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Goodbye, a little early

In retrospect, I’m not surprised that Michigan State’s Derek Grant is the first CCHA player this season to leave college hockey before his proverbial time. Grant, a forward from Abbotsford, B.C., had 20 goals and 43 assists in his two seasons as a Spartan. With the uncertainty of the MSU coaching situation, it makes perfect sense for Grant to take a chance on developing better in a pro setting.

“I love everything about Michigan State,” said Grant, “and I will always be a Spartan. I owe a great deal of thanks to our coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to wear the green and white.”

Grant, a 2008 fourth-round NHL draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, has played two games already with the Binghamton Senators (AHL) and has registered an assist. He’s playing with CCHA alums Erik Condra (Notre Dame, 2005-09) and Derek Smith (Lake Superior State, 2004-07).

Grant is the 10th Spartan player to exit the program early since 2006.

What did them in…or not

When a best-of-three series goes to a third game, it’s not unusual for legs to tire late in the going and seasons to be decided on fatigue-related mistakes. In Sunday’s 5-4 Western Michigan win over Ferris State, it was a turnover in the Bulldogs’ zone that led to Max Campbell’s game-winner – but it was a mistake that could have been made at any point in the game, not because of heavy legs and eyelids.

“In all my years, normally when we get into three games in three days and the guys are a little wore out, generally those are 2-1 games,” FSU head coach Bob Daniels told the Kalamazoo Gazette after Sunday’s contest. “I’m just amazed at the pace of the play and the energy level from both teams sustained through three games in three nights.”

Two players from FSU that I hate to say goodbye to are seniors Pat Nagle and Zach Redmond, both Michigan boys. Nagle (Bloomfield, Mich.) finished the year with an 18-14-5 record, .923 save percentage and 2.02 goals-against average. In his career, Nagle was 45-42-11 (.916 SV%, 2.32 GAA).

I was sorry to see Redmond’s senior year hampered by injury. The defenseman from Traverse City, Mich., played in only 26 games in 2010-11 and hadn’t seen action since Feb. 12. In four years, Redmond had 22 goals and 68 assists.

While the All-CCHA First-Team goalie, Nagle, was ending his season in Kalamazoo last weekend, the league’s Second-Team netminder, Alaska junior Scott Greenham, was meeting the same fate in Oxford. The Nanooks lost in two 4-1 games, though, and it was RedHawk Andy Miele’s goal 16 second into the second – with the score tied 1-1 – that sealed Alaska’s fate Saturday night.

“When they scored on first shift in the second period, I think it caught us off guard and I don’t think we ever recovered from that,” Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson told the Hamilton Journal-News after the loss. “We didn’t have much push-back after that first goal.”

Greenham (Addison, Ont.) played every minute in Alaska’s net this season with a record of 16-17-5, a .917 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average.

My impression of Greenham has always been that he’s one of the good guys, so I wasn’t surprised to receive an email this weekend with unsolicited praise for Greenham from someone close to the league but not affiliated with the Alaska program, describing Greenham as “one of the best kids in the league…a class act.”

Hellos…or holas

I can’t think of Western Michigan’s success this season without thinking of Bill Wilkinson, who coached the Broncos from 1982 through 1999. Wilkinson landed at Wayne State University from 2003 to 2008, and after the Warriors folded, Wilkinson eventually took his act on the road – to Spain.

And just this past weekend, Wilkinson’s team, Club Hielo Jaca, won the Spanish League Championship with a 5-0 win over Barcelona. The only American on the team, James McKenna (Middlebury College, 2005-08), had two goals in the win.

I got email from Wilkinson before the title game and I’m happy to report that he and his wife, Mary, are enjoying this second act in Spain. He talked up the weather, the golfing, and his shaky Spanish skills.

I heard from another Bill a while back, former CCHA commissioner Bill Beagan (1985-98), who updates me regularly on his life in retirement with his wife, Barb. He had some interesting thoughts about the Big Ten, calling the conference a “no-brainer,” and advocating for the admission of Notre Dame to the league when it forms.

Beagan had some good words about yet another Bill, Billy Jaffe, whom he remembers not just as a Michigan player but as a linesman for the CCHA. He says that Jaffe is a “good kid.”

