The Hockey East Courtroom Reconvenes
Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. The Hockey East Courtroom reconvenes with the Dishonorable Judge Dave Hendrickson presiding.
We have quite a backload of cases and we’d like to finish off this nonsense before the holidays so let’s try to keep things moving, shall we? To expedite matters, we’re going to swear in you miscreants and misbehaviors all at the same time.
All rise. 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 first case on the docket is the People of Hockey East versus Massachusetts-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald.
MacDonald interrupts. “Before you get started, Hendrickson…”
Excuse me, Coach, but a little respect is required in this courtroom. Please refer to me as Your Dishonor.
“Respect? I’ve golfed with you before, Your Triple-Bogeyness,” MacDonald says. “Your drives endanger the forests of New England. You wear the dumbest looking golf hat I’ve ever seen. And you can’t putt without stepping off to see whether it’s a 10-footer or a 40-footer. Respect? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Coach, if you keep this up, I’ll throw the book at you!
“I’m sure you’ll miss.”
The Dishonorable Dave Hendrickson is stunned into silence.
“Don’t forget the radio show I did with you,” MacDonald says. “When you said, ‘A face for radio and a voice for the newspapers’ you weren’t kidding. Face it, Hendrickson, I know you too well to respect you.”
The gavel crashes down.
Coach, would you care to spend the holidays in Hockey East jail for contempt of court?
“Hello? Have you seen the standings?” MacDonald asks. “We’re in last place. We’re already in Hockey East jail. And we’ll spend the holidays there. So what exactly are you threatening me with?”
Okay, maybe you have a point…
“Ya think?” MacDonald says. “Pardon me if I’m not quivering with fear, but our opening league schedule was BC, at UMass, Maine, two against BU and then UNH. That’s a Murderer’s Row.
“So what are you going to do, sentence us to a road game against a nationally ranked opponent? Oooooh. I’m scared!”
MacDonald pounds on his chest. “Go ahead, take your best shot.”
Coach, may I remind you that you could be sentenced to a prolonged stay in Hockey East jail for bad behavior. The cellar is not a pleasant place to be. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss the playoffs now, would you?
“Put a sock in it, Hendrickson,” MacDonald says with a confident grin. “That’s not going to happen. We’re gonna be out of last place as soon as we get a couple Hockey East games under our belt in January. We got it started with a tie against Northeastern the other night. There’s no way we’re a last place team.”
In the interest of moving things along, Coach, I’m going to ignore your impudent behavior and get right to the main charge. Would you care to hear it?
“I’m all ears, Judgie Wudgie.”
“I was supposed to review a tape from the league office on some new protocols,” MacDonald says. “I expected to see Joe Bertagna, Noah Smith and Brendan Sheehy on the screen but someone had taped over it and I found myself watching a Three Stooges Festival.”
How did you notice the difference?
“Good one!” MacDonald says. “Hendrickson, you’re not so bad after all.”
Strike that last remark from the court transcript. Let the record show that the court has the highest regard for the league brain trust.
Coach, let’s get to the charge against you. Your old mentor Jack Parker…
“He isn’t that old!”
A poor choice of words. Your former mentor at Boston University, Jack Parker, taught you many lessons while you were an assistant coach under his wing? Am I correct?
Well, you appear to have gotten one of the lessons wrong. Jack’s team this year opened with an 8-1-0 record within Hockey East, but 1-5-0 outside of the league. He wasn’t happy with that latter record, but his Terriers still were on top of Hockey East.
Your team, on the other hand, seems to have gotten it backwards. You’re 0-5-2 in the league, but 8-0-0 outside of it. Weren’t you paying attention to Jack’s lesson?
MacDonald says, “You remember that time on our radio show when you asked me some question and I said it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard?”
There were probably multiple occasions…
“Well, you’ve outdone yourself with that one,” MacDonald says. “But I’ll take it under advisement. I’ll see if we can perhaps lose a few nonleague games to improve our chances in Hockey East.”
That wasn’t exactly what the Court was suggesting.
“In fact,” MacDonald says, “I’ll make sure that we win no more than two more nonleague games for the rest of the year.”
There you go, Coach. Focus on the league games. Limit yourself to only two more wins outside of Hockey East. That sounds like a solid plan.
In that case, I look forward to a rise in the standings and wish you well. Case dismissed.
“One more thing, Your Dishonor,” MacDonald says. “We only have two more nonleague games. But thanks for the brilliant advice.”
The Dishonorable Dave Hendrickson reddens. The gavel crashes down hard.
This one involves co-defendants. The People of Hockey East vs. Massachusetts coach Don “Toot” Cahoon and Providence coach Paul Pooley. Gentlemen, you’ve already been sworn in.
