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Monday, May 22, 2006

The Alaska Nanooks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks are "rebranding" themselves apparently. Hence, they are to be known as the Alaska Nanooks. Cool. They're much more of a school dependent on enrollment from places other than Squarebanks; No doubt in this day and age they have all sorts of educational outreach programs throughout the bush. If not now in the future they'd seem certain to expand the number of resident students from that part of the states population. So it's not a school that has the majority of it's students from its locale. Alaska Nanooks makes more sense in my mind. Folks in Fairbanks may take it as a bit of a slap in the face but the school is branding itself for the next 20 years and they obviously know where enrollment will come from during that time.

Now that's said; I've gotta add that I'd like to see some sort of movement in the local community to change UAA's name. My suggestion would be Anchorage State University. UAA's enrollment must certainly be overwhelmingly from Anchorage. UAA's identity is ill-served by its current name. I know it sucks that the UAF folks beat us to this idea but what the hell else do they have to do up there in all that darkness and cold but think up PR stuff. I'd normally be inclined by nature to rail against them just because it's Fairbanks but in this case I say lets jump on the bandwagon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Roundtable: Improving College Hockey

Bruce Ciskie (the second-best WCHA radio guy) has posted on his blog and forwarded a series of questions to other bloggers as to whether the College game needs improvement. It's roundtable-style so visit the other blogs to see their replies. Here's mine:
Has the college game truly seen an increase in stickwork in recent years? Do officials do a good job of calling "clutch and grab" infractions consistently? What do you think of the checking from behind "crackdown"? What NHL rules change would you like to see adopted in college hockey, and which one do you want college hockey to say away from?
I've grouped these four questions together so I can also answer a broader question about evolving the game through rule changes and focused enforcement. I don't believe there has been an increase in recent years in the amount of stickwork by players. I'd say that there's been somewhat of a steady decline in stickwork over the last 15 years. Calls for better enforcement of one rule or another are an annual occurrence in Florida at the coaches convention. No doubt the political nature of getting 59 people together to discuss the season leads to grievances being expressed and acted upon. And yes, it's a very good thing that they call more stick-related penalties. And yes, who could possibly argue that strictly enforcing CFB's isn't a good thing? There were definitely attempts by some players to take advantage of the rule by turning just before a hit and buying a call; but I think the referees were understanding that by seasons end. I understand one possible rule change for this coming season could be to give referees the ability to differentiate between CFB calls and allowing them to give 10 minute misconducts in some circumstances (like perhaps when some Joe Jensen-wannabe turns his back). I'm good with that if it's so. So I'd have to say that the referees lived up to the letter of the law with their enforcement. It was the most consistent they've been about anything.

As to the broader implications of dicking with the rules to evolve the game as the NHL has done? Don't. Please. The NHL improved itself greatly by opening up the play through stricter enforcement and removing the red line with it's most recent rule changes. That's clear. Good move NHL ... the D-1 game has been better than yours for years glad to see ya learned something. But at the same time it demeaned the spirit of the game with the whole stupid shootout. I guess that's what it comes down to for many people; a tie doesn't satiate their lust to see a victor; they simply can't appreciate the effort of both teams. Why even play the rest of the game? We already have the National SlamDunk Association instead of the NBA. Why not just turn the NHL into the NSL? They could make the ice sheets even smaller and sell the extra seats to bored NASCAR and wrestling fans. You wouldn't need those stupid panes of plexiglass either. So that's why I'd beg the powers that be when it comes to D-1 hockey to feel free to continue on with the yearly focused enforcement stuff ... that's all fine. But if the shootout goes through and becomes part of college hockey then my love for the game will be greatly diminished. I'm all good with a tie. Don't fix what isn't broken. Please.
What do you think of the increased use of replay in college hockey?
I think we've seen that occasionally even on a replay a referee may still make a bad call. But overall its best that a team that scores a goal is actually rewarded for doing so. Those situations where teams are awarded goals that they didn't actually score occur infrequently enough that I support continued use of replay.
What is one random change you'd like to see made in hockey?
Four games added to the total games allowed. UAA could likely schedule 4 more home games if this were to be. The WCHA schedule limits UAA fan's chances to see many teams outside the conference other than UAF. I think there are plenty of schools that don't have regular access to the schedule exemption playing in Alaska affords a UAA/UAF opponent and they'd be more than happy to travel up here for a series (I'd imagine UAA wouldn't object to some sort of subsidy for the travel even ... god knows they've done plenty of that in the past). I don't see how it wouldn't benefit most everyone. I know the schedule was reduced originally because it was felt that too many games detracted from the Student part of being a Student/Athlete. But that was at a time where so many resources weren't available to students on the internet. Students these days can keep up their studies on the road easier and more efficiently than in years past. They have the tools and technology available now to ensure it. So let's have more games eh? Ok then. It's the 21st Century already.

