15 things on my mind

Forget resolutions. Chronicling what a team should resolve to do or not to do is a popular thing for writers to present at this time of year, but I just don’t care. We’ve watched the CCHA and college hockey for half a season, and by now every fan’s an expert in what needs to be done or not done, right?

In this first week of 2011, I’d rather vent a little. Venting seems more useful than resolving, at least at this moment. I’m also going to proclaim and note. In doing so, I’ll clear up some much-needed space in my brain. Here are 15 things on my mind.

Venting

Every year at this time, dictionary.com releases its words of the year for the previous 365 days. These are words voted on by readers who either love or loathe said words. Well, there are three specific words that I hear used increasingly by coaches and media types, to the point where the word themselves caricaturize the users. The first in this list is the worst.

  • Adversity. This is a noun that is synonymous with misfortune, but beyond that, it means a sustained or continued state of misfortune. So, Mr. Head Coach, when your team takes a couple of stupid penalties in the second period, your team does not have to battle through adversity. Real adversity? Poverty. Loss of benefits. Serious illness. A contact-to-the-head penalty that your veteran player knew better about and the ensuing five minutes? Not adversity.
  • Jam. Last August, I went to the Flint Farmers Market and bought several quarts of locally grown blueberries. I cooked them up with honey, cinnamon, and the kind of pectin one finds to use with sugar-free jam and jelly recipes. Now, in my freezer, I have several half-pint jars of blueberry jam to last me through the winter. The jam is a gorgeous purply color and has just the right mixture of sweet and tart – and I wouldn’t want any team in the CCHA playing with it.
  • Saucer. I have these in my cupboards, too. Occasionally, I see them on the ice, beautiful passes that actually levitate from one player to another. More often, however, I hear announcers label ordinary, puck-on-the-ice passes as “saucer.” When it happens every other shift, I begin to question an announcer’s grasp of the English language.
  • Controlling one’s own destiny. Okay, so this is a whole phrase and not a single word, and my mentioning it is more or less preemptive, as we usually hear this closer to the playoffs. I’ve been guilty of using this myself in the past, but I hear it earlier and earlier in the season and in the oddest ways. You didn’t control your own destiny in that game, Mr. Goal Scorer. I realize that you’re probably too young to know that no one controls his or her own destiny; I also realize that you’ve picked up this phrase from your coaches and the media. Makes me wish someone would take you aside a la Bull Durham.

Turning from vocabulary to CCHA hockey, here are a few recent annoyances.

  • The outcome of the Shillelagh Tournament. Notre Dame and Boston University fighting for third place? I don’t think that Notre Dame’s loss to Minnesota State has anything to do with parity; after watching Colorado College and Michigan Tech at the Great Lakes Invitational, I think ND’s first-round loss has everything to do with the WCHA. I can’t speak for BU’s 6-1 loss to Brown. Ouch.
  • Hardware in a two midseason tournaments, one of which that is very difficult to lose. Given the odds, it’s not surprising that a CCHA team emerged the winner of the Great Lakes Invitational, but I was disappointed in Ferris State’s lackluster performance against Bemidji State in the opening round of the Mariucci Classic. Again, I can’t speak to Minnesota’s loss to Union. I am glad for the Buckeyes, though, for their Catamount Cup win – gladder still for the CCHA that at least one other team came through.
  • Speaking of the Wolverines (and I was), every time I see Jack Campbell play for Team USA, I get irked that he’s not taking a leave of absence from UM to do so. There’s no reason for this Port Huron, Mich., native to play in the OHL rather than the CCHA. His .887 save percentage with the Windsor Spitfires is certainly something.
  • Speaking of goaltending in the CCHA (and I was), it’s an interesting and down year between the pipes for a league that is usually littered with fine netminders. FSU’s Pat Nagle is the only goalie who has played the majority of his team’s games who is among the top 10 goaltenders nationally for save percentage (.929), and he’s 10th. Last season, five CCHA goalies ended the year among the top 10 nationally (including Nagle) and Alaska’s Scott Greenham was No. 11.

And it’s not just CCHA-related hockey issues that make me want to vent.

