Goodbye, 15 things

In honor of USCHO’s 15th year of NCAA hockey coverage , Tuesday’s blog each week during the 2010-11 regular season was a notebook of 15 things about the CCHA – anything that struck my fancy.
As games decrease and interesting quasi-related notes become fewer in postseason, though, I’m re-purposing Tuesday’s blog to do what Monday’s doesn’t: talk more directly about happenings in and around the league. I knew when I launched “15 things” that I’d only be doing it for one season anyway. With the regular season over, now is the perfect time to move on. Sadly, I have no pithy title for Tuesday’s regular entries. I’ll work on that.
Rick Comley
As promised in yesterday’s blog, here are some thoughts about an incident involving MSU head coach Rick Comley and Nanooks fans in Fairbanks after Alaska’s 3-2 OT win over Michigan State Friday.
I had heard rumblings of a run-in before the Fairbanks News-Miner reported Sunday that a Nanooks fan and Fairbanks Superior Court judge, Robert Downes, had filed a report with the CCHA about an altercation between Comley, Downes, and Downes’ daughter, Amy Tallerico.
I have to tell you that, at this point, I don’t know much more than that. I wasn’t there. I cannot speculate on what happened – or, rather, I will not speculate on what happened.
However, I do have a few questions.

  • All reports I’m hearing – on and off the record – suggest that Downes confronted Comley. Why would a Fairbanks Superior Court judge confront someone who’s already visibly angry? Comley was hot about the game-winning goal and had just argued with officials about it. Comley was on his way to the post-game radio show. Downes has said that he just wanted to tell Comley that the coach’s behavior was inappropriate. Seriously, what’s the point of that?
  • How could Downes and Tallerico be anywhere within physical reach of a visiting coach? I’ve received explanations of the configuration of the space at the Carlson Center – mostly from Alaska fans, by way of justifying the proximity – and I can see absolutely no reason for any fan to have physical access to visiting coaches, players, and personnel in any rink in the league.
  • A related question: Where was security? MSU team personnel had to intervene and lead Comley away.
  • Why did the second News-Miner article give Downes’ age and not Comley’s? From the article: “Downes said Comley was close to him and Tallerico, an attorney, came to her 68-year-old father’s defense.” Rick Comley is 64 years old. No matter what transpired, this isn’t Pedro Martinez charging Don Zimmer.
  • Neither News-Miner article uses the word “assault,” but in each article, Tallerico alleges that Comley was the first to initiate physical contact. If that’s the case, why didn’t Tallerico file charges with the Fairbanks police? If Downes and Tallerico are so adamant that Comley in fact did shove first why wouldn’t they file?

