As USCHO enters its 15th season, you’ll notice a few changes around the site. This blog is one of them. I’ll be blogging three times regularly, every week: once on Sundays or Mondays to chat about the doings of the previous weekend; once late Tuesday or early Wednesday to chat about something else; once on Friday to chat about picks for the upcoming weekend’s games.
There will be a column on Thursdays still, but it will be slightly different. No picks, few notes, and perhaps devoted to a single issue.
Wait a minute, Paula, you say. What about that Tuesday or Wednesday thingamabob identified as “something else”?
Here’s the story. Early in the week, I’m going to throw 15 things out here. They may be random, note-like things, or they may be 15 things about a single theme. There will be little or none of the preamble that you’re getting here. We’ll play it as it comes and see what the season brings us. I am open to suggestions, too, about what you’d like to read about.
As the season is young and I’m feeling nostalgic, this is what I’m pitching this week.
15 things from 15 years
I’d covered college hockey for a small Michigan publication for one year when USCHO hired me in the fall of 1996, the first year of USCHO’s publication. I’ve actually been around the game for 15 years myself, even though USCHO’s only been here for 14.
I know I’m a mere lass compared to some of you in terms of college hockey history. Even so, I’ve witnessed some memorable things in my 15 years, some of which I can share, some of which I can’t, many that we’ve all seen.
Here, off the top of my head, are 15 things that stick with me from my first 15 on the job. Please remember with some tolerance that I was living in Columbus for the first 12 of those, and this blog will be wordier than those “15 things” that follow throughout the season.
1. Cincinnati, March 1996. The Illinois-Chicago fire sale and mock draft at the NCAA Championship, long before the tournament was called the Frozen Four. With UIC having announced the sad demise of its program, the Flames’ players were up for grabs, fictionally speaking.
I chose goaltender Adam Lord, with chants of “Praise the Lord!” echoing in the hotel room, for Ohio State. In reality, Lord went down the road to Miami for his final two years of eligibility. Nice kid.
2. Milwaukee, March 1997. Seeing the Fighting Sioux stroll through the streets of a neighborhood in Milwaukee on a very cold but bright day and knowing at that moment that North Dakota would win the championship. The field included Boston University — in its fifth consecutive Frozen Four appearance — as well as Michigan and Colorado College. The Sioux were significant underdogs, and I remember many people (especially press from out East) remarking about the players’ and coach Dean Blais’ alleged lack of savvy. The Sioux were scruffy, without question, and the more sophisticated press thought them yokels.
But they were loose, feeling no pressure about the tournament. As they walked this Milwaukee side neighborhood — which happened to be where I was getting my starter on my beloved 1989 Jetta, Gypsy, replaced — they looked confident, easy, ready to win.
And they did, 6-4, over BU.
3. Boston, April 1998. The moment the title game went into overtime, I turned to a smug member of the Boston press — the entire Eastern press corps had already anointed Boston College — and said, “This is Marty Turco’s game now.” The guy sneered at me. He wasn’t sneering when Josh Langfeld scored at 17:51 in OT to give Michigan the win.
4. Columbus, December 1998. It’s a little-known fact that the Buckeyes did not lose a single game in their entire last calendar year of 1999 in the formerly teeny, tiny OSU Ice Rink. The rink was small, and the Buckeyes sent it out with style, having gone to the Frozen Four that April.
The last regular-season series the Bucks played in the old barn before moving into the Schottenstein Center was against Notre Dame, a team whose number they had in those days, for whatever reason. The Friday game was close but in the Saturday contest, the entire Irish squad became increasingly frustrated and took many stupid penalties. Aniket Dhadphale got so mad at a call that he threw his stick the length of the ice. ND head coach Dave Poulin threw his arms up in disgust.
Although it has nothing to do with that game, Dhadphale remains one of my all-time favorite CCHA players.
5. Columbus, January 2000. The good, old days of real animosity not filtered so closely by vigilant PR machines. After a penalty-filled, 6-4 Michigan win over OSU at the Schott, UM’s Geoff Koch said that the Buckeyes were “always chippy,” to which OSU’s Eric Meloche responded by calling the Wolverines “weasels.” Good times.
6. Providence, April 2000. North Dakota beats Boston College, 4-2, to take the national championship and — again — the Eastern press has annoyed the Westerners by practically declaring the game a moot point, as BC would clearly emerge victorious. The fans responded with all four sides of the arena participating in a chant of, “W-C-H-A!” each side taking a letter, after NoDak’s win.
7. East Lansing (and other locales), January 2001. Michigan State sophomore, Ryan Miller, posted five shutouts in six games, giving up just one goal in that stretch. From Jan. 14-27, Miller racked up a consecutive 229:29 minutes during which no one could get anything past him. Wolveirne Josh Langfeld finally solved him at the 2:17 mark of UM’s 4-3 OT victory Jan. 27 to end the streak.
8. East Lansing, October 2001. The Spartans and the Wolverines tie, 3-3, in front of 74,554 fans in Spartan Stadium, a game dubbed “The Cold War.” It was a great game. There was some debate about changing the name of the event, given how soon this was after Sept. 11. There was also a racoon in the press box following the game.
9. Columbus, November 2001. Miami’s Mike Glumac scores with one-tenth of one second left on the clock in overtime to lift the RedHawks over the Buckeyes, 1-0. Glumac’s goal was the first Miami had scored in over 180 minutes of play.
10. Columbus, December 2002. Lying on a hospital Gurney, an indescribable pain on the right side of my body, I realized I wasn’t going to be released any time soon. The verdict? Emergency gall bladder surgery. All I could think of was, “I’m going to miss the OSU-Miami series this weekend!” Thank the hockey gods I never have to go through that again.
11. Detroit, March 2004. After OSU becomes the CCHA’s tournament champ with an improbable run through the Super Six, I return to the hotel to find the players and coaches and their families hanging out in the hotel bar/lounge — with Rick James. Mr. James, who died a short time later, raised his glass to the team and said, “Ohio State! And I’m Rick James, b****!” Surreal.
12. Columbus, April 2004. All four teams in the Frozen Four are from the WCHA. Thank the hockey gods I never have to go through that again.
13. St. Louis, April 2007. Michigan State’s team is walking the bowels of the Scottrade Center, loose as NoDak was a decade before and every bit as much the underdogs. Team captain, Chris Lawrence, yells as the team passes the press area. “Mr. Koepke! Mr. Neil Koepke!” MSU comes from behind with three third-period goals to beat BC, 3-1, and at the post-game press conference, Lawrence plops the trophy on the interview table. It seemed as pure as sport could get.
14. Grand Rapids, March 2009. Bemidji State demolishes Notre Dame, 5-1, and then beats Cornell, 4-1, to earn the Beavers their first trip to the Frozen Four. “You just believe,” said Tom Serratore.
15. Washington, D.C., April 2009. Less than a minute to go, and BU scores two goals to tie Miami in the national championship. At that point, the inevitability of the Terriers’ win was obvious, and Colby Cohen gave BU the victory at 11:47 of OT.