26, 2007 Catching
Up With the Commissioner
CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos was in Dallas
this week for the NHL All-Star Game, and he was kind enough
to take time out of his meetings-filled schedule to answer
a few questions regarding league and national issues. Here
are some excerpts from the interview:
Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff shows us there isn't much
to shoot at when he's in net. CCHA commissioner Tom
Anastos is in favor of making the nets bigger.
Inside College Hockey: There are four years
remaining in the deal to hold CCHA championship weekend
at Joe Louis Arena. Is keeping the event in Detroit the
preferred option, as opposed to rotating venues?
Tom Anastos: We’re always looking at
how we can generate the most fan excitement as we can. We’re
in an older building, and it is what it is. But I know that
the Red Wings organization is looking at some building options,
and I’m hopeful that, someday soon, we’ll find
out what those are. Before we signed this deal, which is
going on three years ago, we actively sought other options
for consideration, but we felt that the best option was
the one we settled on, and that was to remain at Joe Louis
Arena. We’ll always revisit that, and we also pay
a lot of attention to history. In this case, the WCHA, in
particular, rotated venues for a period of time, and they
told us they didn’t feel that that was the best situation
for their championship. You know, we looked at Columbus,
which has a great arena, but at that time, they were not
looking at having a long-term interest — and we wanted
to stay with a site for at least a few years. Cleveland
was all booked up with, I think, the (Mid-American Conference)
tournament. And we made the decision that we wanted to stay
in an NHL venue as opposed to going to an 8,000-12,000-seat
arena. So there are a lot of dynamics.
INCH: Another big issue is College Hockey
America. Do you have a feeling as to whether that league
will stay together, and, if not, what will happen to those
TA: I think that is one issue that will percolate
a little as we look to the future. Our feeling has always
been that we want to do anything we can to help the CHA
stay together, because, without it, it will be difficult
to grow college hockey. Last April, some of us went to the
NCAA Hockey Committee to draw up some legislation that would
give the committee authority to grant the CHA an automatic
bid to the NCAA tournament, even with fewer than six teams,
which would allow it to continue to operate. I’m not
sure that that legislation has gone all the way through
the NCAA yet, but it has at least been passed at a few levels,
so that’s all good news. But that said, many of those
CHA programs are concerned about their long-term viability
and have started to look around. Wayne State has expressed
an interest in our league; they told us that before, and
did so more formally recently. And you’ll see that
all around the country, too. So we’ll have to address
that at some point, but our preference is to see the CHA
INCH: Are there any rule changes or crackdowns
you’d like to see implemented, similar to last year’s
emphasis on eliminating checking from behind?
TA: I’d still like to see us find a
way to make games more competitive. I don’t like ties,
I don’t like the feeling of leaving a rink after a
tie. It’s not fulfilling to fans. I wish we could
create ways to encourage teams to compete to win. Obviously,
the NHL has done it.
INCH: Are you talking about shootouts? Are
those viable in college hockey?
TA: I think they’re worth talking about.
I watched the U.S. play Canada (in the world junior semifinals),
and that went into a shootout and, man, everyone was standing
in the building. The U.S. ended up losing an incredible
shootout, but I can’t imagine anyone not being entertained
by it — even the players. Of course, there are philosophical
issues about radically changing the game, but I think it’s
a debate worth having to find a way to eliminate ties.
INCH: Anything else?
TA: I’d also like to see more pucks
get through to the net, although I’m not sure exactly
how. The NHL moved their blue lines out four feet further
to create more room in the end zones. I’d be in favor
of great debate about making the nets bigger. I’ll
be interested to see where the NHL discussions lead on that.
It’s darn difficult to score goals today, and even
above that, to create good, exciting scoring chances. Usually,
those chances result from mistakes, and there are so few
mistakes made on the ice at the college level today —
not as many as when I used to play.
INCH: Could college hockey go ahead with making
nets bigger without the NHL doing it?
TA: To do it on our own, I’m not sure
that would be viable. There are challenges to doing it.
For one thing, people would have to manufacture all new
nets across the world. And in some of the rinks where the
nets are anchored into the ground, that would be a challenge.
It’s not just drilling new holes. So it’s not
a simple thing to change, but I think the idea has caught
some NHL people, and gotten their attention. But I would
think that they would have to take the lead on it, and then
it would trickle down and be a reactive thing for us.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
All eyes on South Bend: Second-place
Miami visits first-place Notre Dame for a series this weekend,
a series that could all but seal a regular-season championship
for the Fighting Irish - or greatly muddle the top of the
Notre Dame has a one point lead over the RedHawks,
but has played two fewer games. So an Irish sweep would
put them up five points with two games in hand. A Miami
sweep would put it in first place, and give more hope to
third-place Michigan State (four points behind ND with one
more game played) and fourth-place Michigan (five points
behind with an equal number of games.)