The incident is being investigated by the CCHA league office and no one in that office will protect Comley if he was in the wrong – and “the wrong” here would be that he initiated physical contact, not the other way around. If someone put his or her hands on Comley first, the coach would have been completely justified in defending himself.
Michigan State has nothing to add until the investigation is complete.
I dislike the way in which the News-Miner originally handled this story. The first report’s headline reads, “Michigan State hockey coach allegedly shoved fan after Friday’s game.” Even with the “allegedly,” the onus is completely on Comley before the facts are known.
In fairness, the Lansing State Journal article about the game says that Comley was “reportedly” shoved by fans, but doesn’t name the fans or elaborate on the incident other than saying the MSU director of operations Adam Nightingale and volunteer coach Rob Woodward intervened to protect Comley. The tone of that report, however, doesn’t vilify the fans without the facts.
Then there’s the mention of Downes’ age, which I just can’t get past. What of Tallerico’s age and that of her husband? The mention of Downes’ age implies that a 68-year-old man had to be protected. Comley, however, is a contemporary of Downes – and Tallerico and her husband are much younger. It’s also clear that Comley never touched Downes.
This is just troubling, all the way around. The News-Miner did reach Comley on Sunday, but the coach wouldn’t comment.
If it turns out that Comley initiated physical contact in this incident, then he should be held accountable for that. If, however, Comley was not the aggressor, then a great effort has been made to smear a good man at the end of his remarkable career.
CCHA All-Rookie Team
Yesterday, the league announced its all-rookie team for 2010-11.
Chase Balisy (F, Western Michigan)
Anders Lee (F, Notre Dame)
T.J. Tynan (F, Notre Dame)
Dan DeKeyser (D, Western Michigan)
Jon Merrill (D, Michigan)
Kevin Kapalka (G, Lake Superior State)
Congratulations, gentlemen, on seasons well played.
More Girl-Reporter hardware
For two weeks now, I’ve been handing out the hardware for categories mostly of my own creation. Last week, I resolved the Best Offensive Goalie award, originally given to MSU’s Drew Palmisano but – upon further review – awarded to WMU’s Jerry Kuhn.
It took Kuhn himself, though, to remind me that he’d won the award in 2009-10 as well (and I do admire self-promotion). Last season, he averaged .167 points per game, having registered one assist in his six games. This year, it was .043 points per game – slacker – for his single assist in 23 games.
There is other hardware to be tossed about, though, as the CCHA’s All-Rookie Team release reminded me yesterday. (Yes, I’m the slacker now.) As it’s no fun to blog about what the league has already named, I’ll skip my rookie team (mine would have been the same as what the CCHA announced anyway) and head right to the All-CCHA team.
The 2010-11 Girl Reporter All-CCHA Team
Carl Hagelin (F, Michigan)
Andy Miele (F, Miami)
Reilly Smith (F, Miami)
Sam Calabrese (D, Notre Dame)
Zach Redmond (D, Ferris State)
Pat Nagle (G, Ferris State)
I realize there is some controversy here, completely unintended. No Carter Camper, for example – and he is worthy. Several defenseman for whom arguments can be made. Nagle instead of Alaska’s Scott Greenham.
I chose Hagelin – rather than an all-Miami roster of forwards – because of his intangibles as well as his numbers and his singular significance to the Michigan team. Calabrese? I love stay-at-home defensemen, and I think Calabrese’s the best in the league. Nagle and not Greenham? Well, each was the workhorse for his team – and Greenham has played every single minute in net for Alaska this season – but I think Nagle’s the better goaltender. I could be proved wrong. I often am.
The 2010-11 Girl Reporter All-Goon Squad
Sadly, as I have only two candidates – Notre Dame freshman defenseman Stephen Johns and Bowling Green sophomore blueliner Max Grover – I’m foregoing the entire Goon Squad this season.
There were some good scraps in the CCHA this season, but I have to say that the majority of what I saw in person and televised was pretty passionless. It felt like a down year in most respects for the entire CCHA, including in the intentional physicality of play.
Now, I like a good reactionist as much as the next hockey fan, but where was the artful instigation? Conversely, where was the sustained sheer stupidity?
Maybe it’s just me, but the lack of passion in this year’s league play seems worrisome as we approach the NCAA second season. I’m not advocating out-and-out violence (although I think that keeps fans in seats as much as, say, shootouts), but passion – especially controlled, thoughtful passion – is a real asset.
Maybe next year.


  1. FANS SHOULD NEVER ASSAULT COACHES OR PLAYERS, they can will and have right to protect themselves, Comely responded to the assault by multiple individuals with reasonable force, and did so while in altered mental state as induced by a hotly contested sporting contest. The persons at fault here is the gang of irate and uncontrolled fans, and the host team for not providing reasonable security.
    is how that story should read.

    • You don’t know the facts……period. From all reports I’ve seen, Comely was the one that assaulted the fans. I hope for his sake, the allegation that he put his hands on a female turns out to be false. Regardless of the situation, a man should never lay a hand on a woman….period.

  2. Unbelievable how quickly people come to Comley’s defense. Seriously, he’s the coach; one of his jobs is to handle the hot situation with class and dignity and show his players by example how to act in the right way. Yelling at the referee isn’t what he should be doing. Loosing his cool isn’t what he should be doing. Taking the low road and reacting to a heckle isn’t what he should be doing. By this point in his career you would think he’s had enough experience in adverse situations to handle this one correctly. Makes me wonder if Michigan State is asking him to leave for a reason, or if he is retiring of his own volition.

  3. I disagree. the coach gets hot and maybe the players respond. Did he throw chairs on the ice? Nope. Did he throw sticks on the ice? Nope. He let the incredibly awful CCHA officials have an earful. Much of his rant was in part because he sees his MSU career–uneven as it was–coming to a close. However, if he wants to get mad at the refs then they should be able to take the heat.

  4. I have always been a fan of your columns, and have been reading them for years. I was born and raised in Fairbanks, and I am admittedly bias for the Nanooks. I have been watching them build a quality class hockey program for 30 years. I know Mr. Downes and he is a intelligent well respected man that did not become a judge by being rash or bias. Saying that, I’m at times equally unimpressed at the quality of reporting at times that the News miner exhibits. I’ve played, watched many games at the Carlson Center, and its design might not be the best for isolating visiting teams and officials. Regardless of the facts, which hopefully will all come out, ask yourself two questions Paula… inappropriate could a visiting coaches behavior be, to prompt a judge/winning fan to confront him? Secondly, I would ask why a respected veteran coach not be able to show restraint in front of his own team. We all know everyone hates the trip to Fairbanks and loves to fall back on that when they don’t have success there. But it seems all of the other 10 teams in the ccha fail to realize that the Nanooks travel more than any other team in the league. Jet lag is not just from travelling north! That being said, teams are always complaining about the trip there but the Nanooks never complain about travelling south for 3-4 weeks at a time. My guess is that Mr. Conley wasn’t happy when he got off the plane in fbks. Anyway, my opinion is just that, but I can assure you that There are few classier fans than the folks in Fairbanks. I hope the facts will all come out and the issue will be put to bed.

