I thought of that loss as I watched the end of the Miami game.
Both sucked the life out of you.
3/28/2010 – Michigan 5, Bemidji State 1 – 26-17-1
3/29/2010 – Michigan 2, Miami 3 (2 OT) – 26-18-1, season over
Indiana's state motto is "The Crossroads of America," which promises nothing more than the ability to leave it. As you do so the towns radiating northward from Fort Wayne on I-69 have ill-omened names like Angola and Waterloo and make you wish you had a heinous ex-girlfriend named Ashley or a bone to pick with Auburn, color or university, doesn't matter. There, the flat American expanse of a pitch-black highway makes prime brooding habitat. Nearby zings of color and denuded trees that make their presence known by obscuring something flashing red in the distance provide momentary focal points that slip past, their steady movement drawing the primitive sections of your intelligence and slightly distracting you from the reason you're staring grimly at a Big Lots that closed hours ago. The recent past recedes at 80 miles an hour, except five miles into Michigan where there is a cop. Fragments of your heart throw ropy pseudopods to each other and pull, slower than that. But steady.
Because 1997-98 was the year my teams had fantastic success and I had idiotic ideas, the first two Michigan hockey games I saw were a 4-0 win over New Hampshire in a national semifinal and a national championship game featuring an overtime winner from Josh Langfeld. I thought it was pretty cool, but that was all. I'd meant to get season tickets but it had slipped my mind. That year I also watched the Rose Bowl at my then-girlfriend's house. At one point her mom mentioned a Washington State touchdown would win her a quarter in squares. The GF and a mutual friend sort of tittered in a corner about things unrelated to the game. I was just a freshman. I'd go to a Rose Bowl later.
The next year I took up a residence in the Yost student section that ended only this year, six seasons after I graduated for the second and final time. Every season since there has been that crushing moment when the puck goes in the wrong goal and it's all over. Though it's hard to distinguish between levels of terror emanating from the reptilian sections of your brain, it seems to me these days the most knee-buckling moments of the sporting year come when the hockey team is playing in the NCAA tournament.
There's something different there. Each football season defines itself, and by the end it usually seems you got approximately what you deserve. A single-elimination hockey tournament after 40 games is the closest sports comes to Russian roulette. In hockey, the way you die is always a thunderbolt. And so I think the most painful part of every sports year for me is that horrible instant when the red light goes on and your whole self just deflates. I keep thinking the word "crushing," unrelated to anything else. Just an adjective, floating on the mile markers.
But the alternative to knee-buckling terror was just to not be here at all, for March to be a unbroken expanse of asphalt in the middle of nowhere. To get here is something after a 10-10 start and that ignominious road sweep at UNO that ended any hope of an at-large bid or even a bye in the CCHA tourney. I had been planning a series on what went so horribly wrong with the three major sports and was just waiting for hockey to make an undignified exit, probably at the hands of Michigan State, before embarking on it. They were just another flailing team caught in Michigan's winter of discontent, no different from a football team that can't punch it in from the one against Illinois or a basketball team that can't even turn a top-15 preseason ranking into an NIT bid.
As Michigan walked into Munn three weeks ago all 2009-10 offered was the same thing Indiana does: eventually, it ends. Now, at least, there is some redemption and schadenfreude and plain old inspiring victory, things Michigan fans needed reminding about. When it comes to the history books, this team will be one that picked itself up off the mat without its captain and starting goalie and was a heartbeat away from a Frozen Four. As it is, they picked up a banner and extended Michigan's tournament streak to twenty years.
By the end, they were Michigan hockey again. After fading badly towards the end of the third period they found their legs and terrorized Miami in overtime, launching twenty (official) shots to their six. They were struck down by bloody fortune and did not deserve their fate. They are like their compatriots before them, and will be remembered for a heroic stand. They died like Vikings.
Fifteen minutes past Angola, Indiana keeps its promise and releases you. Here, too, ends this year. Now we bury it and move on with some little hope thanks to a tiny goaltender and some feverish backchecking that point towards better days.