That’s another advantage of having been around the CCHA for so long and knowing folks who’ve been around even longer. When you’re a child of the 1960s, it’s nice to be referred to as a good kid.

Another good kid

I’ve been a fan of WMU captain Ian Slater’s after meeting him following his second collegiate game, a 2-1 loss to RIT Oct. 11, 2008. Some things you just don’t forget. Slater’s leadership qualities impressed me immediately.

I know he’s young and a college kid and all, but this week Slater fell into a language trap that has vexed me for two seasons running. Talking to the Kalamazoo Gazette this week about losing the first game of last weekend’s series against Ferris State, Slater said, “We respond to adversity and we’ve proven that this season.”

Losing the opening game of a best-of-three CCHA playoff series does not constitute adversity. Losing the entire series does not constitute adversity.

Adversity is what hit Haiti last year and what Japan is going through right now. Political uncertainty in Egypt, Lybia, and Tunisia? That’s adversity. Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan? That’s a place where people face real adversity.

I love college hockey as much as anyone else does, but a loss is just a loss, and events in the wider world remind us that hockey is, in fact, only a game.

Give to the American Red Cross to fight real adversity around the globe and in the U.S.

And, as always, @paulacweston on Twitter.

  • Cis

    Paula I know people are hard on you, and I know it was late when you posted this. But Redmond had 68 assists??? Come on……proofread!

    And give Slater a break. People throw cliches around in sports too much but he was referencing legitimate adversity in the context of the conversation you were having with him. Japan and others aren’t facing adversity, but rather catastrophic challenge to health and well-being. Hell I face adversity every day just driving to work!

    Thanks though, and go Broncos!

    • Paula Weston

      But Redmond did have 68 assists. The sentence reads: “In four years, Redmond had 22 goals and 68 assists.”

      I know it’s the middle of the night and I’m really wiped out, but I don’t see the error in that sentence.

      The way that coaches — and now players — throw around the word “adversity” is ridiculous, and I stand by that. It’s a game. And you don’t face adversity driving to work. I don’t, either — and I live in Flint.

      • cis

        My apologies, I didn’t see the 4 years comment (it was late). But there is no need to say that about a kid! Look up adversity, it does not only apply to dire situations. Now if you want to say that about “battle” and “war” being used in sports context, I’d agree with you.

        • Paula Weston

          Unless a player is injured during the course of a game, I maintain that he suffers no adversity. Losing a hockey game is not adversity. Losing a playoff series is not adversity. These are disappointments. Profound disappointments? Sure. But not adversity.

          Adversity is crisis. Falling behind in a hockey game? Potentially disappointing but not a crisis in one’s life. Liken real crisis to manufactured crisis and we have a society that loses perspective about what is genuinely adverse. Take that one step further, and we have a society completely desensitized to real human suffering. Personally, I don’t want to go down that road. Words matter.

          In the context of our culture, college students — and coaches, especially coaches — are privileged. I’m not saying they can’t and don’t suffer adversity, but the Broncos have not at all had to overcome any real adversity as a team this season. In fact, their season’s been kind of charmed (and very fun to watch).

          Ask the RedHawks about the definition of adversity — and be thankful that this year’s Broncos did not have to go through what the RedHawks did a year ago.

          • Matt

            My gosh Paula, this is the second time I can remember in the last year+ when you chastised somebody for words that I believe everyone would consider benign or even laudatory!

            The first was your classless finger-wagging to ESPN’s John Buccigross after his heartfelt, compassionate, and deeply-personal tribute to Brenden Burke. Why? Because he had the audacity to say Burke wasn’t “flamboyant.” Sorry, Paula, if you want to talk about disgraceful, the only one who should be disgraced is you for calling out a class-act like Buccigross at a time when he’s grieving for using an innocuous word that you bungled the intention of.

            Now, you condescendingly call out Slater for using the word adversity? Are you kidding?! Adversity is akin to an obstacle, there is nothing cataclysmic about its connotation. This isn’t just an example of media annoyingly examining words with a fine brush, this is an example of a media member having no idea how to contextualize, as well as not knowing the meaning of a word.

