stronger Gretzky.” And though
he was a forward by trade, he played defense on the 1960
U.S. Olympic Team because coach Jack Riley loved the way
he could dominate both ends of the ice.
There. That’s the list. And no
pre-emptive strike to head off the complaints e-mailers
are going to send about no North Dakotans, or those alleging
Western bias. Hey, if the East is so wonderful, why isn’t
there an Eastern omelet?
YOU CAN PICK A TEAM, AND YOU CAN PICK
YOUR NOSE, BUT YOU CAN'T PICK YOUR TEAM'S NOSE
With much fanfare, USA Hockey announced on
national television (OK … it was on Versus) last week
the 22 players who will represent the country at the 2007
IIHF World Junior Championship in Mora and Leksand, Sweden.
The whole thing seems like a glorified homecoming ceremony
– the players are coronated, there is polite applause,
and various dogs and ponies congratulate themselves for
a job well done.
Check Fan Poll
Mike Check fan poll selected by 15 fans from around
the world (ballots submitted prior to games of Dec. 8)
|6. Boston College
St. Cloud State
Sunday in Calgary, 30-odd players descended
on Father Bauer rink for a six-day tryout camp to determine
which skaters will represent the two-time defending champion
Canadians at the same event. When the camp ends, Hockey
Canada will announce its roster. The chosen will chuck their
belongings in a bag, board an airplane, and fly to Sweden.
Now, I like the Americans’ chances of
doing well at the WJC, especially with Johnson and Johnson
(a.k.a. the Band-Aid Brothers) on the blue line. But I like
the way in which Canada selects its roster. What better
way to ensure you’ve got the best 22 players on the
roster that by summoning twice that number of players to
a rink with bags packed for Europe, having them claw and
scratch their way onto the team over the course of a six-day
camp, and sending the losers home with a handshake, a sandwich,
and a new tocque?
Were USA Hockey to consider such a process,
they’d need the blessing of college coaches in order
to make it happen. But let’s be serious. Moving the
camp to December wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Forty-five
participants attended USA Hockey’s evaluation camp
in August in Lake Placid. All but six were college players.
Assuming there are roughly 1,500 Division I college players
– 59 teams and 25 players per team, which is a conservative
estimate – such a change would affect about 2.5 percent
of college hockey players.
Of course, some teams would feel the impact
more than others. For example, seven current Minnesota skaters
attended the August camp. No problem. Just shut down college
hockey after the second weekend of the month and don’t
start up until after Christmas. If that were the case this
year, you know how many college games would be affected?
Seventeen. And just four teams playing during that span
this time around – Denver, Harvard, Minnesota Duluth,
and North Dakota – had players at the summer evaluation
I think you’ll find that you’re
going to get a better team. Evaluating players against their
peers is far better than the current method – after
the August camp, the candidates are scouted during regular-season
play within their respective leagues, which means Joe College
is skating against guys ranging in age from 17 to 26, while
Joe Major Junior is butting heads with teenagers. Besides,
can’t we let these guys enjoy some time away from
hockey in the summer?
Proponents of the status quo argue there’s
an academic element that comes into play – the week
prior to winter vacation doubles as finals week at a number
of schools – but that can be worked out. I’d
like to see USA Hockey try the arrangement on a two-year
basis and let the results determine the course of action.
It works in Canada, where they’ve grown accustomed
to saving the World Junior fanfare until after the tournament.
In the hockey polls, Minn. is
getting it easy. If you look at their schedual [sic] and
look at Maine's schedual [sic] in the hockey east where
there are better teams to be playing against. Minn. isn't
the best team in the country, their wins are aginst [sic]
teams that aren't as talented. – Nolan Hall, Bar Harbor,
Here’s what chaps me about people who
complain about other teams scheduals, I mean, schedules.
Those things are set years in advance, especially when it
comes to non-conference games. It’s not like Don Lucia
can call Jeff Jackson at Notre Dame and say, “Hey,
coach … wanna meet up in Wisconsin Dells Wednesday
for a game?”
I’m no genius, but when a team goes
18 in a row without a loss at any level of athletic competition,
it’s a pretty good bet that they’re doing something
right. And sure, none of the Gophers’ wins are against
teams as talented as they are, but that’s because
there isn’t a team in the country that can match them
in that category. Seems like every other kid in that lineup
was taken in the first or second round of the NHL Draft.
Now, the most talented team isn’t always
the best team. But right now they are.
I am wondering how you all justify
not putting Eric Ehn up on your Hobey Tracker? Granted,
he plays for Air Force and granted, AF doesn't play huge
teams like Minnesota or Michigan, but they do play Colorado
College, Denver, and Notre Dame. – Abbey Craft, Colorado
Ehn’s had a nice year, obviously, as
he leads the nation with 16 goals and 20 assists in 20 games,
and he's featured in this week's Hobey Tracker under the
Bull Market category. If he maintains his current scoring
pace, he should be one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey,
but he won’t be one of the three top candidates (which
our Hobey Tracker spotlights) when the finalists are pared
in late March.
