Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

03/12/2009

Cancelling Falcons Crest

Filed under: Back To School,Bowling Green University,college hockey — Joe Yerdon @ 3:43 AM

I’ve been jumping back into my collegiate hockey roots here a bit because, frankly, this point of the NHL season bores me while also making me furious. I know that the playoff races are crazy and “anything can shake loose” and all that. I get it, that’s great, that’s fine. Whatever.

It bores me because you have mediocre teams stepping up their play when they’ve been sleepwalking all season long and you’ve got teams that have been legitimately great all year dogging it because they’re equal parts injured or bored and have coasted along waiting for the playoffs to begin. It happens every season and it’s frustrating to try and cover. I made my calls on who was missing the playoffs before the season was even starting and somehow it’s looking like I’m going to be, at worst, 60% correct.

Suck on that Dwayne Klessel.

With that said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the college game. It’s conference playoff time in Division I and NCAA Tournament time in Division III, and that’s the greatest time of the year to be a college hockey fan – but there’s dire talk coming out of Ohio.

College Hockey News broke a story discussing the financial muck and mire the Bowling Green University program is in:


Bowling Green school president Dr. Carol Cartwright was rumored to have made a recommendation that cutting hockey be one of the options. University trustee Michael Marsh denied that was the case, and said that decisions on alleviating a large budget shortfall would come from the athletic director Greg Christopher.

If you’ve been following college hockey for any amount of time, this story line isn’t anything new. Last season, Wayne State University ended their program thanks to budget cutbacks in higher education in the state of Michigan. It’s an all too familiar story and with college hockey not being one of the cheapest sports to maintain, especially if you don’t own your own facility, it’s one that hurts schools that haven’t been successful at all.

That’s not the case with Bowling Green.

Bowling Green University boasts a pretty impressive list of players who have come out of there. Take a look at the names on this list:



Rob Blake: Former L.A. King and current San Jose Sharks defenseman.

Ken Morrow
: Former Islanders defenseman and member of the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” Olympic gold medal winners in the Lake Placid games.

George McPhee
: A Hobey Baker Award winner and former NHL’er now currently the general manager of the Washington Capitals.

Dan Bylsma
: Former NHL journeyman and now head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kevin Bieksa
: Current Vancouver Canucks defenseman.

The list of other former players at BGSU includes 80s and 90s hockey “That Guys” like Garry Galley, Todd Rierden, Nelson Emerson, Brian Holzinger, Mike Liut, Paul Ysebaert, and Greg de Vries.

A couple of the other names familiar with Bowling Green hockey come from their 1984 National Championship team.

Oh, did I forget to mention that BGSU won a title? Yeah, these kinds of things can get forgotten about apparently.

A few of the players on that team have moved on to become great coaches in college hockey, among them RIT’s Wayne Wilson, Ohio State’s John Markell, Clarkson’s George Roll and current Bowling Green head coach Scott Paluch.

Roll in particular had a lot to say about this news with Bowling Green. More from the CHN story:


I don’t know the specifics. I do know I have a lot of pride from that program, it was the best years or my life, and I hate to see the program being treated this way.

I don’t think the program has been supported like it needs to, just from things I’ve heard. Being there this year (with Clarkson), the rink clearly needs work. There’s a lot of talk amongst alumni in the last couple days. We’re doing what we can.

This is what it boils down to for programs in positions like this: Donations from the alumni.

What’s worse is that BGSU had planned to do improvements to the home rink but eventually cut the budget down for such things so much they bagged it entirely – money likely reallocated and spent on the football program and to make improvements to Doyt Perry Stadium – including the brand new Sebo Center which attaches to the stadium and is meant to be an all-purpose athletic facility.

What’s sadder still is that it took donations from NHL players Rob Blake and Nelson Emerson to even get improvements to the team’s locker room handled. Don’t get me wrong here, money in college is always better spent on education but given how much students fork over to attend there, monies ponied up from state taxpayers or extremely wealthy donors that enjoy seeing their name carved in stone – it probably wouldn’t hurt to see a few things kept up to code, at the least.


Shouldn’t a former championship program deserve a better fate than this?

What happens next? Will a big donor or two come forth and help, and (pardon the phrasing it can’t be helped here) bail out the program and get it set on the correct course? Will there be a farewell tour next season for the Falcons where they, essentially, play a lame duck season knowing full-well that they’re done after the year (similar to what happened to Wayne State)?

It’s tough to say, but if I’m going to lean any way on this: I have to think the axe is going to fall and Division I hockey gets a team lighter. Why? Simple. The president of Bowling Green State University has overseen this type of thing before.

Dr. Carol Cartwright is an esteemed woman in academia and someone who is highly regarded at being one of the best in the country at running a university. She’s also the woman with the blood of the Kent State Golden Flashes hockey program on her hands.

In 1991, Cartwright was named president of Kent State and in 1994, the program called it quits. Cartwright was just named president of Bowling Green State in January and sees a failing and faltering program that is draining money and not making any of it back. Frankly, in her position you can see why she would make a recommendation to cut the program.