  • Speaking of the World Juniors (and I was a couple of notes ago), I’m disappointed that Dean Blais chose not to repeat as head coach this year. I understand why, of course – it’s difficult to be away from family during the holidays – but I do think that Team USA would have been better prepared for its semifinal game against Team Canada Monday night had Blais been in the coaching mix this year.
  • Outdoor games. I don’t know what annoys me more: the gimmick or the fact that such games are billed as unique. They’re played relatively often now and hyped as though they’re going to save the game of hockey. To recap, they’re not unique (please, people, stop calling them once-in-a-lifetime experiences, especially as many Wolverines have played on outdoor surfaces twice in their collegiate careers) and they will not save hockey. In the college ranks, at least, they also illustrate the differences between the haves and have nots. Without an NHL team to piggyback, only big programs can host them.

On to proclamations

  • I have learned to love the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament. For the longest time, I dreaded covering it for purely selfish reasons; I travel for the holiday the moment my semester is done and arrive home in time to cover the GLI – feeling like I’ve received no real break in the process. While I still find the schedule tiring, I enjoy the GLI more and more every year. This midseason tournament doesn’t bring out the hockey media hangers-on who often simply take up space in the cramped Joe Louis Arena press box for the CCHA tournament. During the GLI, it’s usually just the diehard local college hockey press corps that covers, and I like the fellas (and few gals) in that fraternity. It’s a tournament for Michiganders. I get that now.
  • Speaking of the GLI (and I was), attendance this year was great. The announced attendance for the first day was 13,418, and for the second day was 14,718. Last year, the attendance for the first day was 11,211 and was 13,814 for the second day. You may not think that such a slight increase would be noticeable, but it was – and the atmosphere was terrific the whole time. Even attendance for the afternoon games was up.
  • Speaking of the World Juniors (oh, you know what I mean), I was heartened to see the one goal Team USA scored Monday night was scored by Wolverine Chris Brown. He and teammate Jon Merrill have had a great tournament.

And on to notes

  • The Spartans finally scored. MSU ended a scoring dry spell of 151 minutes, 42 seconds, spanning four hockey games that included two shutouts – one shutout in OT. It was Lee Reimer who broke the drought at 15:04 in a GLI game against Colorado College Dec. 29. It was Reimer’s first collegiate goal.
  • This year, the GLI continued its tradition of firsts. Reimer wasn’t the only one to net his first career goal. Others include Spartan Kevin Walrod and Tigers Dakota Eveland and Jeff Collett. Wolverines Lindsay Sparaks and Jeff Rohrkemper scored their first goals of the season in the tourney and MSU freshman goalie Will Yanakeff recorded his first career win. MTU’s Aaron Pietila had his first two-goal career game, and brothers Dean and Jake Chelios connected for their first collegiate goal when Jake set up Dean in MSU’s win over MTU.
  • Rkm41

    The GLI WAS a fun tourney to cover this year, Paula. And, yes, seeing all the Michigan regulars in one spot for two straight days IS cool…even if Mackinder is too busy to join us for both! :)

  • Streaker

    I take no issues with your many opinions here..glad to hear you approve of the GLI and other musings of a female hockey reporter. But the one that rankled me was your dismissal of the outdoor classic. Yes, the NHL now hosts them yearly which takes the novelty from them. But I do not recall anyone hyping the Big Chill as a “savior” for college hockey. It was promoted as a special event to honor the roots that each hockey player comes from- playing ice hockey outside. Was it a plug for Michigan? Of course. Was it a unique experience? Yes- considering I wasn’t sitting in a cozy suite enjoying it. Was it as shallow and bland as you make it sound? No. And- it may be the only unique experience for some of these nondescript hockey players at Michigan and MSU. It may return, it may not- but you’re free to skip it if you’d like next time. It was beautifully executed and opened the gates to thousands of casual hockey fans who may never witness such a crowd gathering for a hockey game. I don’t see any harm in that or the goodwill and commerce it brought to Ann Arbor.

  • JJfP

    What is the point of mentioning that she’s a “…female hockey reporter…”? I think the name Paula gives that away. If she were African-American, would you have said, “…musings of a black hockey reporter…”?!

    • Streaker

      Because she says that herself. I was mocking her.

      • JJfP

        Huh. She does do that, doesn’t she?! Maybe I should ask her, “If you were African-American…” ;-)

  • HEhockey

    Predicting Merrimack to win the HE tournament and shake up the NCAA tourny.