Air Force hasn’t played a complete schedule
of cupcakes, but Ehn’s performance in games against
baked goods is one reason he’ll not be included among
the Hobey Hat Trick. Compare his numbers against teams above
.500 with those against foes at or below the .500 mark.
+.500 teams (combined record 59-29-14): 8 games,
4-5–9; AFA record: 1-5-3
Vs. teams .500 or below (combined record 28-63-3): 11
games, 12-15–27; AFA record: 8-3-0
Don’t challenge me on these things,
people. I’ll spin numbers so fast you’ll be
curled up in the fetal position in the corner and I’ll
be waving my index finger at you a la Dikembe Mutumbo. Not
in my house.
GOTTA GO SOMEWHERE...
I apologize for the quality of these columns.
My old leather keyboard was replaced by a composite one
during the off-season and I haven't been right since.
a lock for the 2007 INCH Freshman All-Name team and a guy
with a great back story to boot. The Burlington Free Press
reported that Wahsontiio Stacey gave a verbal commitment
to Vermont last month. Stacey, who grew up just
south of Montreal, is of Mohawk descent. His first name
means "beautiful night" in Mohawk.
The 5-foot-9, 189-pound right wing, who skates
for the legendary Notre Dame Hounds, was the Saskatchewan
Junior Hockey League 2006 rookie of the year. Through 27
games, Stacey, who goes by Wahs – pronounced like
the possessive for goalie Patrick – had 17 goals and
Mike Check will be very disappointed if a
group of enterprising UVM students doesn’t honor Stacey
by dubbing itself Wahs’ Zoo.
• Tip o’
the cap to ex-Cornell great Joe Nieuwendyk,
who announced his retirement last week. INCH made a case
for his inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame on a Cocktail
Napkin last month. He's one of three players in league history
to win a Stanley Cup with three different teams, and he
captured the 1999 Conn Smythe Trophy with Dallas. The 1988
Calder Trophy winner finished his career among the league's
top 50 scorers.
As video game junkies can attest, Nieuwendyk
was one of the great two-way players in Sega Genesis hockey
history. Dude never lost a face-off.
• Maple Leafs
fans are atwitter over a recent report indicating the
team's logo will undergo a "modernization"
when its new sweaters are unveiled next month.
Question: Is it possible to modernize a leaf?
Seriously, since the first maple sapling sprounted from
the ground millions or billions or trillions of years ago
(I'm not sure when it happened and Google didn't seem to
know, either), has there been many wholesale changes in
the leaf structure? Did the leaves get together after falling
from the tree and say, "Marketing says people are tired
of the reds, yellows, and oranges in the autumn. So next
year, we'll need more teal and pewter."
• In case you
haven’t seen it, here’s
video evidence indicating Kyle Okposo is good
• In the spirit
of the season, Mike Check presents a piece from the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch that highlights 10
acts of good sportsmanship in youth sports.
Credit where it’s due – I found the article
thanks to a link in the Gregg Easterbrook’s terrific
Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com. Easterbrook,
whose real job is visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution,
the Washington, D.C.-based policy and research think tank,
is a Colorado College grad.
likes lists. Sometimes, the Meaning-List will be relevant
to college hockey. Other times it’ll be, well, meaningless.
Five Christmas Songs
probably doesn't help that I'm not a big fan of the
holiday season, but recycled Christmas songs are, in
my opinion, the worst. Being a music buff, I've run
down Christmas tracks that don't make your ears bleed.
DMC – "Christmas in Hollis": The
gold standard by which all other Christmas songs are
measured. During at least one meal during the holidays,
I'll drop the "mom's cookin' chicken and collard
greens" line ... even if we're eating breakfast.
Ladies – "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer":
It's an instrumental version of the song, and
it's keyboardist Kevin Hearn playing a synth that sounds
like an old Wurlitzer. Makes me feel like I'm between
periods at the Aud in Buffalo circa 1982.
Snoop Dogg – "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto": The title pretty much says it all, doesn't it? The Nate Dogg cameo is just gravy.
Star Wars Christmas – "R2 D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas": Yes, there was a Star Wars Christmas album (find it used on vinyl on Amazon for $75.) Yes, it's terrible. But in an incredible instance of foreshadowing, C3PO tells R2 to "plug into the central computer" to hear his Christmas present ... could it be the first illegal download? Metallica is going to kick C3PO's ass.
Stevens – "Get Behind Me, Santa": Sufjan's
a freakin' wizard, and this tune proves it. Imagine
a mashup of an old Styx keyboard riff and Ben Folds
Five's "One Angry Dwarf" with Sufjan's smart
lyrics topping it off. Gets in over Radiohead's cover
of "Winter Wonderland," which is great because
Thom Yorke sounds absolutely horrified that he's singing
the song. Yeah, it's not exactly "Paranoid Android."