    • Nanooks fan, it’s true that you don’t know all the facts. Neither do I.
      I don’t doubt that Judge Downes is a respected man. So is Coach Comley. Many Alaska fans have emailed me about the character of Mr. Downes, about the fact that he’s a judge. At the moment he confronted Rick Comley in that rink, however, he was a hockey fan confronting a coach. His role as a local judge was and is moot. Would you be defending him so vehemently if he had a less prominent position in your community? Does it matter?
      Your question about Comley’s behavior leading to a confrontation baffles me. If Comley’s behavior was inappropriate, why would Downes — or anyone else — confront him directly? What is the point of that? Downes was a fan at a game. Downes had no authority there to enact any change in Comley’s behavior, so why would he confront Comley — or any other coach? What was he trying to accomplish?
      Furthermore, how could Downes have had such access to Comley?
      Your second question seems to say one thing and mean another. You begin by asking why a “respected veteran coach” would have such a lapse in restraint, but move quickly into an issue — travel — that has nothing to do with your question or to what transpired between Downes, Tallerico and Comley.
      I cannot think of a single coach in the league that wouldn’t have argued that call on the game-winning goal, regardless of whether the call was correct or not. I can think of several — including several respected veteran coaches — who would have displayed every bit of the anger that Comley did. I don’t think his players, their parents, or any other fan of Spartan hockey thinks any less of him for passionately making a case to the officials — who are men enough to take it.
      As for the travel, you are implying that Comley was angry about having to return to Fairbanks. Here’s where I know for a fact that you are not correct. I was at the post-game interview following MSU’s last regular-season game, when the Spartans found out they were traveling to Fairbanks. Comley wasn’t upset about the travel in the way that you imply, not at all. Was Comley thrilled? No, but name a coach in the league that would be. Every coach would have reacted the same way, with good-natured resignation — which is how Comley reacted.
      I’m as eager as anyone for the facts in this case to come out. It boils down to this for me: who made physical contact first. The rest is dressing.

      • Your absolutely correct on all counts! I guess there is no room for bias attitudes when it comes to being a fan. If you can honestly say your column was not biased towards the defense of Rick Comley, as well as mildly scathing to the community of Fairbanks as well as its fans, then I retract my comments. I actually attended both schools, and even though my family are Alaskans, my parents and sister, all hold degrees from…….Michigan State! We all have some allegiance to the Spartans, so when we witnessed last Fridays incident, we were ashamed of Mr. Comleys behavior. You are absolutely right that Mr. Downes was “just a fan”, but Mr. Comley is much more than that. With that said, I ask just one question. Who was responsible for restraining in that situation regardless of “who started it?”

        • This is the last I’ll say about this: I was not indicting Nanooks fans in my blog post. There was nothing in it that insulted the community of Fairbanks, nor Nanooks fans specifically — nothing. I stand by what I say about fans in general: none of them has the right to confront a coach in that manner, and none has the right to physically access a coach (or players or team personnel) post-game, as Downes and Tallerico apparently did in Fairbanks, without the willing consent of the coach.
          I had legitimate questions not only about what transpired but about how it was reported. That’s why I asked the questions.
          My last paragraph in that segment says it all. If Comley initiated physical contact, then he is in the wrong; if he did not, then he has been wronged, especially since the article accuses him of having done so and is corroborated by nothing other than the accuser.

  5. Just got back from the WIS-MIN game. Though MIN was clearly quicker tonight, WIS was more physical and just plain out worked the Gophers. With 3 sophmores finding the back of the net for the Badgers and freshman goalie Rumpel turning away 24 shots, WIS was too much for Kent Patterson and the Gophers, which managed a late power play goal with just over one minute remaining.
    Despite the Badgers poor looking record, three of their five losses came in overtime on the road, also throwing in a tie away from home. They swept then #4 North Dakota, which probably doesn’t say too much now, and the handled the #1 Minnesota Gophers like they belong in the top ten. MIN shouldn’t hang their heads for losing to an unranked WIS team on the road in one of the biggest college hockey rivalries we know. 
    The Badgers need to keep up their intensity the next few weeks with series against, 
    Colorado College and Minnesota Duluth coming up. If they can sweep and split the big dogs while taking “easy” wins against the likes of Mercyhurst, RIT, Bemidji State, etc. They can set themselves up nicely for the playoffs.

  6. Where’s Cornell? You have AF ranked and don’t even have one most well balanced teams on there. Typical homer. 


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