This Week in Hockey East: Dec. 11, 2003

Letters To Santa

I did not commit mail fraud.

I also don’t think I’ve gained that much weight.

So I was surprised, and more than a little chagrined, when I got the letters. I can only surmise that snow on the envelopes smeared the writing and, as a result, letters that were intended for “The Fat Guy At The North Pole” got redirected to me, apparently under the guise that I’m “The Fat Guy On The North Shore.”

And so, with the promise that I’ll spend more time on the stationary bike so this doesn’t happen again, I now share with you this year’s letters to Santa from the Hockey East coaches.

These are, of course, genuine. No mere fabrications. Come over sometime and I’ll show you the hard copies. Would I lie to you?

On Boston College stationery:

Santa, this is Jerry York.

Gee, you’ve been pretty good to me these past few years, bringing me players like Brian Gionta, Jeff Farkas, Mike Mottau and Bobby Allen. And that national championship in 2001 was awfully nice of you. I was starting to smell coal soot when the Sioux scored that extra-skater goal to put the game into overtime, but you were really good to me after all.

And more recently, giving me the Eaves boys and J.D. Forrest and Tony Voce and Andrew Alberts and all the rest of them. It’s a team that is almost an embarrassment of riches, to be honest.

Not that I’m about to send Ryan Shannon or Chris Collins to some of my less fortunate brethren. Jack Parker and his Boston University offense may be a bit needy this time of year, but I don’t recall him offering to share any of his Beanpots.

So just between you and me, a little bah-humbug to Jack and his problems. Not in a mean way, of course. But I wouldn’t mind seeing his offense go hungry right though the first two Mondays in February and then turn anorexic in March. So I guess that’s on my Christmas list, although I’d just as soon you didn’t let anybody know about it since I do feel a twinge of guilt about wishing ill on others.

What I do feel good about asking for are two things. They’re not really all that outlandish since you’ve been so good to me all year long. The first thing that I’d like is for the team to be healthy come playoff time. Especially those Eaves boys. Their injuries worry me. If I can have my entire roster playing in March, I like my chances.

The other thing I’d ask for would be for Matti Kaltiainen to play in March and April like he was earlier this year, when he only allowed one goal for six straight games, if you forget about that New Hampshire extra-skater goal.

Gee, if that could happen, then I wouldn’t even have to wish for another national championship. It would be practically gift wrapped all by itself.

But just in case, I’ll close with a request that we win it all in Boston this year. That would really be special.

I’ve have left some milk and cookies by the fireplace for you and the reindeer. Help yourself, and go Eagles!

On Maine stationery:

Hey, Santa, Tim Whitehead here.

You were pretty good to me two years ago. That was quite a storybook ride to the national championship game. At the same time, instead of being “pretty good” to me, you could have been “amazingly good” or “awesomely good” or even “wicked good.” Just 53 seconds away from another national championship. Just 53 seconds…

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I know there are other coaches much less fortunate than I.

“Pretty good” is still… well, pretty good. So thanks for that first year up here in Orono.

But I’ve got to ask you: did I say or do something last year to tick you off? We were rolling along even better than this year and I was really happy with the gifts you’d left me. Great goaltending, deep scoring talent and, as far as I could see, all the pieces for another run at a national title.

Then it all fell apart. After January, we only won four games. And that loss here at the Alfond in the Hockey East quarterfinals! Poof! Those nice gifts were gone. Talk about getting coal in the stocking!

So I suppose what I’m asking is that you don’t pull the plug on us again in the second semester. We’re doing pretty well right now and if we can just keep that in gear, I’d really appreciate it.

I guess it boils down to continued strong goaltending and team defense. Frank Doyle and Jimmy Howard have both been great. So don’t leave Jimmy in your Christmas toaster and burn him to a crisp like you did last year.

Not that I’m pointing fingers, mind you.

And those holes that have filled so nicely on the blue line and the roles that have been filled up front… it ain’t broke, so, Santa, please don’t fix it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d be perfectly happy if you didn’t touch my hockey team at all. I like it just the way it is.

So if you’re in a bit of a hurry, just fly right over us. I can only wonder what would have happened last year if you’d just left us alone.

Not that I’m pointing fingers.

On New Hampshire stationery:

Hey, Santa, Dick Umile here.

