Odds and ends after the first day in Detroit

It’s a sunny, warm day in downtown Detroit – gorgeous day, in fact. Fans seem to be very pleased with the Fan Fest that the CCHA has put together this year – complete with a ceremonial slap shot yesterday with Detroit mayor Dave Bing – and fans from two teams are very pleased, indeed, about the outcome of yesterday’s games.
That’s now five consecutive lopsided tournament games in Detroit dating back to April of this year. Different tournaments and venues, of course, but five in a row, just the same.
This will mark the first time since 1992-93 that neither Michigan nor Michigan State will be playing for a Mason Cup. At the end of that season, No. 3 Lake Superior State beat No. 1 Miami, 3-0, to take the league playoff crown. Jeff Jackson was the Lakers’ coach that year, and he took that team to the NCAA title game and lost. Of course, he won the national championship with the Lakers in 1992 and 1994, so don’t feel sorry for him.
Today his Fighting Irish play for third place. They will, however, have a chance to play for another national championship, as will all the teams in this CCHA tournament field, if my good friend Jayson Moy is right in his latest Braketology update.
Here are a few random thoughts on the weekend so far.

  • It’s enormous fun to cover a championship tournament that contains a Cinderella narrative. It’s fun to watch kids (okay, young men) who never thought they’d get this chance during their time at Western Michigan enjoy this tournament and the whole experience. It’s fun to watch any first-year head coach experience this, but especially fun to watch a guy whose last game as player I covered. It’s also a bit surreal.
  • The Western Michigan pep band positively rocks. I don’t know who the kid on the drum kit is, but he’s what makes it go.
  • The Broncos fans traveled well to Detroit, filling half of Joe Louis Arena – good thing, too, as attendance seems down. They are enthusiastic, loud, and mostly original, which is very refreshing for college hockey fans. They are, however, the most vulgar group of college hockey fans I’ve ever heard. There are other places where the fans are no choirboys – Yost and Steve Cady Arena come immediately to mind – but at times the Lawson Lunatics take their humor to a level so base that it’s embarrassing. At most other times, it’s fantastic – funny, very specific to what’s happening in the game, jubilant.
  • Both games were tremendously disappointing. I’m not talking about the outcomes, but the games themselves. For the week leading up to this tournament, all I could think about was the strength of these four teams and the potentially intense games they could produce. I craved it. I was disappointed. Blowouts are fun for the fans of the winning teams, but dull for fans of the sport itself.
  • Miami did nothing in its massacre of Notre Dame yesterday to convince me that they will not win the national championship. They are scary good.
  • Notre Dame and Michigan did nothing in their losses to convince me that they will win a game in the NCAA tournament. They’re both good teams, but equally good teams exposed the Irish’s and Wolverines’ defensive weaknesses. Both ND’s Mike Johnson and UM’s Shawn Hunwick were absolutely exploited in net.
  • The more Western plays, the more confident they get, win or lose. The Broncos’ little stretch after their 14-game unbeaten streak ended did nothing to shake them. I don’t think they’re shakable.

CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos hosted the media at a brunch today – although there were only a few media, and mostly league folks – and talked a lot about the impending Big Ten league. I’ll have that and other things he discussed written up for you after this weekend’s over.
Heading to the Joe now and hoping that these games will be good ones. Bob Miller, USCHO’s arena reporter in Ann Arbor, will write up the first game and I’ll get the second. There will be features, too, as well as live blogging during both games.