Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

04/01/2009

Picture Pages – Leaving ManchVegas

Vegas, baby. ManchVegas.

My pictures from Sunday’s Regional Final between Boston University and University of New Hampshire is severely disappointing. Since there’s only one game to be played, there’s not a lot of time to dick around and snap photos and since college hockey fans are generally more discriminating, there’s not much, if anything, in the way of jersey fouls to be seen through the arena.

Thankfully whenever I make a trip, odd things or people seem to just appear in front of me or around me so I can fill in the blanks with something truly bizarre or amazing or just completely out of left field.

Yeah, I know, the Department of Redundancy Department would like to pay me a visit.

Shut up.


Since the pictures aren’t as fun, here’s cartoon Bill Cosby.

Pregame time, I mill about on the concourse behind the goal chatting it up with friends and fans alike, picking up some souvenir swag as well since, truly, this was already a memorable weekend given what went down in the UNH-UND game the day before. I also had a really good feeling about this game between BU and UNH.

These teams know each other inside and out, they’ve played each other enough this year and now this game was for all the marbles, to go to Washington, D.C. and have a shot at the National Championship and to make it even more intense, the game is set in New Hampshire 30 minutes from the UNH campus and 45 minutes from Boston.

Awesome.

The BU fans I spoke with were a bit nervous but mostly at ease feeling confident about their team and why not? They were the only #1 seed to survive the first round of the tournament and did so convincingly over Ohio State. Facing off with an opponent in UNH that they were familiar with helped them with figuring out where they matchup with them and that seemed to sit well with many of the BU fans.

UNH fans, however, were nervous. Really, really nervous. Their team won an epic overtime game the day before and were poised to have a true home ice advantage against BU. Fate was shining down on all the underdogs elsewhere in the tournament with Vermont and Miami-Ohio already punching their tickets to D.C. the night before.

But still, the nerves of anticipation of the game, the nerves that come with worrying about what team will show up that day and the nerves of knowing that a shot at the Frozen Four wear on some fans, and that’s certainly the case with many UNH fans.

The game: Beautiful.

BU dominated the latter part of the first period and were rewarded for their efforts as Corey Trivino put away a rebound to give BU the lead 1-0 after one period.

UNH flipped the script in the second and really outplayed BU, especially after getting the crowd back in the game with Bobby Butler’s tying goal early in the period. UNH rode the momentum swing through the rest of the period and on into the third.

Through all this I noticed the man sitting to the left of me, who I had apparently scared off on Saturday instantly by texting updates to Twitter, has stuck around for the entirety of the day. I figure the larger crowd made him stay locked into the seat he bought. How nice.

He was a quiet man and I could best describe as looking like a stereotypical townie. Any of you who have been to college are drawing the best picture possible in your head and it probably fits.

I really don’t want to put the guy down too much but there was something about the guy that I found odd as the puck was dropped for the game. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something.

Not a camera.

Not a phone.

Yup. Chaw.

Now I’ve had friends and acquaintances in high school and through college that liked to dip. That was their thing and “it sure beat smoking.”

Whatever.

Seeing it go down like that right there though totally threw me for a loop, a curveball of epic proportion. Those not familiar with chaw, well, you gotta spit when you do it.

A lot.

So rather than spit on the floor and ruin everything around you, you spit into a bottle and call it a day and make sure to not spill it or, God forbid, end up mistaking it for a soda later in the day.

This guy did have a ritual though, something I was able to figure out easily and not because I was obsessed with him or looking to rat the guy out to security (Remember, “Live Free Or Die!”) but he wasn’t exactly hiding that he was dipping during the game. At the conclusion of each period, the dippin’ was done and had to be disposed of.

Right under his chair.


Don’t have a spittoon? Under the chair will work fine.

Once the period kicked off, in went a new wad and he was quiet and happy. Hey, rock on man – it’s still fucking gross.

