As the 2002-03 season approached, panic began
to set in. The editors had to learn HTML. Some of the writers
might – gasp! – expect to get paid. And our
designer was busy spending his days trying to make an NHL
It was about what you'd expect from a fledgling
web site born while so many dot-coms were dying. But for
some reason we were determined to publish the semi-coherent
ramblings that we had shared internally via email during
the week and bar napkins after games.
At about 6 a.m. on Oct. 7, 2002, we unveiled
a site that looked
something like this.
Fewer than 750 people visited InsideCollegeHockey.com
that day, but the early feedback was great. Within two weeks
we scrapped our original idea of publishing a bi-weekly
"online magazine" in favor of daily updates. Within
a year we were an ESPN.com associate. And now, five years
later we see the same traffic we saw on our first day –
about every five minutes.
We're not that old (as we keep telling ourselves
in real life). We don't even pre-date the 16-team tournament.
And we aren't ones for pounding our own chests. But with
no one else rushing to the stage with praise, we thought
we'd pause as we prepare for our sixth season and celebrate
a bit of our modest history.
Oct. 7, 2002: Inside College
Hockey, the brainchild of former college hockey sports information
directors Mike Eidelbes (then unemployed) and Nate Ewell
(temping at Fannie Mae), debuts. Former Michigan State All-American
defenseman Mike Weaver, then bouncing between the Atlanta
Thrashers and the team's American Hockey League affiliate
in Chicago, designed the site.
Oct. 2002: The first Found
on a Cocktail Napkin pops up. The subject: "Seven
stories we wish we could have covered last year."
Feb. 15, 2003: The first
installment of the annual "States
of the Game" feature appears. The series, which
breaks down college hockey rosters by players' native states,
provinces, and countries, becomes an instant hit with readers.
April 6, 2003: INCH unveils
All-American team. Unlike the American Hockey Coaches
Association All-American teams, ours is not divided into
separate East and West squads. The next day, INCH announces
its choices for player of the year, rookie of the year,
goaltender of the year, defenseman of the year, and coach
of the year.
April 9, 2003: At a watering
hole in Buffalo, N.Y. the night before the Frozen Four semifinal
matches, the INCH staff witnesses a tipsy Minnesota cheerleader
take a header off the bar while dancing to Def Leppard's
"Pour Some Sugar on Me."
April 12, 2003: INCH celebrates
the culmination of its first season with a small gathering
in a suite of the Buffalo Hyatt, a prelude to annual bashes
to begin th enext year.
April 17, 2003: INCH is the
first to report that Robert Morris will add a Division I
men's hockey program.
Sept. 3, 2003: Our first
Rankings are released. The tops on each list: North
Dakota's Brady Murray (forward), Wisconsin's Ryan Suter
(defenseman), Denver's Glenn Fisher (goalie), and Michigan
(overall freshman class).
Oct. 1, 2003: INCH becomes
an associate of ESPN.com.
Oct. 1, 2003: INCH rates
all 58 Division-I squads in its preseason Power Rankings.
The list becomes known as the Great 58.
Oct. 16, 2003: The staff
grows, as the first year's East and West Notebooks are replaced
by weekly notes for each conference – Atlantic Hockey/CHA
(James Jahnke), CCHA (Eidelbes), ECACHL (Joe Gladziszewski),
Hockey East (Ewell), and WCHA (Jess Myers).
March 22, 2004: The first
NCAA Tournament Cocktail Napkin featuring a
haiku for every team in the field appears.
April 8, 2004: In addition
to comprehensive coverage from the Frozen Four in Boston,
INCH adds audio interviews with players, coaches, and former
Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer.
April 9, 2004: Gladziszewski
profiles Maine forward Dustin Penner, a late bloomer who
came to Orono after starting his college career at a junior
college in Bottineau, N.D. The
story includes a phone interview with Penner's junior
college coach. A little more than three years later, Penner
would hoist the Stanley Cup along with the rest of the Anaheim
Denver goalie Adam Berkhoel, who would backstop
the Pioneers to its first national championship since 1969
the following day, chides Eidelbes for taking Minnesota
netminder Kellen Briggs in his NCAA Tournament hockey pool.
INCH's first Frozen Four party takes place
at Our House East in Boston. Then-Northeastern coach Bruce
Crowder, who said he was staying "just for one,"
closes the joint down.
April 10, 2004: A puck emblazoned with the
Inside College Hockey logo is among those used by Denver
as the Pioneers warm up for the national championship game.
April 27, 2004: Just three
weeks after the Frozen Four, INCH takes a quick glimpse
at the season ahead with its first "10
for '05" feature.
July 6, 2004: During college
hockey's doldrums, Ewell posts a feature on a 16-year-old
phenom named Phil
August 5, 2004: Mainly developed
as a way for our bored writers to kill time in the summer,
INCH launches College
Hockey A-Z, a series meant to profile a need-to-know
player from every Division I program. Among those featured
in the first edition: Andrew Alberts, Drew Bagnall, Andy
Greene, Jordan Parise, and Scott Parse.
August 28, 2004: INCH hosts
its first annual Preseason Tailgate at the first college
football game of the year: Indiana State at Miami. As the
first car to arrive, we lay claim to "first tailgaters
of the season" honors.
Oct. 7, 2004: Inside College
Hockey hosts its first live chat on ESPN.com's "The
Show." Michigan forward Jeff Tambellini is the first
guest. Dave from Arlington Heights, Ill. sent the first
question: "How has Red been preparing you and the team
for the 'proper rules enforcement' that the NCAA has told
everyone to expect this season – especially in terms
of clutch and grab?"
Dec. 3, 2004: INCH still
does not have a message board. Coaches regularly praise
the site's restraint in interviews.
Jan. 4, 2005: Our first international
dateline comes from a village in Germany where former Alaska
Anchorage goaltender Chris King is making a decent living.
June 10, 2005: INCH is the
first to report that Lake Superior State has fired coach
Frank Anzalone. The school vehemently denies the report,
then announces the firing 10 days later.
Aug. 11, 2005: INCH follows
up on a story that appeared in USA Today earlier that
week profiling Larry Twombley, CEO of a growing California-based
beverage company who claimed to have played college hockey
at Harvard. We learn that Twombley never played for the
Crimson – in fact, he didn't even attend the school.
Oct. 2, 2005: The INCH lineup
expands again. Jahnke takes over the CCHA beat, Jeff Howe
comes aboard as Hockey East correspondent, Ken McMillan
assumes Atlantic Hockey duties, and Thomas Baldwin is CHA
writer. Jayson Hron jumps in as feature writer.
Oct. 11, 2005: The INCH Podcast
debuts. It's the first nationwide college hockey podcast
and is later identified by USA
Hockey Magazine as one of its five must-have podcasts.
April 6, 2006: The biggest
traffic day in INCH history, links from ESPN.com send thousands
of visitors to the site on the day of the NCAA semifinals.
Sept. 30, 2006: Another personnel
move, as Warren Kozireski takes the CHA beat.
Oct. 12, 2006: The
INCH Shop debuts, providing fans with an array of college
hockey and other sports apparel.
Nov. 13, 2005: Mike Eidelbes
unveils the first installment of "Mike
Check," a regular column.
Sometime in 2007: A fitting
description for the seldom-hockey-related ramblings common
near the end of the INCH Podcast is finally coined: Podcast