            You want to pick a bone with sports figures’ word choices, you’ll your pick. Mike Bellotti’s comparing the BCS to a cancer that keeps growing when Oregon was left out of the title game during Harrington’s senior year — that is worthy of condemnation. So were Bobby Knight’s comments about rape, Lou Holtz comparing Rich Rodriguez to Hitler, etc.

            But a player using the word adversity to describe, well … adversity?! You owe Slater an apology.

            Anyone who AGREES that Paula was right in chastising Slater, please, speak up. I highly doubt you’ll have many (any?) come to your defense on this matter.

          • Paula Weston

            This is the last response I’ll have to anything in this thread.

            I stand by what I say about about the use of the word “adversity,” both here and in previous blogs/columns. I understand that many sports fans are comfortable equating disappointment on the playing field (or sheet) with real, actual problems, but losing a sporting event is not real adversity.

            It’s telling, Matt, that you’re clearly still fuming about my column that addressed Buccigross’s use of the word “flamboyant.” I never said that Buccigross lacked class; what I said was that he lacked awareness. At that point, Brendan was out — and Buccigross was the one who told his story (and in a very sensitive way), and so knew that he was gay. It was common knowledge that Brendan was gay. The word “flamboyant” has a very specific connotation in reference to gay men. I stand by what I said.

          • paula quit

            Paula you are the worst reporter and writer I have ever come across in decades of reading. Half the time you get game facts incorrect (I once read Northern Michigan won a game 3-1 in double overtime), and the other half what you say is just plain stupid. I wish they’d fire you ever single day.

          • Matt

            Fine Paula, respond no more, but that won’t stop me. What you’ve shown here is that you either have too much foolish pride to admit your mistake, or ignorance of the meaning of words. It scares the living daylights out of me to think that it’s possibly the latter considering I believe you’re an English teacher, but either way, it’s pathetic that you’ve reduced yourself to this.

            Your notion that adversity only relates to issues of paramount importance is simply wrong. Just downright wrong. There’s no other way to put it. Adversity can refer to global crises, and it can relate to smaller bumps in the road. If you want to debate that, well, your beef is with the English language, not with Slater.

            Likewise, flamboyant isn’t a word used primarily to demean gay men. Again Paula, you obviously just don’t know the full scope of the word. Look up the word “run,” and you’ll see more than 20 different meanings — not merely “putting one foot in front of the other in rapid succession.”

            As a sportswriter, you should know that “responding to adversity” is a phrase that almost all coaches and players have uttered many times throughout the course of their careers. And don’t try to tell me I’m wrong, because like you, I’m a sportswriter. And unfortunately it’s journalists like you who go out of your way to stew up controversy that make athletes and coaches hesitant to talk to us.

            I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Now, there’s no more doubt. You’re a disgrace.

  • streaker

    I agree that Scott Greenham is a class guy. Showed that at Yost clowning around with fans that are usually pretty hard on opponents.

  • broncos24

    Paula,

    Are you serious with this Ian Slater thing? This has to be a joke right? I can’t believe you’re calling out a 22 year old kid who simply talking to reporters. I think you might be the only person on this planet to interpret his comments as if they were something bad.

    At least he didn’t pull a Roy Williams (UNC hoops) and compare losing the game to the tradegy in Haiti.

    “In a press conference (full of television cameras no less) prior to North Carolina’s loss to Duke in Chapel Hill, Roy Williams compared the Tar Heels’ season to the disaster in Haiti.

    ‘Our massage therapist told me, ‘You know, coach, what happened in Haiti is a catastrophe. What you’re having is a disappointment,'” Williams said. “I told her that depends on what chair you’re sitting in. It does feel like a catastrophe to me, because it’s my life.’

    You need to get a clue

  • Mmoney64

    You are on Slater’s case?

  • MSU101

    I honestly believe Paula C. Weston just hates bronco nation. I am glad Kuhn called you out last week and I believe he should have rubbed it in your face more. Paula, face it you are just trying to create a distraction because the Broncos are going up against your beloved Wolverines this weekend.
    You should be ashamed, and should immediately step down from your position here at USCHO.com as I am sure there are more partial writers available.
    Also the Broncos and Ian Slater have faced adversity (Noun: Difficulties; misfortune.) in his 3 years here he has seen WMU finish dead last and they have overcome that and more this year.
    Paula you sound ignorant.
    Go Broncos, Beat U of M and go Slater

    • Bob

      Actually, the Buckeyes are her beloved.

