Bemidji Hockey: It’s the American Way

When Bemidji State upset Notre Dame and then Cornell in Grand Rapids, many among the Midwest Regional press corps groused about the way the Beavers’ wins would affect the television audiences for the Frozen Four. I have to admit that I expressed some of the same concerns after the Irish lost Saturday night.

Given the economy and the seeming lack of interest in our favorite collegiate sport, went the argument, college hockey needed big names in the FF to attract a television audience and earn publicity for the sport, especially in these hard economic times when too many potential viewers are distracted by other things.

But – to echo the words of Tom Serratore – you know what? There’s nothing bigger than Paul Bunyan, and there’s certainly nothing bigger than the American Way.

The last question posed to Serratore, the BSU head coach, in the post-game press conference was about the meaning of the win over Cornell for Beaver hockey. What follows is Serratore’s response. I wish you could have been there to hear his fervent reply, so heart-felt, so genuine – so completely right – that I nearly had tears in my eyes, and not because of this win’s meaning for Beaver hockey.

“I think this win is great for college hockey,” said Serratore. “This is what college hockey is about; this is what sports is about. We’re not a BSC school. You take a look at college hockey, college hockey is predominately a bunch of mid-major institutions. The beauty of college hockey is that there’s a small margin of error and there’s a lot of parity. You know what? It was proven this weekend. It was proven last year. That’s the beauty of it.

“This is good. Holy Cross beating Minnesota is healthy; it’s good for hockey, it’s good for sports. George Mason going in college basketball is good for sports. It piques interest. It’s great for the media. It’s fan interest. Kids believe you’re giving opportunities.

“You know what? I don’t want to sit there and recite Rocky Balboa 1976, we’re the land of opportunity, but you know what? This is America and that’s what’s kind of great about it. And it’s sports. It’s special. Franco this year, my brother…being an eyelash away from going to the Frozen Four. To me, that’s just outstanding and that’s what sports need. In hockey in general we need that, and it’s good.

“So what does that mean to our program? I don’t know what that means for our program because our program’s had a lot of success but I think it’s just great for the game and it gives everybody out there – you know what? It gives them good feel…that it can be their day – if it’s not next year then in two years of three years.

“I think we have to look at the big picture, you know, not the small picture there.”

And after a fantastic, all-American, upset-by-the-little-guy weekend that Bemidji was good enough to give to us, we especially don’t need to be thinking about the small screen.

As it turns out, it is good for hockey. It is good for sports. Don’t believe me? Okay. Read what The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have to say about it. The Sporting News writes, “Suddenly, everyone wants to know about Bemidji State.” Even snarky sports writers that have written to deride the Beavers’ accomplishment – by way of belittling college hockey – have, at least, mentioned both the Beavers and college hockey.

It is good for hockey. It is good for sports.

Who knew that a little school 250 miles north of the Twin Cities could melt even the most jaded of sporting hearts and remind us all of the real role that sport plays in the real American landscape?

Well, Tom Serratore and the Beavers knew.

And now the rest of us do, too.