And We're Back
this season, someone told me via e-mail that this column
should appear on a more regular basis. Obviously, I took
that message to heart because it’s been two freakin’
months since the last Mike Check. A lot has happened between
then and now, so here are a few bullet-point thoughts.
• As was mentioned in this space less
than a year ago, I opined that Bemidji State put the WCHA
in a bad spot by pinning the viability of its men’s
hockey program on becoming a future member of the league.
The recently announced scheduling agreement the school and
the WCHA hammered out is a terrific solution that meets
the needs of both parties. Bemidji State is guaranteed visits
to its new rink (slated to open in 2010-11, which coincides
with the first year of the pact) by marquee opponents. The
WCHA and its member schools, meanwhile, get the positive
karma that comes from effectively saving a college hockey
program without having to tinker with its current 10-team
• It’s not all rainbows and pink
lemonade for the WCHA, however. There’s still a pall
hanging over the league from referee Randy Schmidt’s
blown video-replay call that cost Wisconsin a chance for
a tie or win at Denver earlier this month. We’ll likely
never know where the breakdown that resulted in the nullification
of Badgers’ apparent game-tying goal with less than
a second remaining in regulation occurred, and few —
if any — will argue that video replay isn’t
a useful tool when used properly.
But there’s the rub. When used properly.
State-of-the-art technology is worthless if the people using
it to make the correct call don’t follow protocol.
The league needs to determine the factors that led to the
critical error, and make sure it never happens again.
• This is a call to the powers that
be in college hockey (whoever that may be): do whatever
is necessary to help Canadian institutions such as the University
of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University
of Alberta on the path toward NCAA membership.
|If the University
of British Columbia is granted entry into the NCAA and
if your favorite team gets a road series to
face the Thunderbirds, you'll want to make that trip.
At its annual convention in Nashville this
month, NCAA member institutions voted in favor of letting
Canadian schools into the club. The prospective newcomers,
who must notify the NCAA of their intentions by June 1,
would join at the Division II level. Of course, there is
no Division II hockey, which means the Canadian programs
could enter the Division I fray.
Is there a better scenario for the growth
of college hockey? While we’ve all dreamt about the
possibility of Division I programs at schools like Syracuse,
Penn State, or Iowa State, the prospects of the game expanding
to campuses in major Canadian cities such as Vancouver or
Toronto is even more tantalizing. Sure, college hockey wouldn’t
be a consistent front-page item in any of those locales,
but the publicity generated by, say, Jonathan Toews and
North Dakota facing the University of Toronto would easily
trump anything that places like State College or Ames might
bring to the table.
Besides, wouldn’t it behoove the NCAA
to bring the college game to areas that provide it with
large quantities of players? According to INCH’s States
of the Game feature from last year, only Minnesota produced
more Division I players than Ontario. Alberta and British
Columbia also ranked among the top six states/provinces
in that category. Certainly, some coaches might not be thrilled
about competing with Canadian universities for Canadian
players, but maybe more kids north of the border opt for
the college route with increased exposure to the game, thereby
deepening the talent pool.
This opportunity could also save the CHA,
a league teetering on the brink of extinction since Wayne
State announced its intention to fold its varsity program
at the end of this season. In a perfect situation, the circuit
could tread water next season and then re-emerge in 2009-10
as College Hockey North America — perhaps with as
many as eight teams, depending on how many Canadian institutions
make a membership bid.
And who will line up for that chance?
Current speculation focuses on the University of British
Columbia and Simon Fraser (both based in the Vancouver area)
and the University of Alberta, located in Edmonton. These
are not small schools – with around 45,000 undergraduates,
UBC would rank among the 10 largest universities in the
U.S., on par with Michigan State; Alberta has an undergrad
enrollment of 28,000 students, just a shade smaller than
Wisconsin; and Simon Fraser has about 20,000 undergrads,
or roughly the size of UMass.
