Chasing Glory Down State Street
Hockey Distinguished Service Award winner Mike Eaves
Colo. – When the highlights from Team USA’s gold medal
performance at last season’s World Junior Championships
had concluded and the applause had died down, one man stood alone
at the podium.
the Distinguished Service Award at this year’s USA Hockey
Annual Congress in Colorado Springs, Wisconsin head coach Mike
Eaves spoke before the giants and the bit players in American
hockey and talked of glory.
Mike Emrick and other speakers at the banquet had quoted the likes
of Herb Brooks, Ben Smith and Bob Johnson, Eaves chose to quote
another American responsible for great victories and great controversy.
a scene from coaching Team USA last winter, and about moments
of pure joy among his players as the Americans rallied from a
two-goal deficit in the final period of the title game. In defeating
Canada 4-3, Eaves and company claimed the first World Junior Championship
gold medal in American hockey history. But Eaves was more focused
on the video highlights, which had shown his players jumping into
one another’s arms as the final seconds ticked away.
you saw there is known as glory,” Eaves told the crowd of
hundreds. The coach went on to quote General George S. Patton,
who – while leading American troops to World War II victories
in North Africa and Sicily – had said that above all things,
he sought glory. The general said that glory was more valuable
than even things like fame and fortune because of glory’s
fleeting nature and because it was so hard to attain.
glory have been somewhat fleeting for Eaves in his first two seasons
at the helm of his alma mater, and there are eerie parallels between
his brash personal and professional style and that of the American
general so memorably portrayed by George C. Scott. Patton was
as ruthless as he was successful in the field of battle, seemed
to take pleasure in shocking and offending his peers, and is as
famous for the victories won as for moments that later drew rebuke.
reprimanded and ultimately demoted by General Dwight D. Eisenhower,
most notably for slapping a shell-shocked soldier in a military
hospital, and branding the man a coward. Eaves, most will remember,
faced the ramifications of a physical altercation he had with
former Badger Alex Leavitt in a Grand Forks hotel room during
the coach’s first season at Wisconsin.
Eaves campaign ended with the coach being reprimanded by the school,
Leavitt leaving Madison, and the Badgers finishing 10 games under
.500 – good for a non-glorious eighth in the WCHA. It’s
at that point that Eaves might have taken solace in General Patton’s
words once again. Before his death in 1945, Patton once told subordinates,
“The test of success is not what you do what you’re
on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”
clearly a bounce in year two, with the Badgers climbing to nine
games above .500 and coming within an overtime goal of reaching
the Frozen Four, despite getting upset by Alaska Anchorage in
the WCHA playoffs.
happen in year three is one of college hockey’s great mysteries.
Eaves has had another superlative recruiting year (USA Hockey’s
Junior Player of the Year, forward Joe Pavelski, will wear the
cardinal and white next season) and the Badgers look to be one
of the top teams in the league, and the nation.
while has been earning fans in the Wisconsin hockey community,
he’s also made enemies during his brief tenure in Madison.
His style is certainly not for everyone, especially following
the more laid-back and always personable Jeff Sauer behind the
home bench at the Kohl Center. Some have gone as far as to say
that college hockey has found another Shawn Walsh – the
late Maine coach who collected detractors and victories with equal
international coaching success and his personal style are indications
that there may be a storm brewing in south-central Wisconsin.
Sometimes storms produce beautiful rainbows, and sometimes they
produce downed trees, property damage, and flooding.
a rainbow of Badger hockey glory to be had after all of the thunder
and lightning has subsided is the question that remains.