This Week in Hockey East: Dec. 9, 2004

The Hockey East Courtroom

Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. The Hockey East Courtroom convenes with the Dishonorable Judge Dave Hendrickson presiding.

The first case involves the People of Hockey East against Boston University coach Jack Parker. All rise. Coach Parker, raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Joe Bertagna.”

Please be seated.

The charges, Coach Parker, are serious. I see that you have declined counsel.

“Your Dishonor,” Parker says. “I’m more than capable of speaking for myself.”

Yes, we’ve noticed.

Okay then. Let’s move on to the charges. The first one is that you willfully and intentionally had your team lose games to Harvard, Denver and Colorado College so that you could get your 700th career win against Boston College. This would be a violation of code 700, section B, article U: rubbing an archrival’s nose in it.

“It doesn’t get any better than beating Boston College,” Parker says. “I’ll tell you that, Your Dishonor. Heh, heh, heh. BU – BC. It doesn’t get any better than that. 3-2, Go BU.”

Coach Parker, please wipe that smirk off your face. This is serious business.

“Heh, heh, heh,” Parker says. “I’m trying, Your Dishonor.”

It doesn’t appear that you’re trying very hard.

“I’m doing the best I can,” Parker says. “I just haven’t been able to stop smiling since that win. 3-2, Go BU. Heh. Heh. Heh.”

Coach Parker!

“If that’s not the truth,” Parker says, “I’ll wear [Sports Information Director] Ed Carpenter’s hideous ties for the next year.”

Coach, you know full well that this state doesn’t allow the Fashion Death Penalty.

Parker shrugs, the look of mirth still bubbling on his face.

Coach, we have here a game story by USCHO’s Scott Weighart. He makes reference to the loss to Colorado College and then quotes you as saying, “Scotty Owens, the coach of Colorado College, said to me before the game started, ‘Hey Coach, why don’t you get your 700th against BC? That would be better.’ And I said, ‘Scotty, if you could guarantee me that I’d get my 700th against BC, I’d walk out of here right now!”

Coach Parker, that would seem to be the proverbial smoking gun. What do you have to say? Are you going to plead innocent or guilty?

“Your Dishonor, it’s a ridiculous charge,” Parker says, “But I’m only pleading happy. Happy that we’re in first place with an 8-1-0 league record and happy that we beat BC.”

Speaking of your record, that leads to the other charge against you, Coach. Your team is indeed 8-1-0 within Hockey East, but in nonleague games it is 1-5-0. You’re charged with letting down the league in its ongoing attempt to portray itself as the best of the best.

The smile fades from Parker’s face. “I’m not very happy about that, to tell the truth. In fact, I’ll plead guilty to that count. We’ve got to do a better job in our nonleague games if for no other reason than our standing in the national picture. Seeding in the NCAA tournament used to be a bigger deal when you had a chance to get a first-round bye, but it’s still a major factor in your chances of advancing.”

So you’re pleading guilty?

“Not so fast,” Parker says. “I’ll plead guilty to the one charge if that frivolous one about the 700th win coming against BC is dismissed. That one makes no sense at all. Obviously, there was no way of knowing that we’d beat BC and, obviously, taking those three nonleague losses hurt us in the national picture. Any one who heard my comments after those three losses knows that I didn’t take them lightly.”

Understood, Coach. The charge of setting up the 700th win against BC so as to rub their noses in it is hereby dropped in exchange for the guilty plea in letting down Hockey East in your nonleague games. Sentencing on the latter charge is suspended pending further evidence, specifically your next four games, in which your Terriers will have a chance to redeem themselves. Rensselaer, Nebraska-Omaha and two against Minnesota will be ample evidence either in favor of your innocence or guilt. If guilty, you could be facing PairWise Problems. I’m hoping not to see you return to this courtroom again this year.

“The feeling, Your Dishonor, is mutual,” Parker says.

And congratulations on number 700 and the new rink.

“Thank you,” Parker says.

Next case!

This case involves the People of Hockey East against Maine coach Tim Whitehead. All rise. Coach Whitehead, raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Joe Bertagna.”

Please be seated.

Coach Whitehead, I see that, like Jack Parker, you are without counsel.

“If Jack can do it, so can I,” Whitehead says. “In fact, I did a killer Jack Parker impersonation at the Hockey Writers dinner a few years ago. I’d be happy to entertain you with a repeat performance.”

That won’t be necessary. We’ve had enough Jack Parker for one day, thank you.