I can’t complain about what you’ve already given me. Mike Ayers in goal. Solid defensemen. The latest deep group of talented goalscorers. A freshman class I’d match with anyone’s. Passionate fans at the Whittemore Center.

I’ll bet a Sunday dinner of pasta fazul for all your elves that we’re going to be at the FleetCenter again in March and in the NCAA tournament after that.

And I like my chances to get back to a FleetCenter Frozen Four, too, just like in 1998.

But I have a request, Santa.

We’ve been to the Frozen Four every year but two of the last six. And I appreciate that. You’ve been generous.

But it’s been like giving a kid his most eagerly desired present only to forget the batteries. The kid has to stare longingly at the present all Christmas Day without using it because… there aren’t any batteries.

That’s how it’s been to go four-for-six in Frozen Four appearances, but oh-for-four in championships. We came soooo close in 1999. And last year I thought it was a good college hockey game until that third period.

Vanek, schmanic. How about a championship for us? Especially this year in Boston?

How about, Santa, you remember the batteries this time?

Just once, I’d like to be able to take that “University of No Hardware” crap and stuff it down some throats.

Oops. Are you still figuring who’s been naughty and nice? I swear, that was just hyperbole.

But remember how I had to punish some of my athletes for being bystanders near some rioting after the Yankees – Red Sox series? Well, if we won a national championship, I might flip over a car or two myself. Heck, I might even flip over my own car.

Aw, did I just do it again? That was just strike two in the naughty-or-nice debate, wasn’t it?

I can’t help myself, though. I’m a nice guy, but I want it. Just like our fans. I want it! I want it! Santa, I want it! Do you understand me? I want it so bad I can taste it! I want it so bad I’d run over Rudolph and his stupid red nose if it would give us…

Santa? Hey, Santa, I didn’t really mean that.


On Massachusetts stationery:

Hey, Santa, this is Toot Cahoon.

You really left me a driveway full of coal those first two years here at UMass, didn’t you? But that coal turned into a Corvette last season so I’ve got to thank you. Now we’ve got a culture of winning. No more expecting things to go wrong in the third period because it’s always gone wrong. Now, we expect to win. We’re winning recruiting battles. we’re in the national rankings.

You answered my request of past years, “Can I please have a winning season?” Beating Maine in the quarterfinals and then taking UNH to the third period at the FleetCenter were great gifts indeed.

I figured it would only take the one big positive move to get the snowball rolling down the hill. And that’s what’s happening. We may be an avalanche pretty soon.

Which could be a problem. I may start having alumni thinking that we’ve got talent on par with BC. I may start having players who think that we’ve got talent on par with BC.

So keeping expectations under control with the boosters and keeping the work ethic burning within the players are things I’d really like from you. We could use a little more offense and a bit better special teams and I’d really, really like another Thomas Pock after this one graduates, but if we don’t get ahead of ourselves I think we can take care of those items ourselves.

So a little patience and perspective and some more really good recruiting classes is what I’d like in the big picture.

But maybe you’ll let me be greedy, too. How about an NCAA tournament berth with at least a first-round win?

And if we win in the first round, then the Frozen Four will only be another win away. Could you bring us that second win, too? How about it, Santa?

Can you imagine what it would be like if UMass was playing the Frozen Four in Boston? Just think of it!

Yeah, I know. Now my expectations are getting out of control. But what can I do? I like the way we’re headed. Maybe you can just give us a little hand here and there.

Whaddya say, big guy?

On UMass-Lowell stationery:

Hey, Santa, this is Blaise MacDonald.

I’d been wondering about you the last couple years. Back in 2001-02, we would have been an NCAA team if not for the three French guys leaving for the Olympics. Can you imagine what it would have done for the program if you could have helped us out a bit while they were away? The NCAA tournament! But, noooooooooo. You didn’t lift a finger to help us.

And then last year I neglected to ask you explicitly for strong goaltending. I suppose that’s my fault, but it’s implicit in my list every year. You can’t win without goaltending and we didn’t get it last season. To be honest, I kind of thought you were being overly strict to frustrate us like that just because I didn’t list it on the paperwork.

I know you have your list of whose naughty and nice, but so do I. And the last couple years you weren’t nice to us at all. In fact, I think they just made a movie about you. I haven’t seen it, but it’s called Bad Santa. Not for nothing, but I thought we deserved better than the coal you gave us the last couple years.