Obviously, this John Gravallese guy robbed Michigan of the game thanks to his galaxy-spanning incompetence. The irony of waving off a Michigan goal because you called a high-sticking penalty when 1) it's overtime and you aren't calling anything short of attempted murder and 2) amongst the zillion calls you missed in regulation were two blindingly obvious high sticking calls perpetrated by Michigan players—we clearly heard both in row 18—is head-exploding. For the wave-off to occur because you "lost sight of the puck" when zero players on the ice are reacting like the goalie has it—the goalie wasn't even down—after you allowed a Miami goal that Hunwick had pinned under his pad for a second or two is just despair inducing. At that moment my righteous anger broke and I awaited the inevitable end.
The reaction of a potentially apocryphal HE ref who knows this guy has appeared on the message board: "it happens" To which I say: look at Shawn Hunwick above and say that. "It happens" is the reaction of a failure of a person. As WolverineBoston puts it: "refs aren't humans." During the interminable replay that we knew was pointless, and the interminable (and totally impermissible) replay following that to determine whether a faceoff should be in Miami's zone or the neutral zone, we joked that they were making the refs watch the goal over and over again so they'd feel terrible. But I bet Gravallese doesn't even care.
I mentioned this after the Bemidji game, but it would be one thing if this guy was making a mockery of hockey in a the dispassionate manner of a badly malfunctioning robot. It's entirely another for him to make every call as if he is using the Hammer Of Thor to Dispense Justice To Wrongdoers. His children secretly hate him.
If you need the rule, it's been dug up here. Maybe they should change it to something less ambiguous, like getting the puck out of your zone if the opponent brings it in. No one really cares if a play is accidentally blown dead at center ice, but the ambiguity of what counts for possession is can be disastrous in the attacking zone. Forcing the team that took the penalty to clear the zone is 100% clear.
If you're looking for some punishment, the Daily has comprehensive coverage with a game story, column suggesting that the team's late-season run is something to hold on to, a piece on the missed(-ish) opportunities in the first overtime that spelled doom, and a piece on the "questionable, disappointing" no-goal call. Too bad they misspelled "outrageous" and "soul-crushing." Also there is a flickr set.
*(not a typo, and no, I'm not apologizing)
I thought of that loss as I watched the end of the Miami game.
Both sucked the life out of you.
And the only redeeming part about it is that I vividly remember driving around that afternoon with my dad brimming with excitement over the promise of that freshman goalie Marty Turco.
I feel the same way about what we've seen out of Hunwick these past few weeks. Can't help but think this team could rally around him the same way next season, too. He's won their respect and best efforts. For me, that's exciting as hell.
You divested yourself from the basketball team, and chided us for our reaction. It was pretty funny at the time. But at that point I knew the Michigan Hating God would have their revenge for your nonchalance. They would hit us in the soul-dong, again, harshly, but this time in something near and dear to your heart. They even had a miracle weekend in the CCHA Tournament, just to set us up for a bigger fall. And it wasn't just you...we all got punched. You can't win vs. the Sports Gods. I can't TAKE IT LIKE A MAN anymore. Stop tempting fate. Take it down.
Agreed. Can't publish "emo"-tagged posts with "Take it Like A Man" across the tagline.
That photographer captured it perfectly, although I wish the teams were reversed in the image.
I disagree strongly that 1. The rule on possession is ambiguous and 2. that it should be changed to clearing the zone. Possession of the puck is similar to possession as a receiver in football. If you have the ability to make a play with the puck (i.e. pass, attempt to clear it from the zone, cover it if you are a goalie), you have possession.
I agree that the refs absolutely made the wrong call last night, but that was due to incompetence not due to the ambiguity of the rule.
Can't wait for next year.
and the message is we will rise again. I believe this to be true of warriors who compete in fall, winter and spring.
Keep the faith MGOBLOG brothers and sisters.
id like to be on the receiving end of a bad call...
Same time (sudden death overtime).