The third period was played in epic fashion. Scoring chances up and down the ice. BU started the third period on a power play and UNH compounded the problems by getting hit for another penalty shortly after the previous one expired. Then BU gets hit with a penalty. Fair trade.

Time winds down and the pressure to get one before time expires and potentially avoid what would be a legendary overtime amps up. Big time.

UNH trades chances with BU. BU finally establishes pressure in the UNH end and we’re under a minute to play when a BU forward gets room and an open lane towards the net. UNH defenders appear to do a great job to chop the puck off his stick and the BU player hits the ice.

The referee’s arm goes up. Play stops and there’s a penalty against UNH with 45 seconds left in regulation.

Wow.

James van Riemsdyk gets sent off for hooking. van Riemsdyk is UNH’s big gun forward, a first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers and just like that, he’s gone for hooking. What I couldn’t see from my seat was the hook and instantly thought that the officials had blown the call.

I felt crushed. This game was bordering on an instant classic and had it reached overtime… Its legendary status would’ve been solidified.

Instead? The inevitable.

UNH was flustered by the call and BU smelled blood. BU squeezed in on the goal closer and closer while UNH’s penalty kill unit desperately tried to keep the puck from even reaching the net – so much so that BU’s Jason Lawrence was able to throw the puck off of a sprawled out defender and into the goal at 19:45 of the third period and the game-winning goal.


Someone cue up Jim McKay on the Wide World of Sports.


Sweet Euphoria


Class Act

After the game, I met up with my UNH pals and grumbled about what we thought was a ticky-tack penalty at the end of an epic game, myself having to play it off that they were ECAC officials that have been doing that sort of thing all season long. I felt deflated and just worn out by having a game end like that. Of course, after I returned home and watched a replay of the play I felt better, even relieved, to see that van Riemsdyk did indeed hook the BU attacker on the play… I just had a terrible angle to see it happen.

Crisis averted. Well, hockey crisis anyhow – another of my travelling moments, like getting the rough introduction to Chaw Man awaited me.

I parted ways with my friends and wished them well until the Frozen Four when I’d be seeing them all again and decided to heed nature’s call before the long, rainy drive home. Upon entering the bathroom in the lobby I realize that its well after the game is over and its empty aside from the pair of feet sticking out from under the stall and the loud grunts coming from said stall.

Now, we’ve all had moments in our own privacy when sometimes nature doesn’t want to cooperate and there’s some trouble in letting things happen and far be it from me to get freaked out by someone trying to hurry up and get off the commode.

This was not one of those times. You see, the feet in the stall were facing the wrong direction for this to be the case when more fiber in the diet might be helpful. This… was something different. These weren’t grunts of discomfort, they were grunts of another kind. The kind of grunts that make someone think twice about spending any more time in the bathroom than you’ve already spent in there and need to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.


The horror…

And you better believe that I did. I figured that holding it in until I was safely away from the Verizon Wireless Center would be best and I really don’t even want to know what may have been going on in there but the fact that I saw only one pair of feet sends a chill down my spine.

I guess some folks have different ways to celebrate a win – and that’s not really the way I figured I would ever celebrate my team’s big victory. Beers with friends, shots until I black out, backflips into a snowbank… Any of those things would’ve come to mind instantly.

But that though…

Only in Vegas, baby.

ManchVegas.

03/31/2009

Picture Pages – Saturday in ManchVegas

I’ll make this post nice and easy for you and give it to you in the form of pictures from inside and around the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.

With all of the photos I snapped, feel free to click on them to get a grossly larger view of the shot so you can soak in my amateur photography skills with a Kodak EasyShare 37mm Digital Camera.

Five megapixels up in your face!


The Cap’n and Cosby say it’s go time for Picture Pages, bitches.


Corporate Cell Phone Retailer Arena – Manchester, NH

Game one on Saturday afternoon featured home-standing UNH and North Dakota. Sure, UNH had the home ice advantage, but North Dakota didn’t have to look far to find some “hostile and abusive” local support. In fact, it was right across the street.