  • Lindyg

    Host schools playing at home, essentially, is ridiculous. Locations should be hosted by each of the four big conferences – ECAC, Hockey East, WCHA and CCHA

    • The host schools in the East aren’t playing at “home” technically– UNH plays in Durham, not Manchester, and Yale is in New Haven, not Bridgeport. The league offices themselves aren’t usually that big or have the staff to manage an event. In Hockey East, for many years the league’s office rotated through various member athletic departments.

  • Papagiorgio_nick

    I think the NCAA would and should avoid sending a team out west because they would have to play UNH in round 1.

    This exposes a grotesque problem with the current format. If you’re going to let the dumbest part of the current system stay (teams hosting), then don’t screw a team for being grabbing the 1 seed because they would have to play UNH.

    What a stupid set of circumstances. Part of me wants to see it to see what the NCAA committee would do.

    • BCEagle2004

      Those are some fair points, and I think we agree that having both selection rules — the host team at the host site, and the “no first round conference match-ups” — put too many limits on the brackets, so something should have to give here. I like the host team at the host site because it guarantees a better crowd for the regional.

      Look at the basketball tournament — how many sites during the first weekend are actually full for a game? And if a team does host a site (e.g., BC is hosting a basketball regional in 2012), that team can’t play at that site, which really frustrates the local fan bases who would turn out to see a local team in a big game, might not be interested in the other teams playing, and probably won’t travel as well to another part of the country. That said, the basketball tournament is without a doubt more nationally popular than the hockey tournament, and has a huge TV deal, which is why attendance is more important for hockey than hoops.

      With UNH in Manchester, I would hope that the regional sells out, or comes really darn close (and no excuses if another HEA team is there, too). If you don’t guarantee UNH at “home,” the attendance takes a huge hit. Same with Wisconsin in Green Bay (even though they’re not the hosts). It’s dumb to send them east just to avoid NoDak/Duluth/Denver in the first round. I’m fine with a possible conference title rematch if it means an exciting atmosphere for the regional.

  • Anonymous

    I like the whole UND not touching the MacNaughton Cup. I wonder if they will do the same thing with the Broadmoor if they win it.

    • Jason

      Definitley a statement made on their part. Hope it works out

    • AC

      The Gophers also didn’t touch the McNaughton the year that they went 0-2 in the Final Five and lost to Holy Cross in the NCAA first round in Grand Forks…..how soon Sioux fans forget

      • Anonymous

        And Toews’ Blackhawks didn’t touch the Campbell Bowl last season en route to their first Stanley Cup victory in 40 years, your point? Hockey is a superstitious game by nature. They’re doing what they feel that they need to do to put themselves in a good mindset going forward. Lighten up.

      • sooyeayea

        Trust me…….Sioux fans have not forgotten the MN loss to Holy Cross. One of the best games in the history of the Ralph.

  • Inthespiritof

    The Sioux are too busy congratulating themselves on that debacle in the state legislature. In Alabama they made resolutions against integrating schools and arguing about the legitimacy of segregation on the basis of it being better for both sides. Incredible. Again no sign of human decency by any of the seniors in making a stand. Frattin knows the system saved him. Genoway has no reason given all of his injuries

    • Cam

      Making a stand? They made a stand by being able to play outstanding hockey while the nickname mess surrounded the university and the state. As student-athletes and representatives of the school the hockey team probably did the right thing by keeping their mouths shut (whether you’re pro-nickname or not you know this is true). Also, Frattin wasn’t saved by any “system”. If anything the “system” was set up for him to stay out of school, sign a pro contract, and make some big bucks. Instead, he worked his butt off so he could go back to school, get an education, and prove to the world that he changed. Hobey Frattin. Sioux Forever

      • B.D.

        And his classmates stuck by him like any elite force.
        It is a well known story in North Dakota that this senior class is amazingly tight knit.

        WHat a shame our sock puppet friend will never have such relationships.

    • B.D.

      Or they realize that, like you, the hatred of the name is hugely trumped up politically correct nonsense.

      By the way, how is the old sock puppet tonight?
      You do not let us know much about you or your myriad of guises.
      Did you fail to make the varsity in high school and thus are striking back?

    • Hockey God

      Get a life

    • hockeyjockey

      your really comparing integration of black students into public schools to the nickname debate? you have some issues inthespiritof.

  • Gerry

    The “BEST” part of the Holy Cross loss was watching Woog try to be civil as he was surrounded by people yelling “Gopher Chokers” during the post game analysis.