Let’s move on. Coach Whitehead, the first charge against you is failure to defend your home ice with the accustomed Alfond Arena results. This year you are only 7-4-1 at home and are on a pace to lose more games at Alfond than in many years. Need I remind you that in 2001-02 and 2003-04 — the years your Black Bears reached the national championship game — you posted home records of 15-2-3 and 17-1-1, respectively. How do you plead?

Whitehead says, “Your Dishonor, I plead sort of guilty.”

Sort of guilty?

“We got off to a bad start in that respect, Your Dishonor,” Whitehead says. “Two losses to North Dakota right off the bat. Then a 1-0 loss to St. Lawrence two weeks later. Another one to BC.

“But we’ve gotten back on track lately. We’re 4-0-1 in our last five at home and all of those were league games so that was nine points in the standings. I’m pretty happy with that.”

Perhaps. Although I see that against Merrimack last weekend, you held the Warriors to only 12 shots each night, but you still let them escape Alfond with a point. How did that happen?

“We outshot them on Friday, 39-12, but we just ran into a hot goaltender,” Whitehead says. “That happens sometimes. I’d like to submit as evidence that we left no doubt the next night, winning 5-0.”

Yes, I see. I’m inclined to accept your plea of “sort of guilty” and suspend your sentence pending the second half of the season. But I’ll throw the book at you if you relapse.

“I understand, Your Dishonor,” Whitehead says. “We’ll be on our best home ice behavior. But I was just wondering … what is the sentence that you’re suspending?”

It’s a harsh one. A quick exit from either the Hockey East playoffs or the NCAAs. Or both.

“Both?” Whitehead asks. “That seems harsh.”

Are you questioning the wisdom of this court?

“Of course not,” Whitehead says. He pauses and adds, “I’m sure you’re every bit as brilliant and consistent as the officiating of John Gravallese.”

The Dishonorable Dave Hendrickson blinks, unsure of how to proceed.

Coach Whitehead, should the court take that as sarcasm?

“Of course not, Your Dishonor; if anything, I was shamelessly sucking up,” Whitehead says, the twinkle in his eyes belying his words.

Okay then.

“I assure you,” Whitehead says, the twinkle gone and a hard edge in his voice, “that we will defend our home ice with great ferocity in the second half.”

Coach, there are some other charges also pending — insufficient power play production and perhaps an over-reliance on goaltender Jimmy Howard — but I’m inclined to dismiss them for the time being. I want you to report back to this court at the beginning of March and we’ll decide then whether to reinstate the charges.

“Thank you, Your Dishonor,” Whitehead says.

Next case!

This case involves the People of Hockey East against Merrimack coach Chris Serino. All rise. Coach Serino, raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Joe Bertagna.”

“Actually, Your Dishonor,” Serino says, “I’m trying to cut back on that swearing thing.”

Even when it comes to Joe Bertagna?

“Good point,” Serino says and properly completes the swearing in.

Please be seated.

Coach Serino, the charges against you are…

“I throw myself at the mercy of the court,” Serino says.

Coach, you haven’t even heard the charges.

Serino shrugs and says, “You got a point there.”

Okay, the charges are that your team is last in the league in team defense and last in team offense. How do you plead, Coach?

“That’s what I’m being charged with?” Serino says, an eyebrow arching in surprise. “In that case, forget throwing myself at your mercy. Gimme a break here. I’m as innocent as Snow White.”

How so?

“We were picked to finish last in the league,” Serino says. “Am I right?”

That’s a matter of public record.

“Are we last?” Serino says. “No, we’re not. We get picked last every year and every year it’s someone else that finishes there. Not us. So spare me the statistics, Your Dishonor. I’m not asking for a gold medal. We’ve got a long ways to go. But we’re not in last place.

“We just went up to Maine and even though I’m not happy about how we played on Saturday night, we took a point out of the first game up there. The weekend before we won the Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot.

“I see from their reactions that your court officers are familiar with that result. Or was it that I said the magic words… Dunkin’ Donuts?”

Coach, I’m granting you a little leeway here, but…

“I’m sorry, Your Dishonor, but we won the tournament!” Serino says, his voice getting louder. “How’s that for a team predicted to finish last? And we’ve suffered some brutal injuries. Just brutal.”

That’s true.

“Three more points and we’d be tied for sixth!” Serino says. “When we start getting healthy, we just might do it. I really think so. Sixth place.”

I’m inclined to dismiss this case.

“Who cares about statistics other than wins and losses?” Serino says. “My top returning scorer has played only four games. I’m talking about Brett Gough, Your Dishonor, in case you weren’t aware of it. Four games!