Hostile and abusive? You better believe it, baby!

The best part of this sighting is that North Dakota was nicely represented amongst the fans on Saturday. Certainly with everything bad going on in Fargo and UND’s home of Grand Forks with the record flooding, there was not a high expectation that Sioux fans would turn out, but they were there and it was great to see them as well.


Pregame warmups behind the UNH goal.

What you’re noticing there is that the end zone netting is rather high on the ends.

I mean, REALLY high.


Pre-anthem and introductions. What’s a college game without a big flag?

I can’t recall being somewhere where even the folks in the upper level end seats were safe from errant pucks and thought this might be a bit of a viewing issue but as you can see from the above photo taken from my seats for the weekend it’s not bad.


UNH mascot Wild E. Cat always skates with his head up through the zone.

As for the game itself, it was a life affirmation of hockey for me as a fan. This game was speed, this game was extreme skill, this game was drama – personified. Some folks will see a 6-5 in OT score and think that it was sloppy defense or bad goaltending.

No way.

This game was firewagon hockey born anew. There was only one special teams goal scored in the game, a power play goal for New Hampshire’s Mike Sislo and it was the first goal of the game. There were 79 combined shots on goal in the game, a game that was played for 60 minutes and 45 seconds.

Bestill my heart, ye hockey gods.

That said when Pete LeBlanc’s rifle-shot one-timer zipped past Sioux goaltender Brad Eidsness for the game winner, some folks were a little hard up on the counting.


Bill Cosby wants you to pay attention during Picture Pages, fools.

LeBlanc’s goal was his second of the game, then again, perhaps these UNH fans were just that excited that it blew their hats off on the ice.

Yeah, I’ll go with that.

I am disappointed that I was unable to get a shot of the traditional fish thrown on the ice on either night for New Hampshire’s first goal.

Whatever it was, salute to the winners of this true instant classic and a tip of the cap to the defeated, they’ve got nothing to be down about.


Hockey traditions are a beautiful thing

As for the second game of the night, well… It was a laugher. The difference being? I got a seating upgrade thanks to some friends in the BU section who said there was room to spread out.


Hey you! Yeah, you in the glass case of emotion!* Down in front!
*-
(ed. Thanks Pete!)

As you can see, this seating did come with a bit of a visual impairment in the form of a goal judge.

C’est la vie.

The advantage of these seats, however is that they offer the ability to get some cool action photos, even on my crappy camera. At this point in the game while taking photos, Ohio State backup goaltender Cal Heeter was in the game because, well, it was 5-0.

Like I heard a wealthy NESCAC fan say one time,”Go get ’em lad!”

Give ’em the Heeter!

Even with only one BU player in front of the net it’s a bad idea to leave him there on his own.

BU’s Jason Lawrence working in Holmstrom’s office in front of the net.

The other fun I managed to discover taking some of these real cheeseball shots is the joy of getting a photograph that really sums up a game in one shot.

Still an empty net! Still an empty net! Still an empty net!
The red light is on, the goal has been scored and the goaltender is nowhere in the shot. In a game that BU won 8-3, that about sums things up perfectly.

Celebration time. Note to self: Flash OFF next time. Dumb ass.

Tomorrow, a shorter pictorial of my day at the Regional Finals with New Hampshire’s Chaw Man and a story about how nothing ever can just be a totally normal weekend away for me.

03/29/2009

No, Seriously: Up Yours Basketball

I know that the NCAA Basketball tournament is what makes money, and makes people money all the same this time of year and that’s good and that’s fine.

It can’t touch the NCAA Hockey tournament. Can’t do it. It’s not possible and it’ll never be possible.

Ever.

I’m not going to go throwing the “parity” word around here, that’s just too overdone for me.