The Falcons suffer greatly in attendance, playing to a 40.9% (2,044 out of 5,000) full arena on average, a mark only better than a few schools: American International, Sacred Heart, Bentley, Alabama-Huntsville, and Ohio State.

The first three schools listed there play to less than an average of 500 fans per game in venues that hold less than 2,000 people. Compare that to Alabama-Huntsville who is in a similar situation to Bowling Green meanwhile Ohio State draws nearly 4,200 per game inside the cavernous Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the OSU campus, a facility they share with the basketball team.

If folks aren’t going to the games, you’re not making ticket revenue, people aren’t buying team gear – all of that. Then again, who wants to go to an arena that hasn’t seen improvements made to it since the school last won a National Championship.

You get back what you put into things and in the case with the Bowling Green hockey program, it appears not much other than basic maintenance and budgeting has been put into it and it’s shown in the standings. They haven’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990, and they haven’t been above .500 since the 1996-1997 season under coach Buddy Powers.

The school is then in the position of deciding whether or not to reward mediocrity and apparently opted not to while ignoring the fact that having sub-par facilities go a long way towards making a program more successful and bringing in better recruits and putting a winner on the ice that folks want to come watch.

In the financial “chicken or egg” way of thinking, the school administrators simply understand that neither the chicken nor the eggs are making any money and that’s all that matters. If the eggs weren’t rotten or the chickens were more palatable, then maybe BGSU doesn’t have to worry.

Maybe.

The administrators don’t have the time nor the patience to worry and they need financial results fast and a good way to score a few hundred thousand dollars is to cut off a program that’s not getting it done.

At other schools where this has happened, a lack of success can be blamed but ultimately it’s not athletics people are plunking their money down for at those schools (namely Fairfield and Iona College most recently). Sure, they’ve got football teams too but hockey doesn’t carry the zest for any of the big money alums from places like that – there’s no history for hockey and unless you’re hamstrung by Title IX concerns and money worries, football will always stick around.

BGSU has history and a damn good one at that. This isn’t going to be a quiet dismissal the way Fairfield, Iona, Wayne State, Findlay, Kent State and Illinois-Chicago were before.

This one will be loud and it will be felt across the hockey landscape and a lot of the blame can rest on the shoulders of the administration that turned their backs on it for so long.

Bowling Green has been given nothing and now there may be nothing to get back. Maybe this can all be averted but with an announcement like this sneaking out at the end of the season, I can’t help but figure that bad news for hockey at Bowling Green is coming sooner than not.

03/04/2009

Trade Deadline – Going Wild!

Filed under: Hockey Wilderness,Minnesota Wild,shameless plug — Joe Yerdon @ 6:58 AM

Very literally I’m going Wild – I’ve got a new column over at Hockey Wilderness dealing with the Wild… not dealing.

Again, as always, pay a visit over to SBN with neide and buddhafisch they do a KILLER job there covering one of the most frustrating teams in the NHL.

Be nice and lend them a soft shoulder to weep on because their team’s management hates the fans a lot.

03/01/2009

Back To School: SLU 2 – RPI 0

Filed under: Back To School,ECAC,NCAA Rules,refs,RPI,St. Lawrence University — Joe Yerdon @ 8:38 PM

Second verse, same as the first for RPI this weekend in dealing with St. Lawrence. With RPI playing mostly 50 minutes of lifeless hockey and coming alive for the final ten against Clarkson, it was a bit surprising to see a similar situation crop up the next night.

It’s also surprising given that this was senior night for RPI. On this night, Arnold Schwarzenegger shed a tear because somewhere else in America, the Austrian national anthem was played, this time in honor the evening’s senior starting goaltender, Mathias Lange.


It’s like hockey gone emo but the sweaters aren’t ugly.

RPI started off well for the first few minutes but after a St. Lawrence power play goal in the first period from Shawn Fensel, the Engineers were frozen in time for the better part of the game through the rest of the first, all of the second and the first half of the third period.

In that time, TSN Hockey God Bob McKenzie‘s son Mike scored another power play goal for the Saints in the second period to put the lead out of reach for the night. Oddly enough, this was one of those games where there wasn’t a lack of shots, there were plenty of those (SLU 31, RPI 29) and St. Lawrence certainly had more than a few great opportunities to score. For the home-standing Engineers, however, it wasn’t quite the same until late into the third period.


This ice carving of RPI mascot Puckman sums up their offense this year.

Right about at the ten minute mark of the third, RPI managed to swing momentum on their side simply by having their top line with senior captain Matt Angers-Goulet and sophomores Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich cycling well, doing dirty work and getting a few shots on goal. I mention this line by name because it was this same group the night before that woke them up and it carried through to the other lines from that point on.

