Sauer – the sixth-winningest coach in college history
– writes a bi-weekly column for Inside College Hockey.com.
"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. He was the 2003
Snooks Kelley Award winner for contributions to U.S. hockey
and ranked 16th on INCH's list of the all-time greatest
college hockey coaches.
listening pleasure, find The
Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.
of the fun in doing this column is the opportunity to interact
with you, the hockey fan. Please send your questions or comments
you know when the vote will be taken in Nashville on the Division
III reform that could impact hockey-playing schools like CC,
Clarkson, St. Lawrence and RPI? Kelly B., Milwaukee
I am relatively
new to attending NCAA conventions, so I am not an expert on
all that goes on behind the scenes, but my understanding is
that it will be voted on Monday, the last day of the convention.
The Dean's List by Jeff Sauer
What a great
and glorious day for U.S. hockey it was Monday when the Americans
won their first ever gold medal at the World Junior Championship
in Helsinki. And just when you wanted to feel so very proud and
good about the college game's contributions, there was the sad news
24 hours later that another college program, Findlay, was dropping
the sport at the end of the season.
It has been
a big week in the hockey world, a topsy-turvy period which started
with the Americans' 6-0 showing in Finland with a college coach
in charge and a roster dominated by college players. It continued
with the announcement of Findlay and the switch of Vermont from
the ECAC to Hockey East. It will end Monday with the big vote at
the NCAA Convention on whether Division III schools Clarkson, Colorado
College, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence will continue to be able to
compete in Division I sports like hockey.
about the positives first. Congratulations to head coach Mike Eaves
and the U.S. players who beat Canada so dramatically Monday with
that three-goal, third period comeback.
It won't get
the headlines that the 1980 gold medal Olympic victory in Lake Placid
got, but the gold medal in Helsinki ranks up there with one of the
great moments in U.S. hockey history.
In all my days
in international hockey, I learned the world junior tournament is
the most intense in the world and very difficult to win.
Why do I say
that? Because of the age of the players, the best in the world.
They are young, enthusiastic 18- and 19-year-olds playing against
others who are representing their country with great passion. Because
the players come from different teams and backgrounds, as a coach,
you don't have a lot of time to prepare them and get them playing
together in a system that is successful.
To see the
flag raised in Finland, on a foreign ice sheet, was quite an accomplishment
for USA Hockey.
I was fortunate
to be involved in this tournament last year as an assistant coach
when Coach Lou Vairo had guys like Zach Parise, Mark Stuart, Ryan
Kesler, Ryan Suter and Patrick O'Sullivan as young guys in this
tournament of under 20-year-olds. The U.S. lost to Canada in the
semifinals last year when the tournament was in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Last year Canada
had home ice and they also had the older guys on the roster. I can
remember how tough it was to lose that game and how big it was for
Canada to win, even if they lost to Russia in the finals. People
in this country have no idea how heartbreaking it is in Canada when
the Canadians come so close in this tournament, but fail to win
gold in a sport they love.
This year Canada
had the younger guys of the two teams and the U.S. had the more
experienced players. And they came though. Guys like Parise and
Stuart and the young goalie Al Montoya were great. To win on foreign
ice is tough, but the U.S. was fortunate to have a group that had
played in international competition for USA Hockey. They were used
to different foods and different accommodations and all the distractions
that go with international play.
is a feather in the cap of the U.S. Development Program, which had
received a lot of criticism since Jeff Jackson started it for USA
Hockey in Ann Arbor, Mich. Critics said it cost a lot of money,
but this tournament win was what USA Hockey had in mind when the
program began. It was a great triumph for U.S. hockey, maybe the
biggest since the World Cup and some would argue the biggest since
Lake Placid in 1980. But it puts the U.S. on the forefront of the
world hockey stage.
I think the
makeup of the team says a lot about college hockey, too. Coaches
developed many of the stars of that team. They came from places
like North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado College and Boston
College. And although there were Tier I kids like O'Sullivan and
James Wisniewski on the U.S. team, the championship game could be
viewed by some pro scouts as products of the college system (U.S.)
vs. major junior (Canada, which featured only one collegian, Jeff
Tambellini of Michigan).
Next year the
tournament will be held on our soil – Dec. 25-Jan. 4 in Grand
Forks, N.D., and Thief River Falls, Minn. If you can get tickets,
snatch them up because it's a great show. It will be so nice to
have the Americans as the defending champions.
The news about
Findlay had been rumored, but it was still was sad to see when it
finally came. I had been following their team closely because Pat
Ford was a former assistant coach of mine who got his first head
coaching job there. He had them playing well. They beat Michigan
State to open the season and I had heard Findlay was a hard-working
team who was playing everyone tough.
It is sad to
see when any programs make the decision to drop a program, but this
one really hurts. It has a snowball effect because it means the
College Hockey America will only have five teams after this season
and will lose its much sought-after automatic berth to the NCAA
Tournament – unless another team can be found to move to CHA.
I think we
all want to see that automatic berth stay, since the CHA sent a
very good representative last year in Wayne State (and Niagara in
2000). Many people in the hockey worked very hard to get that league
to be involved in the 16-team NCAA tournament that all followers
of the sport enjoyed last year.
I know there
is speculation that a new program like Robert Morris of Pittsburgh
may be asked to join the CHA, and I am sure there will be talks
about that and other options at the NCAA meetings Jan. 10-12 in
With the word
that Vermont is moving to Hockey East in the 2005-06 season, there
is even more movement in the hockey landscape. That, along with
the Division III legislation, which may also impact the future of
the sport, will provide many formal and informal discussions at
the NCAA meetings.
But all those
discussions, I am sure, will include a mention about what a great
feat the U.S. team achieved at the world juniors tournament. It
was a great day for American hockey.