Good morning from the media work room at the Xcel Energy Center, everyone. It was a great day of hockey yesterday, as four outstanding teams played two fantastic college hockey games in the best hockey arena I’ve ever been in. It should be a great game tomorrow. Tonight, however, it’s about the Hobey (and the Hockey Humanitarian, the All-American Teams, and those legends of college hockey that are participating in the open skate…again, this thing is a tremendously well-run event).
Anyway, I’ve been following the race all season, and the truth is, any one of the three players who might hear his name called tonight is legitimately worthy of the award. However, one has been judged by the committee to be more worthy of it than the others, and we’ll find out who tonight.
I am predicting that that one player will be Andy Miele.
As much as the numbers seem to favor the Miami senior, it’s not the easiest call in the world to make. After all, the last time the Hobey winner didn’t compete at the Frozen Four, it was Matt Carle in 2006, and before that, Peter Sejna in 2003. If you don’t get your team to the Frozen Four, you need to do something exceptional to win.
With the most points since Sejna, a solid number of goals in that point total, and a leadership role on a team that won the CCHA Championship and was among the top teams in the nation in scoring defense despite the mediocre save percentages of goaltenders Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard, I think Miele has done plenty to distinguish himself.
Frattin, for his part, has certainly done plenty to distinguish himself as well. He’s the national leader in goals, has earned that distinction playing in the deepest conference in the country, top to bottom, made admirable changes in his life when he needed to, and had a great “Hobey Baker moment” when he scored in double overtime to give the Fighting Sioux their second straight WCHA title (I regret my original typo). However, the truth is that the comparison between Frattin and Miele is very close, and given how close it is, I can’t help but think that the character factor will push Miele over the top.
It’s a strange thing, incorporating character into an award like this. If I were interviewing Matt Frattin for a job, I would look at the changes he made in his life and not give his past arrests a second thought when I was deciding whether or not to hire him. Here, though, where you’re comparing one player to another, I don’t think the voters would call it even.
But that’s the voters. It’s not the players. That’s where the second part of this post’s title comes in.
I expect that a number of the North Dakota fans who did such a tremendous job cheering on their team last night will be attending tonight’s ceremony to support Frattin, as they did for Ryan Duncan in 2007. It all seemed so much simpler then, and less contentious, and I think that if David Brown or Eric Ehn had won that award, that the fans would have applauded politely and not detracted from the winner’s moment.
With the way things have gone this year, however, I confess I’m a little bit worried. This race has gotten heated, with a lot of passionate opinions across the spectrum, and I don’t know how that will affect the ceremony. The other day, I started to envision an unfortunate scenario of Andy Miele winning, and being booed by North Dakota fans who feel that Frattin was robbed.
It reminded me a little bit of a situation I’ve encountered in one of my other freelance gigs, writing about mixed martial arts for UltimateFighter.com (and, on occasion, UFC.com). On occasion, when a fight goes the full three rounds, and is decided by the judges’ scorecards, the judges turn out to have seen the fight differently than the fans in the arena, and the fans boo loudly as Joe Rogan is trying to interview the announced winner of the fight. Often, Rogan will put his arm around the fighter and tell the crowd, “This man is not a judge,” emphasizing that the fighter fought hard for 15 minutes.
By the same token, no matter what happens tonight, neither Matt Frattin nor Andy Miele had a vote in this year’s Hobey Baker Award voting, and all they did was give their best in every game on the schedule (ditto Cam Atkinson). I hope that fans remember that, and I’m willing to make a deal to try and help that happen.
If Andy Miele is announced as the winner tonight, and if he is treated with the due respect by the fans, I will make myself available for half an hour in section 119 of the Xcel Energy center, starting at 7:30 local time, for fans to say whatever they darn well please to. I’ll be wearing my official Frozen Four media badge, and my Dartmouth jersey. If you want to yell at someone, I’ll let you yell at me. If there are boos, the deal is off.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. We’ll find out what the rest of the story is tonight.
Update, 6:37 p.m. CDT: Congratulations to Andy Miele. Well done, Sioux fans. I’ll be in Section 119 at 7:30.