  • CIS

    Paula, you either enjoying stirring the pot or simply don’t think things through when you are writing. Ian Slater responded to a reporter’s question after a dramatic victory (can we call it dramatic, at least?). I don’t think he was comparing it to a catastrophic earthquake.

    You are being ridiculous, and there was no need to even go there in a HOCKEY BLOG. People do jump on you a little too much here, but your material is often rushed, incorrect, and in this case, way off the mark.

    Fortunately, I doubt Ian Slater cares what you think.

    Ridiculous!

  • CIS

    Uh oh!!!

    “I think we’ve grown a lot since the Michigan series,” WMU senior defenseman Mike Levendusky said. “Adversity and that sort of stuff happens in a season. You learn to move on and deal with it. We know that we can beat Michigan. They’re just another team.”

  • IrishHockeyFan

    Adversity is relative. If he had said “we’re dealing with the same kind of adversity those folks in Haiti and Japan are dealing with”, yeah, I can see calling him out for a serious lack of perspective. That isn’t what he did. In the context of hockey, their season, and how they did end up responding to the loss, yeah, he was completely correct to use that word.

  • paula please quit now.

    From that big thick book you’ve never opened, the dictionary.

    1. adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress: A friend will show his or her true colors in times of adversity.
    2. an adverse or unfortunate event or circumstance: You will meet many adversities in life.

    So by this definition you’re suggesting Webster’s means people will face many earthquake’s, floods, and tsunami’s in one’s life?

  • bronconick

    Maybe you should spend less time sniping about players and coaches, and more time chasing down your fellow journalists with this lonely belief of yours, considering a google search for news about overcoming adversity has 6 of the 11 stories being about sports, with a 7th about a movie.

    You must be one of the folks that leave at the end of regulation so you’re not patronizing those heartless people referring to “Sudden-Death” overtime, which is clearly a slight to anyone whose lost someone to a heart attack or some other version of a quick death. By the way, make sure to donate to the American Heart Association.

  • Anonymous

    Context, Paula, context! Slater’s remarks were made in relation to a weekend hockey series. You took him out of context, and that is unprofessional.

    To single Slater out in your column the way that you did – implying that he fails to understand what is important in this world – was shabby. You should be ashamed, but you defend your condescending remarks instead.

    You point the finger at Slater for not understanding his relative importance? You should look at yourself. This is a hockey website, Paula. Get a grip on yourself.

  • Victoriabutler1122

    I’m completely amazed at the language and anger used by many on this blog. All of you are calling out Paula, but you are acting like the very things you accuse her of: classless, misquoting, stirring the pot, to name but a few. I loved the comment, “And, don’t try to tell me I’m wrong, because like you, I’m a sportwriter.” Wow…..do all of you think you’re perfect? If you don’t agree with her, debate her on the merits of what she wrote. Don’t personally attack her. We don’t have to all agree with each other’s opinions to show respect one another. You can defind your opinion without belittling someone else. Right or wrong….all news articles have opinion in them, even sports articles. So, I will quote what someone wrote above, “You need to get a clue.”

    • paula please quit now.

      Victoria she get’s facts wrong, and doesn’t know the meaning of words. Anyone with “writer” in her title deserves to be belittled for that.

  • Hewm12

    flanagan with no team behind him.  are you kidding? carey drewiske essery hughes…plus wenninger in net (top 4 in every one of your lists on your own site) still writing them off based on there start this season..tisk tisk

  • Armydad21

    Candace, great perdiction on the Beaver Sioux series….quite a battle!

  • Guest

    BC fans are never that loud at Kelley. Who is he kidding?

    • Guest

      *she

  • Prpjck

    I was there. BU fans made a good showing, but BC fans were definitely louder and obviously packed the house. More impressively, they cheered their team until the final buzzer and a lot of them stayed to sing their alma mater and salute the team–even in defeat.

    Saturday was the opposite. Agganis didn;t even sell out and started emptying out halfway through the third. By the end of the period, the only people left in the stands were the BC fans.

  • None

    After reading the first sentence I laughed, and then stopped reading because all credibility was gone.