The charges against you are an almost total failure on the road. Coach Cahoon, your team is 7-2-0 at home, but 0-7-1 on the road. Coach Pooley, your team shows similar schizophrenic behavior: 4-2-1 at home and 0-6-1 on the road.
Clearly, the two of you are a bit too attached to home cooking.
“I heard what Blaise said. You really have to walk off your putts?” Cahoon asks incredulously.
Et tu, Toot?
The gavel comes down once again.
Coaches, let’s get back to business. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that you can’t go a collective 0-13-2 on the road and be a successful hockey team.
“I think I can speak for Paul as well when I say that we both appreciate that fact,” Cahoon says. “But in our defense I’d like to say that we both have young teams and the schedule may have skewed our home vs. away results.”
In what way?
Cahoon looks at Pooley for the okay to proceed and the Providence coach nods.
“All opponents are difficult these days,” Cahoon says. “But if you take a closer look at our schedules, I think you’d see that our most difficult games — most difficult on paper, that is — have been on the road. And most of the games where we’ve perhaps been the favorite have come at home.
“So we’re probably not as dominant as our home record would indicate. And we’re certainly not as weak as that 0-13-2 road record suggests.
“Almost every team is better at home than on the road, but I think you’ll see some leveling off in the second half, Your Dishonor, in the disparity that you’ve observed. We’re going to start winning our share of games on the road.”
I’ll be watching very closely, Coach Cahoon. If your Minutemen don’t improve away from the Mullins Center, I’ll be forced to sentence you to “two steps backwards in building your program.”
Cahoon winces. “Some leniency, Your Dishonor. Please?”
And for you, Coach Pooley, the sentence could be as severe as last place and no playoffs.
Pooley’s face turns ashen.
In unison the two coaches say, “We will win on the road.”
Okay then. We’ll see where you stand in March. You’re dismissed.
Coach Pooley, you need to stay for the next case.
Pooley nods unhappily as Cahoon flees, looking over his shoulder at the Providence coach.
Coach Pooley, you are once again a co-defendant, this time with Boston College coach Jerry York. Coach York, please approach the bench.
The charges against the two of you are funny business in your head-to-head games. The evidence is as follows.
Coach Pooley, other than wins over teams from the new conferences, your Friars are winless since the end of October. Your only points have come in two ties with Boston College. So that’s 0-7 since October against teams from the traditional conferences except for the two ties against the nationally ranked Eagles. That seems highly suspicious.
Coach York, at the other end of the spectrum your Eagles are 7-3-3 and ranked fifth, but you can’t beat the Friars. You can beat Maine at Alfond Arena, but you can’t beat a PC team that is in a rebuilding year. That seems a little fishy to me.
York clears his throat. “Judge, I assure you that we’re making every effort to win each game. As are the Providence College Friars.
“They’re a difficult opponent regardless of what their record may be. They work hard and give us problems. We’ve also had some injuries. But give credit where credit is due. The Friars are a solid club.”
Okay, Coach, this court is inclined to believe your testimony. It will, however, be looking closely at the final regular season game between your two clubs. And, frankly, if it’s another tie this Court will not be pleased.
Coach Pooley, I hope you have a terrific second half, but BC is loaded again this year. If they don’t knock the stuffing out of you on Feb. 4, I will not be amused.
Pooley raises his hand to speak.
Go ahead, Coach.
“Begging the Court’s indulgence,” Pooley says, “I think we’re going to win that game. Not just tie it; win it. I always think we’re going to win. It’s the only way you can coach.
“But it’ll be a home game for us and that’s the Friday before BC faces BU in the Beanpot. We’ll have a great opportunity to steal two points that night.”
The Dishonorable Dave Hendrickson rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and pounds the gavel.
All right. All right. Case dismissed. Have a good season, both of you.
And Coach York? Congratulations on your 700th win earlier this year.
“Thank you,” York says.
The next case is the People of Hockey East versus New Hampshire coach Richard Umile.
The Dishonorable Dave Hendrickson stares down at the papers before him and frowns.
Coach, I think the DA’s office was really stretching on this one. I’m almost embarrassed to say the charges. But here in the Hockey East Courtroom, everyone is guilty of something.
The charge against you is blowing a lead in the final minute against Vermont on November 27. You gave up an extra-attacker goal with 58 seconds remaining and then Vermont won it with just two seconds left. How do you plead?
“Judge, I suppose we are guilty of blowing the lead,” Umile said. “That’s just a fact and you can’t deny a fact. But Vermont is a good team and it was a good college hockey game until that final minute.
“Sometimes You-Know-What Happens.”
Yes. We’ve already seen that in this courtroom today.