Before I get talking about how unbelievable Day Two of the tournament was, I want to say that part of me wants to rip ESPN a new one for their abysmal priorities in coverage and inability to handle multiple live broadcasts. ESPN was airing a Maryland-Virginia regular season ACC lacrosse game this afternoon, figuring that for a Saturday, getting as much live sports coverage in as possible would be great.

I like that and that’s good. What I don’t like is the seeming lack of a backup plan from the folks at ESPN considering that lacrosse games don’t end in ties and in the event that the game might go to overtime, you’d need to have a contingency plan just in case.

ESPN2’s coverage of the Northeast Regional was delayed until after the second period because the lacrosse game went to an unprecedented seven overtime periods.

SEVEN!

Since I was at this game, I only became aware of the issue with ESPN thanks to friends texting me looking for updates since ESPN was only giving periodic highlight snippets during the lacrosse game and asking for patience.

Don’t get me wrong, I dig lacrosse. It’s a great sport and I love watching the championships. I’ve got no beef with lacrosse.

I’ve got a beef with the decision makers who decided that not having another of their cable channels was worthy enough to carry the UND-UNH game while Maryland/Virginia lacrosse played out the longest lacrosse game in history. Picture in picture would’ve worked out well also, but instead it was all or nothing.

If these were both NCAA Tournament games being played, fine you gotta roll with it and deal.

But a regular season game?! That’s dumb, even more so when you’ve got folks tuning in for an elimination game, an NCAA Tournament game and you’re telling them, “You know what? Too bad.” I could delve into crazy theories and pile on ESPN again about their more than apparent disdain for hockey as a sport, but I’m not going to do that this time.

This was a flat-out poor decision to not use the wealth of programming options you have available to you to at least give folks a channel to switch to in the meantime while history in another sport played out. Instead, actual college hockey fans get shut out and cold shouldered while they miss the first period and a half of what turned out to be the greatest game of the tournament.

It’s late here and there’s a lot of things floating through my head and there’s no way that it’s going to be said coherently and that overtime thriller with New Hampshire and North Dakota did something to me.

It left me unable to put into words what I just watched.

I’m not going to blow it up into a life changing experience kind of thing, that’s just histrionics.

I will say this though:

This game between UNH and UND is the game I’d show to people who are on the fence whether or not they can get into hockey. This is the sort of hockey game I want to see each night played in every arena in front of every fan and soon-to-be fan alike.

If that didn’t win them over? Tell them the Bemidji State story. They were technically the worst team in the tournament, only getting in there thanks to winning the CHA Tournament auto-bid. They got a date with Notre Dame in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a reward and made the best of it by handing the Irish their lunch. Their reward for that? A date with the rough and tumble Big Red of Cornell who stunned #2 seed in the Midwest Northeastern scoring the game winning goal with under 30 seconds to play.

Surreal.

All of it.

With Bemidji and Cornell facing off for a date to D.C., another #3 or #4 seed will be headed to join fellow #3 Vermont and #4 Miami. Meanwhile in the East, top seed Boston University gets to face their Hockey East mates from UNH, the #3 seed in the region. The winner of this game gets a date with Hockey East cohorts Vermont for a spot in the Finals.

It’s amazing that only one top seed survived the opening round. It’s thoroughly shocking and completely enthralling and it’s great for the sport. Just last year in Denver, I found myself and others complaining that it’s always the same bunch of teams trading off spots in the Frozen Four. You could pick out any combination of Boston College, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota or North Dakota and generally get two or three teams in the Frozen Four.

Not this year though. This year is special, a true “anything can happen” kind of year.

It’s the kind of year the NCAA Basketball tournament wishes it could get and market the hell out of.

Too bad. It’s hockey’s turn to tell the Cinderella stories.

03/27/2009

On The Road Again – ManchVegas Bound

In a late spur-of-the-moment decision, I’m taking this act on the road one more time before we make the big honkin’ road trip to D.C. for the Frozen Four.