So the RedHawks realize this weekend is now-or-never
"That’s just a fact," coach
Enrico Blasi said. "We’ve got to go in there
and get some points."
Blasi called Notre Dame the best team in the
league, in no small part because of its superior teamwork.
But the RedHawks are no slouches themselves. Although they’re
just 4-3-2 in their last nine games, they boast the nation’s
top penalty kill (91 percent) and the CCHA’s best
power play (21.4 percent). And, as always, they live by
the Blasi mantra of taking things one game at a time.
"Our leadership has really bought into
that," Blasi said. "We don’t concern ourselves
with who’s after Notre Dame, or who we just played.
We’re just concentrating on this weekend."
Better late than never: If
you read “First Shift,” you know about the witty
gag gift Michigan State coach Rick Comley got for his 60th
birthday on Saturday. But a friend of INCH recently brought
to our attention another bit of Spartan hilarity, featuring
former defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, who's now with the
Hurricanes. From the Nov. 6 ESPN the Magazine:
Dan Patrick: Who is the Will Ferrell of the
Erik Cole: Andrew Hutchinson. His nickname used to be Hutch,
but after some of us had beers with him, we changed it to
Hank the Tank. Now, when he walks into a room, he says,
“Hutch just checked out, and Hank just checked in.”
DP: Does he go streaking?
EC: Not that I know of. But he did moonwalk and lie on the
floor in a chicken-man costume while singing Journey's “Don't
Stop Believin’” at our Halloween party. That
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at Notre Dame (Fri.-Sat.)
It’s the biggest CCHA series of the season thus
far, and the teams are so evenly-matched that a sweep
would be surprising. Miami is 6-0-2 in its last eight
games versus Notre Dame, but this is a different bunch
of Fighting Irish. MU coach Enrico Blasi said co-No.
1 goalie Jeff Zatkoff has finally recovered from his
world junior experience in Sweden, and he should be
100 percent on Saturday night. Apparently, Zatkoff
wasn’t a fan of the food overseas, so he’s
glad to be back in Oxford. (Who wouldn’t be?)
While you’re there: Do the
Joyce Center doubleheader on Saturday, with the Notre
Dame men's basketball team playing Villanova at 4
p.m. on the other side of the curtain.
to Western Michigan SID Daniel Jankowski,
who got a public-relations job with the Chicago Fire
of Major League Soccer and left the Broncos earlier
this week. We wish DJ well, and hope to see him at
the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids in March.
nine-game losing streak is its longest
since dropping 12 in a row from Oct. 23, 1999 to Jan.
7, 2000. And the Nanooks have to travel back to the
Lower 48 this week for a series at Bowling Green.
Still, it looks like a good opportunity to get off
the schneid, eh?
• When Nebraska-Omaha senior forward
Nenad Gajic left to sign a professional lacrosse contract
in November, the timing seemed strange. After all, he had
seven points in UNO’s first six games, so it wasn’t
like he was struggling on the ice. But Mavericks coach Mike
Kemp says that the National Lacrosse League offer was too
good for Gajic to pass up.
In addition to his salary, the Colorado Mammoth,
who were going to lose Gajic’s rights, are paying
for the rest of Gajic’s education at UNO (he was on
a partial scholarship). They also let him take classes in
Omaha during the week, then fly him in for games on the
• The main reason for Ferris State sophomore
forward Dan Riedel’s abrupt departure from the program
last week appears to have been academics. He had three goals
and nine assists in 19 games this season.
• Notre Dame sophomore forward Christian
Hanson has mononucleosis and will miss several weeks.
• Quote book: Michigan coach Red Berenson,
talking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about getting his
MBA from U-M: "I spent my whole life preparing for
life after hockey, and I never really got there." ...
MSU coach Comley, on turning 60, in the State News: "It’s
a number. I don't feel any different than I did when I was
59. Bryan Lerg may feel a lot different tomorrow when he’s
• In nonconference action, Northern
Michigan lost to Minnesota Duluth, 4-2, on Wednesday night.
This weekend, Western Michigan defends the league’s
honor with a home series against Alabama-Huntsville.
• Fun with numbers: Northern Michigan
junior Mike Santorelli (53-47) and Michigan junior Kevin
Porter (44-57) each hit the career 100-point mark last weekend.
... Western Michigan scored five goals on 15 shots during
Tuesday’s win over Ferris State. ... Michigan’s
T.J. Hensick notched a hat trick Friday at Alaska, marking
the first hattie of his career and, more important, his
first goals since November. In so doing, Hensick became
the first Wolverine since Brendan Morrison (1994-97) to
net 40 points in four straight seasons.
A variety of sources
were utilized in the compilation of this report. James Jahnke
can be reached at email@example.com.