“When a team has six skaters, sometimes they’re going to get a goal,” Umile says. “It happens.
“But if I may be blunt, Your Dishonor, I can’t believe I’m being brought here on such a flimsy charge. We’re 8-1-1 in our last 10 games. That’s the only loss. We’re playing pretty well.”
Coach, I’m inclined to agree. I think you’re only here because of that “everyone is guilty” philosophy. So have a great second half to your season.
The final case on the docket is the People of Hockey East vs. Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder.
And upon further review, Coach, the Court is seeing that there isn’t much to charge you with. The DA sent up charges of you going 0-3-1 in your last four games of 2004, but that’s even more bogus than the charges against Coach Umile.
All three of those losses came against nationally ranked teams, Boston College for two games and Vermont. In fact, you’ve toppled some giants and haven’t lost to an unranked team since the first couple weeks of the season.
So all charges are dropped. Have a great second half of the season.
The Hockey East Courtroom adjourns now for the holidays. Thank you for your attention.
Have a Happy Holidays, one and all.
Even Blaise MacDonald.
A Word Of Explanation
Some of you may have enjoyed the Hockey East Courtroom, an experimentation in this and last week’s columns. Others may have wondered if I’ve lost my marbles.
Hey, it’s the kind of thing that pops into the head of a writer when he’s on jury duty.
By comparison, imagine the columns you’d have gotten if instead my duty as a citizen had been to have lunch at Hooters.
Last week’s question, furnished by Scott Weighart, asked 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.
The answer is former Massachusetts-Lowell star Greg Bullock, who left the program early to go pro with the San Francisco Spiders of the IHL. Among others, his hockey destinations have included Grand Rapids, St. John’s, and Augsberg, Germany, and Idaho. Bullock currently plays for Corpus Christi in the CHL. He is currently second on the team in scoring, so perhaps he could once again top the 25 goals he scored in his 1994-95 collegiate season.
The first to correctly answer was Scott Kaplan, who is well on his way to once again gaining entrance to the Trivia Hall of Fame. Scott’s cheer is:
“Ben Walter for Hobey!”
This week’s question is a two-parter, one easy and the other rather difficult. It honors BC coach Jerry York and BU coach Jack Parker, both of whom crossed the 700 win threshold earlier this year. Part one asks which NHL Hall of Famer was York’s first major recruit as a head coach. Part two asks about Parker’s first win as a head coach, which came in a tournament at Rensselaer (as was noted in last week’s column). What was unique about BU’s final game in that tourney? E-mail my trivia account with your answers. The winner will be notified by a few days after Christmas; 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…
• I guess the Red Sox picking up Pedro’s option a year early at his insistence garnered them lots of good will on his part.
• The fact is that last year Pedro went from being a dominating, irreplaceable pitcher to one who was merely very good. And given his medical issues, I’ll put the over-under on the point where the Mets view his contract as an albatross as late in the second year. And by the fourth year of that insane deal… well, ESPN.com had the perfect headline: Say It Ain’t Mo.
• I think his agent did him a big disservice. To get more money that Pedro will never be able to spend, he put Pedro in a terrible situation by comparison. Just like happened with Manny Ramirez when he came to Boston for big bucks. Until this past year when Manny finally came to grips with the local fandom and media, I’ll bet he wished many times that he’d stayed in the comfortable situation in Cleveland where he’d make a bajillion dollars instead of coming to an uncomfortable one where he could make a bajillion-plus.
• What’s been stunning about this baseball offseason has been the price of mediocrity. The Kris Bensons and Christian Guzmans of the hardball world have made a killing.
• I saw the Broadway-style production of The Lion King recently with my daughter Nicole. The technical achievement of this musical is flat-out amazing. You have to see the costumes they created for the animals to believe them. I’m not usually much of a costume guy — or as my wife, rolling her eyes, says, “the less costume, the more you like it” — but there’s a reason this show won all its Tony Awards. The front-row-center seats we had were an extra special treat in this case. By the way, Nicole, 21, is very much an adult and she loved the show. It’s one that people of all ages can enjoy.
• And just for the record, you hear more about my son Ryan than Nicole because he’s a hockey player and this column is, or at least pretends to be, about hockey. But I love Nicole every bit as much as I do Ryan. Just in case you were wondering, that is.
• I know that fans of “Vertigo” on the new U2 album will consider this sacrilege, but at this point in time I like “Love And Peace Or Else” even better.
• Here’s what I’d really like for Christmas: to be 20 years younger, 20 pounds lighter and 20 IQ points smarter. I guess that means I’m tough to buy for.
• With the Hockey East action all but over until after Christmas, there’ll be no column for the next two weeks. Happy Holidays to all of you.