landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
I've been patient.
My credentials as a certified college hockey fan are long. I have spent seasons seeing virtually every game Michigan has played. I have traveled to college hockey games in seven states, in venues as diverse as Omaha, Marquette, Minneapolis, Madison, and even Dayton. I come from one college hockey town (Ann Arbor) and I live in another (Duluth). I have attended two Frozen Fours and many NCAA regional games. I have written loving reports on great moments in the sport's history. So know I do not say this lightly:
I have a hard time calling myself a college hockey fan right now.
Yes, this is prompted by the recent, absolutely disgusting snub of Kyle Connor from the award. Jimmy Vesey is a nice player, but the Hobey Baker has allegedly never been a career award. Awarding it to Vesey this season on the strength of 46 points and 1.39 ppg over a player who scored 71 points and half a point more per game cannot be anything other than a career achievement award or a consolation for losing to another freshman who scored exactly the same number of points last year.
But it is far more than that.
College Hockey, as an institution, seems dead-set on destroying itself. And it does so with the eager approval of much of its groupthink intelligensia that exists east of Pennsylvania.
Let's consider, for example, the unjust and completely disastrous NCAA Tournament Regional system. Much effort has been wasted discussing it, including not inconsiderable amounts of my recreational time, because there is nothing quite so idiotic as broadcasting games on television that are alleged to be the most important of the season and seeing thousands upon thousands of empty seats on ESPN.
I used the word "unjust" advisedly, because the reason the regional system persists as it does is that it actually well serves two important constituents: Small, low-money schools, which predominantly exist in the East; and larger, bigger-money schools that are also in the East.
It serves the small schools well because an empty arena is an easier place to pull an upset, especially against a #1 seed that had to fly hundreds of miles because the closer arena happens to be reserved for the hosting team. And it serves the larger Eastern schools well because most of them are clustered in such close proximity that they have not one but two regionals that they may attend in easy driving distance.
Seriously. Since the four-regional system was introduced in 2003, all "Eastern" regionals save one (there are two per year; the sole exception is Rochester in 2007) have been located within in a quadrilateral encompassed by Albany, Bridgeport, Providence, and Manchester. (The favorite regional location, Worcester, is right in the middle of that space). The longest driving distance between those cities is 2.5 hours, between Manchester and Bridgeport; all other distances are shorter.
The result is that a team like Boston College almost never has to travel far for the NCAA tournament. In fact, since the four-regional system debuted, BC has attended a regional within an hour's drive of Boston in every season except two: 2011, when they had to travel to St. Louis, and 2009, when they did not make the tournament.
In contrast, teams like Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan Tech can NEVER hope for a Regional closer than 2.5 hours away and if they make the tournament almost invariably have to travel much further. The Colorado teams only have a hope of a close regional in those rare instances one is placed in Colorado, and a team like Minnesota State can have a dream season ruined by a "luck of the draw" regional where the only available "Western" Regional is in South Bend, 8 hours away. And in this context regionals have been awarded to places like St. Louis and Cincinnatti, cities with zero college hockey support.
Plenty of better alternatives have been proposed. I've proposed them. Others have proposed them. The reason they have not been taken can no longer be attributed to "neutrality" or "let's see how this works." The reason is that the people making the choices don't care about the teams and the fans that aren't near the Eastern Regionals.
But the Frozen Four is great, right?
I dunno. Plenty of tickets are available for the Frozen Four in Tampa, which is hosting its second FF in four years. Other college hockey non-hotbed destinations include cities like Washington DC, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Since the turn of the century, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston, and Detroit (the three locii of regional college hockey, flagships of states that have most of the best teams and fanbases) have been granted five Frozen Fours total. It has been a couple of years since the FF has even sold out ahead of time; if they cared about casual fan interest, they might hold the event in places where fans actually cared.
There is a serious fanbase for the sport out "west." Despite the indignity of distant regionals, fanbases like North Dakota and Michigan regularly send thousands of people on drives of three hours or longer to watch their teams play. Michigan Tech sends large groups of fans 8 hours downstate for a holiday tournament. Places like Duluth build fancy new arenas and give their teams the star treatment.
Yet, it is harder for these fans to engage with the way the sport is structured. Right when a dedicated fan of the sport should be getting most engaged, the games are taken away from them.
Burn It All Down
I could engage in serious western suspicion of "Eastern Bias." It's getting harder, in the wake of decisions like today's, to overlook it. But Occam's Razor suggests that the conclusions I should draw as a frustrated fan are less sinister, but more discouraging: A lot of people making decisions about college hockey honestly don't care. They don't care about the product, they don't care about the teams, and they don't care about the fans.
The truly dreadful thing about this is that even corrupt leagues like the OHL seem to be better run and more authentic. They even took strong steps in a situation like what happened in Flint, leadership that does not exist in college hockey. And it sickens me to say it.
I'm never going to stop rooting for Michigan Hockey. And I'll probably continue to follow what goes on nationwide.
But I care less about the sport as a whole than I used to. And as long as the sport continues to wreck itself, many will feel the same way.
Do stupid stuff. Ruin the NCAA tournament. Choke out the Frozen Four. Let small schools with decent fans struggle and die. It's not worth my effort to pay attention. It's tempting to just say, "let it burn."
It's hard to care anymore.
Joke committee is a joke.
The Red Wings play the Bruins in Boston at 7:00 (NBC Sports Network). Pivotal game, this is. If the Red Wings win, they're in the playoffs. The Red Wings currently have 93 points and the Bruins have 91. After tonight's game, both teams have just one more (our last game is at the Rangers on Saturday). We're currently the 7 seed and Philadelphia is the 8. Even an overtime loss is helpful for the Red Wings, but a win will seal the deal. Getting one point tonight will put much more pressure on them to win Saturday and that will be a tough game, especially considering the Rangers are still playing for seeding.
The Pistons won a road game just now and probably guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs. The Tigers won despite giving up a run in the bottom of the 9th (shocker, I know). And the Wings are up 2-0 on the Flyers in the 2nd with Howard in goal and the Wings also tallying a short-handed goal. A win in that game is practically a lock on the playoffs as well.
Not a bad night so far, hope the Wings hold on for the 'W'.
Let's Go, Red Wings.
The Flint Firebirds saga has been well documented during the year but for now it has come to an end.
The franchise is in its first year after moving from Plymouth. Early in the season the entire team quit after the owner fired the entire coaching staff over his son's ice time. The coaching staff was re-hired, only to be fired a few months later.
Now the OHL has stepped in and suspended the owner for five years with the league taking over the team. They'll also lose a 1st round pick in Saturday's draft and have to pay a fine.
Three teams tied in the East at 91 points - Wings, Boston, Philly.
Wings/Boston are fighting for automatic 3rd place bid. All three are fighting for the last wildcard spot behind NY Islanders with 97 points.
We have a game in hand over Boston.
The wings play Philly at home tonight and Boston on the road tomorrow, NY Rangers on Sat.
If we beat Boston tomorrow, we only need to pick up one more point (a tie with Philly or NY) to have 94 points and Boston could only pickup 2 points vs Ottawa - we lock up 3rd place.
If we lose to Boston tomorrow, we would have to win tonight vs Philly and on the road vs the Rangers to have a chance to tie Boston.
Beating Boston is a must - do you save the best goalie for tomorrow? Or play him twice?