January 26, 2007
Catching Up With the Commissioner

By James Jahnke

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:

CCHA Notebook

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.

National TV Schedule

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 programs?

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 stay together.

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.


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 standings.

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 time.

"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 ’Canes?
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 was impressive.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Miami 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.

Stick Salute

Congratulations 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.

Bench Minor

Alaska’s 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 weekend.

• 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 21."

• 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 jahnke@insidecollegehockey.com.