Between the Lines

CSTV broadcast two ECAC games this season, out of the goodness of its own heart, apparently, since the ECAC never actually announced a relationship with the network. This despite the fact that CSTV is falling over itself to get college hockey games on televison, and every other conference signed and announced a deal years ago.

Meanwhile, all season long, the ECAC tournament Championship Game was on CSTV’s schedule, also supposedly part of this phantom deal. All of a sudden, it’s March 4th — heck, still 15 days from the tournament, plenty of time, eh? — and the ECAC sends out a press release saying that the games will instead be televised on CN8, a regional cable station owned by Comcast and shown on Comcast systems throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

What in the world happened? If we only knew. But this has all the makings of another Phil Buttafuoco-led ECAC fiasco.

Remember, this is the league that reneged on a handshake agreement with Lake Placid, and never returned its phone calls for months. Buttafuoco has a history of fracturing business relationships through neglect. Did this happen here? God only knows. But if it did, so help us all if it’s not the last straw for ECAC teams to bolt from this boondoggle.

Somehow, the games will probably be picked up by some satellite entity or another, allowing the games to be seen by people outside CN8’s coverage area.

(By the way, this has nothing to do with CN8, a fine channel which I’ve actually worked for in the past, and who I’m sure will do a very good job with the broadcasts.)

But in the meantime, what happened with an entity that the ECAC desperately needs to have in its corner? I’m sure the ECAC will say there was financial considerations, but why then was the game on CSTV’s schedule all year? And don’t you need to see the forest for the trees here?

If there was any conference more in need of the relationship with CSTV, it’s the ECAC, which has no other regular TV contract. Here’s a place that’s actually dying to have you. And not just some nothing place, but a place with the first-ever national college hockey game of the week. The same place that has deals with all the other big boys. And because the big boys already have their local deals, here’s an opportunity for you to sign on with this place and become their highlight game on the biggest weekend of the season pre-NCAAs.

And then it doesn’t happen. Why? I don’t know. Something.

“I know he’s working his butt off, but I don’t know what’s in his mindframe that makes him say, ‘I’m going to ignore [these people] again,” says one source close to the league. “That’s the problem I could never figure out with the guy.

“He doesn’t like confrontation, and that’s part of why he doesn’t return calls that could be a little sticky. … He has great ideas. He absolutely understands what needs to happen. The problem is how he executes them, and the relationships he ends up destroying along the way.”

The league deserves better than this.

This is a league filled with great schools, great fans, great coaches, great players. It has character. It has tradition. Because of the nature of athletics, it may never again reach its heights of the ’70s and ’80s, but ECAC teams can still be competitive every night. And do it within the confines of much higher academic standards than anywhere else.

In no other sport, except lacrosse, can Ivy League teams compete on this kind of level. These programs should be given a medal and saluted by every sports fan in North America.

At the same time, however, it continues to associate itself with this albatross in Centerville.

The ECAC hockey schools need to reinvent themselves so that we can go back to talking about how great they are, and not how much their progress is hampered by inept leadership.

There is more to say, but it can wait, because, frankly, I personally don’t want to distract any more from what is set up to be another outstanding ECAC tournament.

Check, Please

And people wonder why coaches sometimes go off on officials. You don’t think Mike Schafer’s tirade following a game against Rensselaer in January had any effect? Try these numbers on for size.

Cornell’s coach was upset with referree Joel Dupree, calling him out for failing to “protect his players” from a number of hits from behind. One led to a shoulder injury to Cornell power forward Shane Hynes. Following the game, Schafer went on a three and a half minute tirade, and was subsequently suspended for the team’s next game.

Don’t think for a second, however, that Schafer didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know at the time, of course, whether it would have any effect, but we can now see that it did.

In 44 ECAC games up to and including Schafer’s comments, there were six hit from behind penalties called. That’s one every 7.3 games.

In the 63 ECAC games from that point forward, there were 31 hit from behind penalties called. One every 2.0 games.

Pretty sad that it takes a three-and-a-half-minute profanity-laced tirade to get something accomplished, but sometimes it does.

Close Call

With five points separating three teams at the top of the ECAC standings, and numerous other close bunches throughout the 12-team league, Saturday’s regular-season finale was filled with intrigue. Teams were calling each other’s press boxes, getting up-to-the-minute updates on where games stood with teams close to them in the standings. Sports Information Directors racing down to the benches to relay scores to coaches. It was happening all over the league.

In one place, however, it appears someone got a little overzealous.

Union’s game with Princeton was going unusually long. Meanwhile, Cornell’s game with Clarkson was also going long, because it was on local television. It started seven minutes later than all other games, and included TV timeouts. Nevertheless, that game was pretty close to conclusion as Princeton tied Union in the game’s closing minute.

It seems that Union’s coaches were informed that Clarkson was losing, but didn’t get the update that the game was over. Union entered the night a point behind Clarkson for the final home-ice spot, but if the teams finished even, Union won the tiebreaker. There was still a chance Clarkson could tie, though, so Union’s coaches had to go for the win. So Union pulled its goalie in overtime. Union scored, won the game, and came in eighth place, the final home-ice spot, one point ahead of Clarkson. Brilliant.

Except that Union didn’t need to win the game.

According to information released before the game, if Clarkson and Union finished in a tie for eighth, then Union would win the tiebreaker based on record against the Top 4 in the league. Union coaches never got the new information that Clarkson had officially lost. If Princeton had scored an empty-net overtime goal, Union would be playing at Clarkson this weekend, instead of vice-versa.

This is why it pays sometimes to be a stats geek.