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College Hockey:
Style Over Substance

— After losing to Michigan in their NCAA semifinal game, New Hampshire’s Mark Mowers said that Michigan had one of the toughest defensive teams his team had faced this season. He also mentioned Miami as a tough, grinding hockey club.

But he and coach Dick Umile were quick to say that there’s little difference between East and West in terms of styles of hockey.

Fans at the Final Four, however, had a lot more to say about East and West than that. According to hockey fans in the know, this NCAA championship game was more than just Boston College vs. Michigan, Hockey East vs. the CCHA, more than East vs. West.

This game was white collar vs. blue collar.

“Oh, there’s a big difference. The East plays a more finesse game than the West,” said a Harvard fan. “I’m not so sure there’s that much difference anymore, though.”

“Most of the teams out west tend to be a little more physical,” said Dana, a Minnesota fan. “I think Boston College is an exception to that. In general, I think you find a little more rugged hockey out West.”

A group of North Dakota fans consisting of four women and one man had definite opinions about the difference in East and West styles of hockey, but the women deferred to the lone male–Warren, fully decked out in Fighting Sioux regalia–when the microphone was turned on.

“The West is a quicker, faster pace,” said Warren, “and the East is more finesse.”

He added helpfully, “The Sioux will be back next year.”

“West teams in general grind it out, more aggressive, more physical,” said Don, a Michigan fan. “East teams are quicker, more finesse, just generally a different style.”

His fellow Michigan fan, Laura, disagreed. “I think the only difference between the East and West conferences is that they’re a little more aggressive out East.”

And just in case you missed it, finesse is the only word allowable to describe the Eastern style in the Hockey Fan’s Bible.

Michael, a Minnesota fan, said that he likes more of the physical contact in the games. “I can do without WCHA officiating, which basically means that anything short of an ambulance is quite all right.

“I think the Western teams are more physical. I have seen more speed out of the Eastern teams this weekend. BC is really fast.”

Brock, a Maine fan and a perennial Final Four attendee, said that Western hockey is tougher physically.

“I think the West players are more aggressive; they’re bangers.

“The East players are a little more strategic in how they play. They come in probably with a little better game plan.

“Looking at the Michigan game today [against New Hampshire], there was a lot of weaving, breaking cross-ice for mid-ice passes. I like the Michigan style.”

He summarized, making everything perfectly clear. “The Western shirts blow, while the Eastern shirts are lying flat.”

Now we get it.

Brock also added, “For you girls in the West, the Eastern men are wonderful.”


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