The Dean's List

Jeff Sauer – the fifth-winningest coach in college history – writes a bi-weekly column for Inside College "The Dean" was the head coach for 31 years at Colorado College and Wisconsin, where he won two national titles. Sauer retired at the end of the 2001-02 season.

Read the first edition of The Dean's List. For your listening pleasure, find The Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.

Part of the fun in doing this column is the opportunity to interact with you, the hockey fan. Please send your questions or comments to

This Week's Question

Who is the best college player you have coached and who is the best player you coached against?
– Denise Boychuk Gorman of Madison, Wis.

I was fortunate to coach a lot of great ones like Chris Chelios, Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter Steve Reinprecht and Dany Heatley. But I've always said I think the best was a guy I had in my first year and for only one year – Pat Flatley. I think it was because of his work ethic and maybe it was because I was enamored that for the first time I was around a player of that caliber. You knew he was going to be a tremendous pro player just because of how hard he worked and the things that he did in the corners, in front of the net and the way he worked defensively.

As for an opponent that too is a little tough. I think I'd break into different eras, since over 31 years of coaching, plus and playing against guys, I've seen an awful lots of great players.

Back when I played at Colorado College, Huffer Christensen at Duluth was a phenom. Lou Nanne at Minnesota was a dominant college player and Red Berenson at Michigan could take over a game.

As a coach, it's kind of hard, as they found out last year when the WCHA tried to pick its best players over 50 years. Among the modern guys Jordan Leopold at Minnesota was awfully good, as was Heatley.

In the '70s there were so many good players. Mark Johnson at Wisconsin, Mike Zuke at Michigan Tech and Neal Broten at Minnesota. In fact that whole line with Aaron Broten and Butsy Erickson was memorable. In the '80s you had Brett Hull at Duluth. Now he might not have been the best players at a time when they had (Bill) Watson and (Tom) Kurvers and that crowd, but Brett was impressive with that big shot.

And then Gino (Gasparini) had Tony Hrkac and his great teams and Murray Armstrong had some great teams at Denver.

That's just too tough to name one guy. I've been fortunate to see so many great ones.

October 17, 2002
The Dean's List by Jeff Sauer

I made my debut as a college hockey fan last weekend. I got to watch six games – four in the IceBreaker Invitational and two women's games – Wisconsin vs. Northeastern.

I found out it's a different world sitting above in the stands. You get a different perspective when you can sit back, reflect, even second guess, rather than have to make split-second decisions on the bench – which isn't a very good vantage point.

The biggest change to the game this year is the new face-off rule, which says the referee has to drop the puck 15 seconds after a stoppage. It's modeled after a similar rule which was favorably received at the Olympics last year in Salt Lake City.

Restaurant and bar owners around college hockey are going to love this rule because games are going to be over much faster. Last week's games in Madison lasted about two hours, 10 minutes.

Now, no one likes a post-game pizza and beer more than me, so I'm in favor of a brisk pace at a game. But I think the rule still needs some tweaking.

Currently, the visiting coach gets five seconds to make a change, the home team gets five seconds to make a change and then there is five seconds to drop the puck. I would like to see the game go to a 5-8-5 sequence so that the home coach gets a little extra time to make a change.

As the rule currently stands, I think the home coach is affected more by the rule change. It definitely puts coaches on alert with what line should be up next. It is much tougher for the home coach to match lines, an advantage the home team has always had.

Now the home coach has to identify which line the visitor is sending out and make his match in five seconds. That's hard. I'd like to see him get an additional three seconds. I don't think it would add a lot of time to the game. It would keep the pace fast, which is what the spirit of the rule is about, but still give the home team an advantage.

I noticed that everyone is still adjusting to the rules. The officials did as they were told and sometimes dropped the puck before centers were in the faceoff circle. But they executed their jobs well. Players and coaches are still getting used to the rule.

But the majority of people I talked to, both at the games and on the phone this week, like the rule. Coaches think it is good change for college hockey and are supportive of it. I think coaches realize they have to be on their toes and that, at present, the advantage of having the last change is nullified a bit.

In pre-game talks to players, I think coaches will alert players that they will be more aware on the bench, too. If players see a certain number jumping over the boards, they will be expected to help out, knowing "it's my line's turn." So this rule puts coaches on alert and it means player have to be more into the game mentally.

I don't think the other rule changes will have as big of an impact on the fan.

The goalie's crease is larger (just like the National Hockey League crease), which should help officials determine if there is a man in the crease on disputed goals. And again, obstruction is a point of emphasis to officials.

Basically obstruction is interference. By emphasizing this aspect, coaches and players are being asked to open up the game to allow more skill. Passing and skating is part of the allure of college hockey.

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