Short guys like me get accused of having Napoleonic complexes and it may be unseemly for me to be trashing you like this, but for a while now we haven’t been able to catch a break. And that doesn’t even get into the topic of the zebras….

But you’ve more than made up for it this year.

I was asking for a lot of things before this season started and I’ve already gotten them all. What did you do, start deliveries early to lighten the Christmas Eve work? If so, thanks. I appreciate it.

After last year, I really had to wonder about my goaltending, but Chris Davidson has really been solid. We’ll add John Yaros in the second semester, so that can only help.

I was hoping that all these freshmen and sophomores would mature quickly since there’s just one senior and three juniors who dress. I really like what I see.

So I guess I’d just like you to keep it coming. More development of my younger players, more fans, more weeks like the one where we took five-of-six points from BU and UNH.

Oh, and I could use a book of motivational phrases. I use a different phrase each day for my team so I can never have a big enough supply.

I’ve left some milk and cookies, but I’d ask you to keep the noise down. Our daughter is only about a month old and whoever wakes her has to do dishes for a week. That goes for you, too.

Unless, that is, you can give me another Ben Walter and Elias Godoy in the next recruiting class.

On Boston University stationery:

Santa, this is Jack Parker.

You’d have to be as blind as John Gravallese to wonder what I’m asking for. Could I have a goalscorer or three or four? I don’t know if I can take another game where we take forty shots, but lose because we only scored two goals.

Actually, we already have a goalscorer or three. They just aren’t scoring goals. I’m beginning to think someone stole the real Frantisek Skladany, Mark Mullen and Brian McConnell. Just like someone stole the real Ryan Whitney last year.

I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve got the real Whitney back now. So if we could get the real Skladany, Mullen and McConnell back, that would be a very good Christmas indeed. And while you’re at it, look around for Sean Fields, too. I’m not sure that I’ve got the real version of him either.

It would also be really great if the new rink comes in on time next year. That’ll be big for us.

Other than that, it’s the usual. Another Beanpot. Another Hockey East championship game. The NCAA tournament.

You know the deal. The stuff you deliver almost every year. Same old, same old. We’ve been through it enough times.

Oh, and we could always use some more really ugly ties. I give them to Ed Carpenter, our Sports Information Director, and he wears them at the NCAA Tournament. The uglier, the better. It’s good luck for BU.

On Providence College stationery:

Santa, this is Paul Pooley here.

Ever since 2000-01 when we finished third in Hockey East, advanced to the title game in the playoffs and went to the NCAAs, you’ve been tight with us. We’ve had to weather the ups and downs ourselves, with no help from you. But that’s all right. We’ve persevered and we’ll be a better team for it.

You stuck us with the kiss of death two years ago: first place in the preseason poll. Talk about a lump of coal in the stocking. We didn’t handle that very well.

So last year the expectations were lower and we did all right. We earned home ice. But who did we get in the playoffs? BU. Again! This was the third straight year and fourth in five. Give them credit, the Terriers knocked us out.

Now, if you want to be a team player, Santa, here’s what else we need right now. We need more league wins. Forget the nonconference games. We need points in the standings. No ifs, ands and buts about it. Our defense could be just a little tighter. Our PK can be a lot tighter.

Don’t get me wrong, Santa. You’ve already delivered some good things this year for us. Especially our goaltending. A .914 save percentage will win a lot of games.

But we’re only 2-5-2 in the league so we need more help and the sooner the better.

On Merrimack stationery:

Hey, Santa, how the Heck are you? Chris Serino here.

I’d thank you for delivering a clean bill of health for me, but I think the credit goes to a higher authority. And I’m not talking Joe Bertagna.

But if health is something you can control, then I’ve got to say it: what the bleep?

How many serious injuries are we supposed to take? Last year, Steve Crusco had five tendons and an artery in his wrist severed; Marco Rosa broke his wrist; then that horrible Joe Exter injury.

Now this year, Matt Johnson breaks his jaw and is out for the rest of the year. He can’t even redshirt the season to save eligibility because he’s played too many games.

So what the bleep are you trying to do to us? How about a healthy roster the rest of the year?

Okay, enough of that. Have you checked out our league schedule lately? We’re in the middle of nine straight games against Top 15 teams. Nine straight! What the bleep?

I’ve got some good kids who are working their bleeps off and if it isn’t a major injury then it’s a schedule made up by Marquis de bleeping Sade.

