Setting the Record Straight on Miami

The best part about being at a national cable network is having a good group of dedicated people who are always there to help and also watch your back. The CBS College Sports Network has a great hockey staff. We always have since the days we were CSTV.

I often get asked by one of them, “Don’t you get mad when you get blasted on message boards?”

My answer is the same as it has been since I was getting ripped for being an average player in an average hockey program in college.

No.

You grow up in New York City and thick skin comes with the territory.

The latest series of postings that was copied and pasted to me had the staff rolling. “You are getting accused of saying Miami sucks and that they can’t win!”

OK, folks, time to get a grip.

I watch every game I broadcast mostly because I see the same teams a lot and I get a chance to watch the game, look for the little things in that game and be better prepared the next time I see each team. I also listen to what I said to make sure things were accurate and see if I said anything that I might need to correct. It’s part of that concept of accountability we learned as players way, way back.

Having gone back and listened, I don’t ever recall saying Miami sucks and they can’t win the national title. I did say I was concerned that they have been so good and so dominant in the CCHA that they might not be as battle tested as some teams heading to the field of 16. I do feel that is a possibility. Domination can have a downside — just ask the 1983 Edmonton Oilers.

Look at the regional final game Boston University had to play against New Hampshire last March. That game was probably a game that helped the Terriers win the national title because they needed to reach down through an adverse situation and win a big game.

Miami has recently had some tremendous adversity with the tragic death of Brendan Burke. The team has handled it well and not skipped a beat on ice, and Friday night’s convincing win over UNO was a great test that the RedHawks passed.

The RedHawks don’t need anyone to tell them they are a great team. They know they are. If you had to pick a legit favorite to win it all, you’d think its them because they are having the same dominant season BU had last season. Some CCHA coaches have told me the only team that can beat Miami is Miami. Others have said that they are ripe to get picked off. Then again, they got beat in the CCHA second round last season by Northern Michigan and then found themselves less than a minute from a national title.

The ’83 Oilers always felt their loss to the veteran Islanders in the ’83 Finals was the launching pad to their success the rest of the decade, when they won five Cups in seven seasons. Kevin Lowe said in his book Champions that the Oilers had to learn to lose to see what winning took. They did in the spring of 1983 and never looked back. Miami was so close last season; that might be all the adversity they need for this season to end in success.

So let’s set the record straight, anonymous Miami message board nation. Miami doesn’t suck. Miami can win it all. Miami passed a good test Friday night. Lastly, and for the record, I never said they did suck, never said they couldn’t win it all, and never said they’d get swept by Omaha.

The Hobey

I really like Michigan State’s Corey Tropp and the season he has had. I think him winning the Hobey Baker Award would be a great story in college hockey and a great lesson to a lot of young players about dedication, perseverance and overcoming adversity. I think he can win it and I think his team has a good chance to be in Detroit during the Frozen Four as a participant.

That being said, despite how good I think Ben Scrivens has been and how deserving he might be for this award (or any ECAC award for that matter), I still think James Marcou of Massachusetts would get my first-place vote of if my term on the committee hadn’t expired last season.

I’ll Be Here All Week

If Rick Gotkin isn’t the funniest coach in college hockey, I don’t know who is. Despite being in Western Pa. for 22 seasons, he is still very much the New Yorker with his mannerisms and his ability to tell a great story. He certainly has written one at Mercyhurst, where he has done a tremendous job at the helm of the program.

We sat for a good 90 minutes reminiscing last Friday morning and sharing some recent adventures. We were talking about Lou Vairo, who both of us look up to as someone who opened the door to countless players and coaches from the NYC area who until Lou made it in the business would never have had the chance.

While having heard most of the great Gotkin stories, the mention of Coach Vairo started him on a story that left both of us in tears laughing.

In the late 1990s he was coaching the mid-am team in the Select 17’s in St. Cloud. Vairo, an icon in American hockey coaching, was also there and he and Rick had known each other well from their days together in NYC coaching and playing.

“That mid-am team was always the Bad News Bears-type team in this event, and they stuck us on the 10th floor, the top floor of the dorm where all the teams were,” recalled Gotkin as his team prepared to face Army Friday night.

“Lou was always looking for ways to get players to improve themselves off ice and he gave our goalies tennis balls to do hand-eye exercises with in the dorm. It was simple stuff like tossing them off the wall with one hand and catching them in the other and all of those type of things they could do themselves or with their goalie partner.

“Well, after a few days of this the goalies were getting bored and started to move from short tosses to long tosses in the hallway of the dorm. It’s the last night of the event and pretty late. I’m in my room and Seth Appert and Rob Haberbush are on the floor with me. I’m talking to Appert and we’re doing player ratings when all of a sudden we hear, ‘Oh my freaking goodness.'”

Gotkin started to laugh as he remembered what came next.

“Then the fire alarm goes off and I send Apps out to see what happened. He yells, ‘Oh my freaking goodness,’ and now I come running out of the room thinking there might be an inferno.”

What Gotkin saw was an avalanche of water streaming down the walls into the halls and rooms. One of the goalies had grazed a sprinkler head on the fire system with a ball and when it broke it sent 4,000 PSI of water into the hallway from the top floor.

“The next thing you know is the fire department is there in full masks and axes and all the other stuff and they are trying to evacuate the building for fear of fire and I’m just rolling yelling at them to turn off the water,” Gotkin said as he animatedly recounted the story. “They are like, no, we can’t turn it off, it’s a fire and I’m yelling back, no it isn’t; it’s a flood. Turn off the water!”

Gotkin helped get his players off the floor and out and said the hallways were reminiscent of the scene in “Titanic” when the water came rushing down the hallways of the ship.

“On the seventh floor David Lassonde (assistant at UNH) was in his room and all of a sudden it started coming through his walls and he’s looking around and saying, “What the hell is going on here?” We all get downstairs and there is Lou out in the courtyard in his boxers, undershirt and black dress socks.”

Looking very agitated, Vairo looks over at Gotkin and says calmly, “You know, Gotkin, if USA Hockey wants me to keep doing this they are going to have to start putting me in a hotel.”

“I almost died laughing,” said Gotkin.

“The damage this thing did was unreal, they literally needed a month to dry the place out, get it inspected, check for mold, and replace every carpet in the building. It was a hell of an evening.”

Lastly

There will be a lot of speculation as to who the next coach at Western Michigan will be, but it won’t be here and it won’t be now. Jim Culhane was a pleasure to work with in the role I have and hopefully there is an office in a coaching department rink somewhere that will have his name on it next season.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here