In an INCH Podcast earlier this month, we
briefly touched on this week’s 50th anniversary of
Willie O’Ree becoming the NHL’s first black
player. On a much more somber note, this month is also the
40th anniversary of the death of Bill Masterton, the only
NHL player to die as a result of injuries suffered in a
As a graduate student and hockey sports information
director at the University of Denver, where Masterton was
a two-time All-American and a member of the Pioneers’
1961 national championship team, I learned a great deal
about both the player and his legacy – to the point
where I’ll argue that Masterton is among the five
best players in college hockey history. One of his red wool
game-worn sweaters sat neatly folded in my office for months
after I rescued it from a non-descript cardboard box in
a storage closet. The last I knew, the sweater is still
on display somewhere in Magness Arena, though his No. 9
should hang from the rink’s rafters.
If you’re lucky enough to bump into
Jim White, a WCHA off-ice official in Denver for many years
and a guy whose memories of Pioneer hockey go all the way
back to when Murray Armstrong first started bringing kids
from the Canadian prairies to the Mile High City, ask him
about Masterton. You’ll be glad you did.
Incidentally, Masterton and O’Ree were
briefly teammates with the Eastern Professional Hockey League’s
Hull-Ottawa Canadiens during the 1961-62 season .
Your staff must have been very impressed
with Minnesota's loss and tie
against Wisconsin this past weekend to move them up three
spots in your poll.
This topic was covered at length in this
week's INCH Podcast, but in case you missed it, here's a
Sure, the Gophers only took one of four
points from Wisconsin last weekend. But everyone around
them in the rankings — and by that I mean nearly every
team ranked 11th or lower — didn't do any better.
Games are not played in a vacuum. I cannot stress this enough.
Honestly, I felt like stopping the rankings
at about no. 12, but was wisely talked out of it.
me see if I got this right. On your Hobey Tracker, you list
Nathan Gerbe ahead of Kevin Porter because "he does
as much as the players listed above, with just a little
less to work with." After reading that tripe, I got
a little curious, so I went to each teams homepage:
Boston College’s roster lists
6 FR, 4 SO, 8 JR and 5 SR
Michigan’s roster lists 12 FR, 5 SO, 7 JR and only
In case you didn't get the math, that's
17 freshmen and sophomores on a 26-man roster. Now, you
wanna run that crap by me one more time because I obviously
must be missing something. [A]nd please don't give me the
B.S. about injuries, suspensions, yada, yada, yada. ALL
teams deal with these issues in a given season.
Hey guys, I've got a novel idea —
try putting the ’ludes and cough syrup away.
Quaaludes and cough syrup is the house
specialty at the Reef Bar in Duluth, Minn. But you have
to refer to it by its proper name — the Sleepy
Conquistador — to order it. And leave the pickle in
the glass when you drink it.
|After this Summit
Series game, Gerbe reattached Tretiak's arm using gauze,
fishing line, and an acupuncture needle.
What is up with Kevin Porter [ranked]
second in Hobey consideration? Because Gerbe had a 10-game
hot streak and got in trouble, you're "rewarding"
him?!?! Unreal. What happened to consistency over the entire
season [like Porter's team?] Is this a little biased on
Nathan Gerbe was not suspended for one
game earlier this season. He missed the game because he
created a ripple in the space-time continuum, went back
to 1972 to suit up for the Canadian team in the 'Summit
Series, and scored seven goals in one game. One of his shots
sheared Tretiak's right arm completely off.
How can you not possibly have Peter
Mannino in your Hobey rankings?
Wow, that’s a compelling argument.
Leave it to one member of Ron's JV
to answer a question posed by an alum of Ron's JV. If I
am not mistaken, when Bowling Green faced off against Michigan
in the 2004-05 season you would have seen two letter-sporting
’tenders, Alvaro Montoya and Jordan Sigalet, going
East Lansing, Mich.
That’s why we’re here —
to bring people together. By the way, Ron’s JV is
the intramural hockey team at Michigan State comprised of
people associated with the Spartan hockey program (named
in honor of former coach Ron Mason, natch.) Nate Ewell was
on that team, as was I. At Denver, two of my JV teammates
were All-Americans — ex-DU goalie Ron Grahame and
former Colorado College defenseman Shawn Reid. Still didn’t
win the championship.