“And I’ve got a young team. You know how many seniors I have who have scored at least one point?”

The court isn’t aware of that statistic.

“One!” Serino says. “One senior! I have a young team that has battled through a lot of injuries. We’re actually on a little bit of a roll here.

“So can anyone explain to me why I’m here?”


“And since you mentioned statistics like team offense and team defense, let me ask you this,” Serino says. “What team leads Hockey East in penalty kill percentage in league games?”

Ummm…. I think this case should probably be dismissed.

“Not BU! Not BC! Not UNH! Not Maine! Not any other team but the Merrimack Warriors,” Serino says. “A percentage of 92.2! How you like them apples?”

You’re right, Coach. Case dismissed!

The gavel slams down hard.

“In fact, I’d like to use that gavel on anyone who says one bad word about my team,” Serino says. “Could I borrow that thing for a couple of days?”

The gavel slams down hard again.

Request denied. Case dismissed!

The Dishonorable Dave Hendrickson is getting hungry. We’ll recess for lunch and reconvene in the next column.

From The 700th Win Press Conference

In the press conference following Jack Parker’s 700th career win, the Boston Herald’s incomparable John “Jocko” Connolly asked Parker if he remembered much about his first win.

“The very first was at the RPI tournament,” Parker said. “We played Dartmouth; we won 3-1, and the coach of the opposing team was [current Maine associate coach] Grant Standbrook.”

“Do you remember who got two goals for you?” asked Jocko.

“Um… [Peter] Marzo?” guessed Parker.

“Billy Buckton,” said Jocko.

“Billy Buckton. Pretty good, pretty good,” said Parker. To considerable laughter, he added, “[Jocko] looked it up this afternoon.”

“Jack, we went to the same school,” said Jocko, “the school of hard knocks.”

Later, after Parker had left the interview room, BU Sports Information Director Ed Carpenter and USCHO’s Scott Weighart had some fun with Brad Zancanaro.

“Are you aware,” said Carpenter, “that we just counted upstairs, and that this is only 699?”

“What?” Zancanaro replied as everyone laughed. “Then we’ll have to get it tomorrow.”

Weighart added, “And you’re going to have be the one to go tell Coach [that’s it only 699].”

“Yeah, I’ll go tell him,” Zancanaro said. “He’ll probably punch me.”

How ‘Bout Them Cardinals

Wesleyan had a great weekend, going on the road and defeating UMass-Boston, 6-1, and highly regarded Babson, 3-1. After graduating 12 of last year’s seniors, the Cardinals were expected to go through some growing pains and despite playing hard they did lose their first four games. All of which made the two wins on the weekend especially sweet.

Okay, okay, you twisted my arm so hard that I’m forced — I say forced — to tell you that my son Ryan had three goals and an assist. And since you’re still twisting my arm, I’ll add that he did a terrific job on the penalty kill. Ouch! You’re hurting me! Okay, okay, I’ll tell you that if you go to the Wesleyan website before it gets updated on Friday night, you’ll see his photo.

Whew! For a while there, I thought you were going twist my arm off.

Just for the record, I have not brought the Wesleyan server to its knees and reports that I’ve gone through two color ink cartridges printing the page are highly exaggerated.

Having paid tribute to The Greatest Son In The Universe, I should point out that both wins were very much team efforts from goaltender Steve “Binzie” Binswanger on out. The defense, the forwards, the special teams… all had a heckuva weekend. To hold a high-scoring team like Babson to only a single goal despite spending vast amounts of the second and third periods in the penalty box says a lot about the intensity and execution of these guys. This is a ridiculously young team that is only going to get better.

Great job, guys!

Trivia Contest

Last week’s question was a three-part final exam. The first question asked: “You all know that Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque regularly watches son Chris play for BU this season. However, in past years, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with another NHL Hall of Fame defenseman watching his nephew play at Walter [nl]Brown Arena. Who is the Hall of Famer? Also name his nephew and the Hockey East team for whom he played.”

Secondly, we asked “What former Hockey East goalie played in a handful of games for his team in his freshman year, then returned to juniors for a season before coming back to the same team. He had four wins that year, including a road win against a Hockey East foe that ended with him “almost in tears” because he was thrilled with the victory after a win that was a “long time coming” as well as an unusual path. He went on to play quite well in his senior season the following year, splitting time with a promising freshman. Who is the goalie?”