Same result (good guy underdogs lose).
Same play at the same camera angle on the ice. Crosby gathers the puck as a USA player misses a swipe at it, and snipes a shot past the goaltender in the exact spot, range and manner Alden Hirschfeld took the puck and scored.
I had a Déjà vu at the time and took me a while to figure it out.
I’m ready to wake up from this dream where the good guys keep losing in or near OT (MSU football game, Evan Turner shot at the buzzer, US Hockey, UM hockey…)
We’re freaking due.
back when Mitch Albom was a sportswriter, he wrote the post-mortem/obits for the Wings '99 and '00 seasons -- the two that deprived them of true dynasty potential. The columns weer great, and I felt compelled to print them out and evenutally stuff them in a box of mementos, where presumably they still exist. (Then Mitch met Morrie, jumped a shark or 30,000, and nevermind).
This column was way better.
Hockey playoffs = this:
Every season since there has been that crushing moment when the puck goes in the wrong goal and it's all over.
Football bowls = Lloyd gets carried triumphantly off field, team goes out winner, M fans and team get one last feel-good moment with a classy coach.
Football playoffs = see hockey playoffs.
Except for the fact there is no way our 2007 team would make the playoff unless they expanded to 24 or 32 teams. We were unranked.
Though I still read everything MGoBlog publishes. It's prose like this that makes this site oh so very indispensable on a day-to-day basis. Brian, that first paragraph is gorgeous.
That said Mr. Cook, I do have a major bone to pick with you. See, I never went to Michigan. I became a Wolverine fan only through my father and our family's season tickets to football. I've been a Michigan fan for all 33 years of my life but until I started reading this site a few years ago I never paid attention to Michigan Hockey until ESPN told me they had made it to the Frozen Four every few years.
So were it not for MGoBlog, I never would have started following M Hockey. Thus, I never would have had to sit there last night, mouth agape at how hard we'd just gotten screwed. Were it not for you, I would not have had to feel deflated, horrified and... yes, crushed. Were it not for you, I probably wouldn't have texted a friend of mine after they stole victory from us: "We are going to lose this game. It will be horrible and it will be because of the referees."
Of course, without this site I never would have experienced the sheer joy of the CCHA playoffs and Shawn Hunwick in general and get the Bork jokes and so I guess it all evens out in the end.
Fantastic piece. The main reason I love this blog.
I'm going to risk eternal damnation with my first official mgoblog comment and say that I'd have taken Shegos over Gravallese any day.
Awesome as always Brian. I love reading your columns. However, this loss just seemed worse. I am not totally sure why. I live and die with Michigan football, hockey, and basketball in that order. If you want to tell me to get a life, go ahead - I am already aware of that. I really have nothing else that I look forward to in my life besides Michigan athletics. I have very few friends, I am socially awkward, and I still live with my parents. So yeah, Michigan athletics are it for me.
Needless to say the past couple of years have been soul crushing. Look, I am very proud of the hockey team for making this run. It was amazing. When they swept Michigan State I really started to believe. Each game seemed better then the last. I thought this team was on a run of destiny. I remember the Fab Five losses, the '94 Colorado game, the '95 Northwestern game, and of course the Maine hockey game loss. This one just seems worse. I thought this run the hockey team was on was signaling the start of something better. A light at the end of the tunnel. A promise of better days ahead. Now, I just don't know. I don't even know if I want season tickets for football again this year. I just don't know if I can take it. To see the promise of the team and the coaching staff, only to know that it will all be ripped apart in some horrible way. Maybe I just need some more time to process the loss. After a couple of weeks I am usually back to normal. This time, I just don't know. I have a bad feeling that dark and difficult days lie ahead that will be even worse then anyone can imagine. I hope I am wrong. At least I have the witty and insightful articles of Brian to read to help keep me sane.
Just heard Mark Olver left Northern and signed with Colorado. Should be playing with Lake Erie soon enough. One ccha hobey candidate down for Hagelin and Caporusso.