I was at the DECC on [Dec. 8] for
the UMD-UAA game. In the third period, something happened
that I'm sure doesn't happen very often. UAA sophomore Paul
Crowder scored a natural hat trick that consisted of a power
play goal, even-strength goal, and a shorthanded goal. He
was aided, of course, by a UMD defense that could best be
described as uninspired and statuesque. Nonetheless, this
achievement was quite impressive. He even had the chance
to make it a natural "Iginla cycle" when UMD pulled
their goalie if he could have found a way to score on the
empty net. (He did assist on their empty-netter, but that
came after UMD scored to pull within one.) Of course, there
is the even more rare "Lemieux cycle" if he could
have found a way to get that empty-netter and score on a
penalty shot! But that's asking a little much, isn't it?
My question: Does anyone there know
when the last time someone scored a natural hat trick of
this nature in college hockey?
I don’t. Anyone else have
I'M JUST SAYING
• that the University of British
Columbia could be a college hockey power should
the school join the NCAA. UBC has a staggering number of
factors working in its favor – a breathtaking setting
in one of the world’s most beautiful cities on a spit
of land that juts into the Pacific Ocean; its proximity
to the British Columbia Hockey League, one of the prime
sources of Division I talent; and a 7,000-seat campus arena
scheduled to open this summer. The rink will serve as a
venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
• that ex-Providence Friar star
Brian Burke had a really cool idea that should
be embraced by future Stanley Cup winners. In Toronto last
week, the Anaheim general manager gave
a Ducks’ championship ring to the Hockey Hall of Fame
hoping to set a precedent for NHL champions from here on
• that former Michigan Wolverine
defenseman Mike Komisarek is in the midst of a
with the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, his name was mentioned
as a potential all-league candidate by one media outlet.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Komisarek leads the NHL in blocked
shots and paces the league’s rearguards in hits. His
improvement is a big reason the Habs are among the NHL’s
pleasant surprises thus far.
• that the title for coolest
video game ever is about to be claimed by Hudson
Entertainment when it releases Deca
Sports for the Nintendo Wii. Expected to debut in early
March, the game will include a number of interactive competitions
including ... wait for it ... curling! Who's ready
for the online version of the Brier?
• that Mitt is a stupid name.
What the hell is a Mitt? And who named him, Brick
Tamland? "Mitt! I love lamp!"
• happy birthday to Michael
Ontkean. The former New Hampshire skater —
he's a member of the Wildcats' century club — and
"Slap Shot" co-star turned 62 last week.
Ex-Collegians Who Could Move Prior to the NHL Trade
Jason Blake, Toronto: The Leafs stink. The
organization is a mess. The team hasn't drafted well
and has made few shrewd moves in the free agent market.
Blake, the ex-North Dakota forward, has 10 goals in
52 games. That's not enough for a guy getting $4 million
per through 2011-12.
Rob Blake, Los Angeles: The Kings stink. Blake,
the former Bowling Green standout, is an unrestricted
free agent at season's end and would make for a fine
Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay: The
Lightning stinks. Even worse is the team's salary cap
situation. There's no way the 'ning can pay Lecavalier,
Richards, St. Louis and Boyle what they're due. Boyle,
a premier offensive defenseman, has fresh legs, too
— he just returned to the lineup after missing
45 games with a wrist injury.
Liles, Colorado: Liles, who was an All-American
at Michigan State, is another skilled offensive defenseman
in the last year of his contract. The Avs, whose forward
depth has been gutted by injury and other ailments,
might have to move him for help up front.
Roloson, Edmonton: The Oilers are young, and
Roloson, a former UMass Lowell netminder, is in the
last year of his contract. He's also stuck on the bench
behind Mathieu Garon. He'd be a nice insurance policy
for a playoff club with unproven goaltending.