The real doozy was No. 3. Scott Weighart noted that he interviewed Jack Parker, asking him questions for a future USCHO Magazine cover story on hockey superstitions. Among other things, he told Scott that if a reporter asks to interview him sitting in the seats of any hockey arena, he’ll always look for a certain row (by letter) and a certain seat (by number). Name the row and seat number.

Here are the answers: 1. Hockey legend Bobby Orr used to watch his nephew Jeff Blanchard of Massachusetts at various venues.

2. Matt Carney, New Hampshire.

3. If possible, Parker prefers to sit in Row P (for Parker), Seat 6 (his old uniform number at BU).

Nobody got the last one, but Karen Winger got parts one and two. Her cheer is:

“Woohooo! Go UMass, let’s go for two W’s this weekend!”

For those who flunked Scott’s final exam, here’s a makeup question to make it three straight weeks of Weighart Trivia. (He also provided the previous week’s question about the Donato brothers.)

What former Hockey East star has become quite the world traveler since leaving college, playing for pro teams in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Canada, Italy, Germany, and England. England was the only place that he’s topped his best goal-scoring total in Hockey East. Who is he?

E-mail my trivia account with your answer. 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…

• Okay, so there’s been a lot of competition, but the hands-down most moronic statement in recent weeks indisputably came from the mouth of Latrell Sprewell, who demanded that the Minnesota Timberwolves either extend his contract or trade him, saying, “I’ve got my family to feed.” Sprewell, who several years back punched out his coach yet still found takers for his services, is making $14.6 million this year.

• Second on the Moron-o-Meter might well be San Diego Padres second baseman Mark Loretta, who was quoted in about baseball’s steroid scandal, saying, “We’re dealing with grown men who can make their own choices for their own lives.” Loretta, you moron, the point is that athletes who do not want to follow Lyle Alzado and Ken Caminiti to an early grave, or who want to avoid the other dangerous side effects of steroids, should not be pushed into that area just to keep up. The point, you nitwit, is a level playing field. Which is why that USA Today poll of major league players came in at 78 percent in favor of serious testing for steroids. This isn’t just whether Jason Giambi made a decision to cheat and thereby got both a huge contract and catastrophic physical repercussions; it’s whether every current player down to every 10-year-old playing Little League with dreams of the big time should ever be faced with having to destroy his body to keep up with those who have chosen to cheat.

• Which just gives everyone one more reason to despise the Major League Players Association. Peter Gammons’ point that they incorrectly view themselves as civil rights lawyers instead of entertainment lawyers hits the bullseye.

• And, of course, the Yankees attempt to void Giambi’s remaining years in his contract gives you just another reason to hate them, too. They’re not looking to void the Sheffield deal, are they? No, because that contract isn’t the albatross that Giambi’s is. They’re looking to dump a bloated contract that many predicted they’d regret in its latter stages. If Steinbrenner and his minions didn’t strongly suspect that Giambi used steroids when they signed him, they were pretty stupid considering the progressions of his body and performance. I’d give strong odds that they chose to look the other way at the time, which makes them phonies and weasels now. Or as Peter King put it, “Jason Giambi. Steroids. Rick, I’m shocked there’s gambling going on in this establishment. Just shocked!”

• Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I just want to remind you that this missive is coming from The City of Champions. Woo-hoo!

• Coming back from a 3-0 deficit to the Chokees still ranks as the most stunning sports item of this year, but what the Patriots have done with their top three cornerbacks out of the lineup certainly makes the top five. That’s the one position where no one has “deep depth” since there are only a handful of shutdown corners in the league. Winning while starting guys who couldn’t crack the starting lineup of their college team last year just boggles the mind.

• Speaking of mind-boggling, I just finished Gone For Good by Harlan Coben this morning and it is as good a novel as I’ve read in a long, long time. (Technically, I finished listening to it since I experienced it in audiobook format, but you get the point.) This was my first Coben, but he’s rocketed into “must read every word he’s ever written” status.

• It’s been a while since I gave a hard time in print to my good buddy Dan Fisher, media relations guru for Atlantic Hockey. So it’s time to correct that oversight. When it comes to poker, I’m not sure if anyone has ever had a more descriptive nickname than “Fish.” (Just for the record, I’m called “Pops.” I’d try to argue that it’s because I’m always talking about my kids, but, sadly, I know that it’s just a jab at my advanced age.) In any case, if I’m late in arriving at our home game, there’s a pretty good chance that “Fish” will have already been eliminated. He took this consistency to a new level, however, in two trips to Foxwoods where he busted out in less than two hours one time and slightly more than that the next. Fish, I gotta tell you, saying “I lasted a little longer this time” is no defense.