“You over-officious jerk!”
That was the comment hurled at the referee by eloquent former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy, and preserved for posterity by NFL Films. It’s my second favorite comment by a coach to an official — after Jim Schoenfeld’s “have another donut, you fat pig” quip to Don Koharski — but it may be the thought on the minds of a lot of folks following college hockey: fans, coaches and players alike.
As I said last week, I’m all in favor of opening up the game, and I agree with the NCAA’s points of emphasis. It’s the execution of it that brings up a few questions. Since I haven’t seen very many games yet in this young season, I don’t think I’m in a position to make any conclusions, but I have seen enough, and talked to enough people, to pose some questions.
One of things I was looking forward to in the trip I made this past weekend to Green Bay to see RIT take on St. Norbert was a comparison of officiating between the tight, zero-tolerance attitude taken by the ECAC, and the “traditionally” more physical NCHA.
What I saw were two games that pretty closely represented the goal that the NCAA is working toward: lots of scoring chances, a lot of speed up and down the ice, and a minimum of clutching and grabbing.
What I didn’t see was a game in which every bit of contact resulted in a whistle. The officiating crew made its share of “obstruction” calls — interference, holding, hooking — but not to such a point that special teams dominated the game.
Publicly and privately, administrators and coaches who agree with the concept of opening up the game are questioning the execution of the enforcement of these points of emphasis. Even CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos, whose compelling presentation and video breakdown of last year’s D-I championship game at the AHCA convention was the catalyst for this crackdown on obstruction, admitted last week during an NCAA conference call that his officiating crews are calling too much.
There will be only four other games between teams from the east and west regions until the NCAA playoffs, so the effect on any differences in officiating style during the regular season is minimal. And I’m not likely to see any more west region games this season, so I won’t have an eyewitness view of the way games will be called in the west. But two questions need to be asked if the officiating I’ve seen in each region so far is representative of the way each region plans to enforce the rules: Is one region right and the other wrong? And if so, why is there such a disparity in the application of the NCAA points of emphasis?
One thing that may return to the game if the clutching, grabbing, and hooking are removed is the body check. RIT defenseman Ian Fazzi delivered three good old-fashioned hip checks in the Saturday game against St. Norbert that would have electrified the arena had he done them in front of his home crowd. I wonder, though, if he would have been called for something — a trip, roughing, whatever — if he had.
Last season, I got to see St. Norbert four times: twice at RIT last October, and in the semifinal win over Plattsburgh, and the nail-biter national championship OT loss to Middlebury. Given that, I expected the Green Knights to dominate the weekend in speed and strength, but that wasn’t the case.
I have no doubt that St. Norbert will be right at the top of D-III all season long, and I still think they’d have to be a favorite for the national championship. But they need to blow a little rust off, and that, plus a really stellar rookie class of forwards at RIT, made the weekend in Green Bay much more competitive than I thought it would be.
Let me give some kudos here to the people of Green Bay. I wouldn’t call myself widely travelled, but I’ve been quite a few places, and nowhere have I encountered people more friendly than in Titletown.
If you ever make it to Green Bay, make sure you take the Lambeau Field tour. It completely slipped past my radar that the venerable stadium has had a $295 million renovation, which includes new luxury suites, meeting rooms, restaurants, and the Packers Hall of Fame. It’s a treat to get to exit the tunnel the team does, and also a hoot to hear the tour guide make wisecracks about the Bears, the Vikings, and, well, about the state of Minnesota in general.
The hall of fame includes the Packers’ three Super Bowl trophies and a recreation of Vince Lombardi’s office. They even let you sit in Lombardi’s chair.
As our new eastern D-III writer Tim Costello noted in a news story today, Skidmore has disciplined eight players for an underage drinking incident a few weeks ago. Most folks wouldn’t call it “hazing” — I think of hazing as forced humiliating activity as part of an initiation — but a zero-tolerance policy at the school makes the incident fall into that category. It’s got to be tough to have this come up just a year after it looked like the hockey program was going to get the ax, but the administration at Skidmore looks to have handled the situation in a deliberate and just manner.
Five Skidmore players will have to write papers about hazing and the conduct of athletes; those would make for some interesting reading.
This is the second “hazing” story to come to light recently, and it won’t receive the attention that the situation at Bowling Green will. If I were BGSU coach Scott Paluch, I don’t think I’d like the characterization of his situation as “hazing” — it sounds more like a case of drunk and stupid. Drunk and stupid is probably far too widespread on college campuses, but student athletes are expected to hold themselves to a much higher standard, and probably should, while similar activities never get any attention for students not in the spotlight.
And let me just ask this: If you are going to insist on being drunk and stupid, why must you compound the stupidity by bringing a camera?
Later today, there will be a new USCHO.com D-III men’s poll, the first regular-season edition. The only problem is that probably half of the teams won’t have seen action yet. If St. Norbert is toppled from the No. 1 spot, the team that takes it over probably won’t have seen any action yet, and won’t have until the poll on Nov. 22.
Unless the NESCAC starts its season earlier (not likely) or USCHO delays polls until Thanksgiving (we wouldn’t really want to answer all of the complaints we’d get if we did), there’s not much we can do about it.
Finally, kudos to Brockport, off to a 3-1 start. Coach Brian Dickinson brought in a big recruiting class, and the Golden Eagles are just two shy of their win total for all last season.