This weekend?


Bienvenue? French? Maybe this explains UNH’s fortunes…

That’s right, we’re going to live free or die in Manchester, New Hampshire with the Northeast Regional.

Live Free or Die is New Hampshire’s state motto, but it sounds like something Tupac would say.

I know, I know… I’m just sayin’.

Manchester offers up the most intriguing set of teams amongst the four regions and should offer up the best games as well. Bruce Ciskie at FanHouse offers up his quick take on what to look for out of the Northeast, and if you know anything about college hockey, you know that these four teams offer up a ton of college hockey history.


Meet Rhett. He’s a bad-ass dog.

I know that mystique and aura are just crappy terms for nostalgia, but this regional offers it up in spades. With Boston University you’ve got oodles of history and Beanpot Tournament Trophies galore. You’ve also got them as the #1 overall seed in the tournament and champions of the Hockey East Conference. They’re kind of good. They’re kind of really, really good.


No, they’re not the Blackhawks.

Then there’s the University of North Dakota. They were in the Frozen Four last season and were summarily trounced by eventual champions Boston College in the National Semifinals. This year, they come stumbling into the NCAA tournament after slipping up badly in the WCHA Final Five, bowing out there in the semifinals. They were the regular season WCHA champions and took home the MacNaughton Cup.

North Dakota fans are oddly confident heading into the NCAA Tournament, it seems, since some of the fans are already looking ahead to a potential Regional Final matchup with BU.

Why look ahead though? Perhaps it’s because perennial Hockey East worryworts from the University of New Hampshire are their opening round opponents.


Oh, bother.

New Hampshire has everything going for them. They’ve made the tournament and get the guaranteed semi-home game in Manchester. How does this happen, you ask? The NCAA wants to try and guarantee some attendance, so they’ll place local teams in Regional sites – almost opposite to how this works with the NCAA Basketball tournament with respect to Regionals.

New Hampshire also comes into this weekend stumbling having lost to Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals, many New Hampshire fans are just waiting for the floor to fall out on them once again.

What are UNH fans like? Think of Red Sox fans before 2004 but without the bad attitudes. They’re the Eeyores of college hockey fandom, and I say that with as much care as I can muster. UNH fans are tremendous fans, some of the best all-around in college hockey, they’re just down on hockey life.

UNH’s matchup with UND, if you believe the fans of each side, is shaping up to be a battle between teams looking for their lives to just be ended in the least painful way possible. Then again, fans operate in extremes. I expect this game to be one of the best of the tournament between two highly-skilled and pedigreed programs.

Rounding out the foursome in Manchester is THE Ohio State University. The Buckeyes are probably best known school of these four, but as is the case with college hockey more often than not, the more well known you are the worse you are at it. While BU is the top seed in the tournament, Ohio State is not the worst team in the field (that distinction belongs to Bemidji State University) which affords OSU more of a chance to win, especially since OSU plays in the CCHA with two other #1 seeds (Michigan and Notre Dame).


Yeah, well how does the band spell it on ice?

Does OSU have a chance? Sure they do, the NCAA Hockey tournament is a bit more susceptible to huge upsets than most other NCAA Tournaments. Ohio State has wins this year against three of the tournaments top seeds from the aforementioned Michigan and Notre Dame as well as Denver University. They’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

The downside? BU is a monster this season. They’ve been better than everyone else all year long and they’re battle tested after making their way through the Hockey East Tournament. Ohio State may scare them for a bit but I don’t really consider them to be much of a threat.

Stranger things have happened, however.

ESPN 2 will be carrying these games and the two premiere hockey gurus the World Wide Leader has to offer will be in the house with John Buccigross and Barry Melrose handling duties for this one. The Regional Final on Sunday will be carried on ESPNU.

I’ll have updates periodically posted on my Twitter page, so if you’re not following me yet, get off your ass and do it already.

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