Have I been bad? Is that it? That naughty or nice bleep?

Is it my language? Are we getting hosed because I say bleep, bleep and bleep every once in a bleeping while?

Is that it? Because I can bleeping stop if it is. I can stop any bleeping time.

But other than that, I think I’ve been pretty bleeping nice this year.

So how about cutting us some bleeping slack, Santa? We could use some more offense, that’s for bleeping sure. And some smarter defensive play, too. Take some of our mistakes and drop them down Jerry York’s chimney. And of course, a few more bleeping studs in our next recruiting class.

Hey, Santa, sorry if I’ve had a bit of a bleeping attitude here. I just care about my kids and I want to see them do well. So if you could help us out a little, that would be bleeping terrific.

On Northeastern stationery:

I don’t believe in you anymore, you miserable old buzzard. And if you are for real, you should cut back on the pizza and the doughnuts. You ever hear of the Atkins diet? You might want to try it before your butt gets stuck in a chimney.

By the way, this is Bruce Crowder.

Here’s why I don’t believe in you anymore. I’ve got a good bunch of kids who work hard, but can’t catch a break. We’re a good team, but we’re 1-9-2.

Where are their presents? Where do they get rewarded for their efforts?

Sure, there are times we can’t throw a puck in the ocean. We had eight straight games in which we scored exactly two goals. We went 0-7-1 in that stretch. We only broke that streak by scoring just a single goal last Saturday. (Fortunately, that was enough to beat Vermont, but that’s besides the point.)

So if I believed in you, I’d ask for a little more offense. Actually, I’d ask for a lot more offense. Better team defense. Better special teams. Better everything.

But I don’t believe in you. I’m just pretending to write this letter so a nitwit USCHO writer has material for his column.

Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest asked which Hockey East team recorded a tie with what other league team earlier this year for the first time ever. The answer was the Nov. 18 contest between Boston College and Merrimack which ended, 3-3.

The first to answer correctly was Remy Ferris, whose cheer is:


This week’s question asks which Hockey East team won a game earlier this year with all three tallies coming from players getting their first goal of the season? Email my trivia account with the team and players who achieved this feat later in the calendar than any other. The winner will be notified by Tuesday; if you haven’t heard by then you either had the wrong answer or someone else beat you to it.

And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…

  • Congratulations to the Wesleyan hockey team and coach Chris Potter for an excellent start. It’s been many years since the last Cardinals winning season, but they stand 5-3-0 and 3-1-0 in the NESCAC going into the holiday break. Particularly impressive was last weekend’s upset of Babson, a “team receiving votes” in the Division III poll.
  • I’ve always stubbornly shoveled out the driveway whether we got two inches of snow or twenty. Except, that is, for the year I had shoulder surgery. (“Hey, honey, better grab a shovel! The snow is piling up out there. Heh, heh, heh…. Not to hit me over the head with!”) But when 36 inches descended last week and the opportunity to get the driveway plowed fell in our laps, we took it. And I’ve got to say, that doing all the shoveling for all those years means that I am about the dumbest, most stubborn idiot on the planet. I might as well saw my shovel in half and burn it in the fireplace for all the action it’s going to get from now on.
  • When has a Hot Stove League been anything close to this fascinating? The Red Sox – Yankees salvos just keep going back and forth. Curt Schilling… Javier Vazquez… what next?
  • Andy Pettitte to Houston! Heh, heh, heh. How you like them apples, Georgie Porgie?
  • Do Gary Sheffield and George deserve each other or what? Here’s hoping Sheffield’s reneging on his verbal agreement doesn’t end this marriage. We can only hope those two spend the next three years mauling each other.
  • We all love Curt Schilling now, but can we agree that his Questec bludgeoning was a mistake? The most galling thing in baseball is the strike zone inconsistency. There can’t be one version for Umpire A and another one for Umpire B. Questec is an entirely necessary step in the right direction. It may not be perfect, but it beats the alternative of randomness.
  • Man, the Patriots defense makes one offense after another — Indianapolis being the notable exception — look dumb and dumber. If the Pats retain home field advantage through the playoffs, you’ve got to like their chances.
  • I intend to eat during the holiday season like Ted Washington does. Is it true he lost weight to get down to 360 pounds?
  • Happy Holidays to all of you. This column will resume on Jan. 1. That is, if after your New Year’s Eve parties you can still see straight…