The issue for RPI on this night would be that they both seemingly waited too late into the game to get it going and allowed some truly crummy officiating get in their way. During a shift featuring the Joel Malchuk line, Malchuk was mixed up with a SLU defender trying to free the puck up on the end boards. Another SLU defenseman skated in planting a check into the back of Malchuk putting him down on the ice leading to an eventual stop in play and players mixing it up a bit.

Malchuk was slow to get up but eventually did and headed to the bench. The problem here is that no call was made on the play. Checking from behind has been a pet issue of the NCAA and all of its conferences for a couple seasons now, allowing officials the discretion to hand out a five-minute major and a game misconduct to players found guilty of this.

Folks at the NCAA go as far as to chart the progress of these calls and revisit the issue to see if anything needs to be altered. At least they’re trying to make sure they’re doing some things correctly.

The NCAA has adopted some of their rulings from the NHL (for example: no line changes for teams offending on icing, face offs after penalties go to the offending team’s defensive end of the ice) however the NCAA’s stand on dangerous hits from behind is something they should be commended for. The NHL has been gutless when it comes to protecting their players and only this week started dealing out actual punishment for players delivering dirty hits (See: Brendan Witt and Derek Boogaard).

As for Joel Malchuk, while folks can argue one way or the other whether or not the hit was a minor or major infraction (hits like that have been called either way in games I’ve watched) the fact that officials Mike Baker and Joe Carusone called nothing on the play is embarrassing.

RPI head coach Seth Appert made sure to voice his displeasure with the officials about this (as well as a potential tripping call on the following shift). Appert was given a bench minor for his efforts.

At least they made one call in the final few minutes. I guess.

Malchuk may feel like the most snakebitten guy in the league given this no-call against St. Lawrence and the embellishment penalty he received in a road game against Union College this year where he was tripped and tossed to the ice by a Union defenseman on a short-handed break.

Black clouds find a way to follow some people around. Malchuk has also missed parts of this season and most of last season due to a myriad of injuries.

As for referee Mike Baker, he heard it loudly and by name from the RPI students. I can’t say I recall a game where the referee has been chanted at by name and told how poorly he’s doing his job, but this is what makes the RPI fans a fascinating set of creatures with memories as sharp as an elephant.

Flashing back to last season, Mike Baker was one of the two referees on the ice for a home game against, oddly enough, Union College. The NCAA didn’t go full-on with the two referee system until this season, but this tilt between travel partners was chosen to be a test run to see how well it would work. If you ask Union fans, it worked out great as the Dutchmen pounded RPI. If you ask RPI fans, they’ll start muttering about Mike Baker’s work in that game, one part in particular from the first period:

REN-5 Dan Peace (5-Fighting) UNI 1×5 17:56

REN-6 Dan Peace (10-Game Disqualification) (Served by Scott Halpern) 17:56

The problem they have with these penalties is that no Union player was also tagged for fighting, no one dropped their gloves, and it occurred in a harmless post-whistle scrum near the goal.

Could Mike Baker just been interpreting the NCAA Rule Book literally? Sure, absolutely he could have – to quote Section 17a.:

A player shall not fight an opponent or participate in a fight, on or off the playing surface. A punch thrown may be considered fighting.

OK, I can see how a post-whistle scrum could be interpreted that way and be taken very literal by someone hellbent on impressing the boss. Oh, by the way, the boss of officials in the ECAC is former NHL referee Paul Stewart. Stewart knows how things go so cross that one off the list.

That said, if you’re going to be a stickler for that rule… why not be a stickler for all of them? I digress. Officiating isn’t the reason RPI lost the game, St. Lawrence is playing very good hockey right now and it may have been RPI that woke them up by beating them 7-6 in overtime in January.

St. Lawrence has been on fire since that game, only dropping one contest to travel partner Clarkson since that game with RPI on January 23rd. Come March 20-21st when we’ll be visiting the Times Union Center in Albany for the ECAC Semis and Finals I would be surprised if St. Lawrence was not there competing for the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The post game brought about one of my favorite things: The ceremony to thank the seniors and pay homage to them for their hard work and dedication to the program. For RPI, this meant a parting farewell for Mathias Lange, Kurt Colling, Seth Klerer, Andrei Uryadov and captain Matt Angers-Goulet.


Losing on Senior Night is a huge bummer.

It also doubles as a function as a reminder to those who are moving up a class next season that their roles are more important and that their leadership will be demanded of them and for a few players, a big step up in their game and a whole boatload of new responsibilities.


Part of the future of RPI Engineers hockey.

RPI and St. Lawrence now move on to the Conference Playoffs. RPI finished the season with the #11 spot in the ECAC and will visit Dartmouth College in their playoff series next weekend while St. Lawrence’s win over RPI gives them a first round bye and the #4 seed in the ECAC.

The other first round pairings are:

Clarkson @ Union
Brown @ Harvard
Colgate @ Quinnipiac

Yale, Cornell and Princeton also have first round byes with St. Lawrence and those four will wait to see who is left standing after this weekend.

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