I'd also like to see a living breathing Big Ten Hockey Conference (BTHC). I see it as being inevitable. Big Ten alumni who love the college game will never give up their dream; and eventually someone will convince Penn State to start a D-1 program. That'd be a 5 team conference and there'd be a good possibility that those 5 Administrators could convince another big ten team to join within a couple of years. It could still be years down the road. Many perhaps? Few? I dunno but I do know I'd rather see it sooner than later. Why? Because if it is going to happen then let it happen now. Any prolongation of the whole issue just means having to listen to crowing and carping and moaning from the pro-BTHC crowd.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Burnaby Express: Royal Bank Cup Champs

Burnaby capped off their season Sunday evening with an 8-2 pounding of the Yorkton Terriers. Yorkton advanced to the final by scoring a couple of early 1st period goals and holding off the host Streetsville Derby's 2-1. Paul Crowder added a goal in the third period for a tournament total of 2g and 2a.

Congratulations to Burnaby. They made a helluva nice statement about the quality of competition in the BCHL. After finishing 2nd in the Mainland Division (8th overall in league points) they marched through their league playoffs defeating favored teams on their way to the BCHL playoff title. That in itself could be characterized as impressive. But if the 8th best team in the BCHL can advance to the RBC and finish that tournament with a 5-1 record then I'd have to characterize it as something beyond impressive. It borders on phenomenal.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Burnaby Express to RBC Final

In the first semi-final game of the RBC tournament, Paul Crowder picked up an assist on Burnaby's 2nd goal with 12 seconds remaining to send the game to OT vs. the Ft. William North Stars. The winning goal came at 6:18 to send Burnaby to the Championship game tomorrow. Yorkton and the host Streetsville team play in the second semi-final this evening to determine their opponent. Shots were pretty even through the first two periods as Ft. William built a 2 goal lead.

Burnaby advanced to the semi-final with victories in their 3rd and 4th round-robin games vs. Ft. William (3-2 on Wednesday) and C.R. Joliette (5-3 on Thursday). Paul Crowder's numbers for the tournament are 1 goal and 2 assists.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Answering a Rumor

If you're a reader of the Western College Hockey Blog you might have seen mention of a rumor regarding UAA recruit Kevin Clark posted on the Northern Hockey Blog. Supposedly Kevin is having "second thoughts" about coming to UAA this fall because Keith Morris' dad is part owner of the Winnipeg South Blues.

I had a bit of an internal debate on whether to answer this rumor here. Rumors are interesting things. Once born they don't die easily. I suppose (in a way), rumors on the internet can be thought of as a sort of "thought virus". Since the earliest days of the Web these sort of "thought virii" have infected people's minds via email. The early incarnations were messages designed to propagate themselves by encouraging recipients to forward it to their friends in order to get a disabled kid a trip to Disneyland or some such other seemingly worthy project. The sole intent of the message was to get recipients to resend it. Hence my reticence in addressing it at all. Doing so just gives the rumor more life. Not doing so could lend credibility though. So ...

I write this Blog to show my support for the UAA program and because I've seen simply too many misconceptions about the program on the internet. So naturally when I read the rumor I inquired at the highest level and was told that Kevin has "confirmed" his attendance at UAA in the fall. So that's that in my eyes. One rumor refuted.

Now as I'm writing this and happen to refresh the aforementioned Blog I find another rumor posted about UAA. It's about a possible assistant and it's called "Rumor of the Week". LOL. Ok. Um ... does it really matter who Coach Shyiak brings in as assistants? Doesn't matter to me. He'll find whomever he thinks are the best guys to help implement his plan to make the UAA hockey program a feared opponent in the WCHA. In my mind, speculation about it isn't worth the time it's taken for me to write this sentence.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Burnaby Loses 1st Game, Wins 2nd

On Saturday evening the Burnaby Express opened their Royal Bank Cup tournament with a game against the host Streetsville Derby's. Playing a team on their home ice after they've had a month's rest is definitely something to not be misjudged. Streetsville scored 2 third period goals to tie the game after Burnaby led 3-1 at the end of the second period. Their goal at 7:58 of OT secured what must have been a pretty sweet win for the hometown crowd. Paul Crowder picked up an assist on the second Burnaby goal. Here's the boxscore.

For their 2nd game of the round-robin tournament the Express faced the Yorkton Terriers Monday afternoon. Paul Crowder's goal at 8:28 of the 1st period gave Burnaby a 2-0 lead which Yorkton cut to 1 with a power play goal at 16:38. After a scoreless 2nd period Yorkton tied the game at 9:44 of the 3rd on another power play goal. Burnaby answered 1 minute 10 seconds later and sealed the 4-2 victory with an empty netter with 6 seconds remaining. Here's the boxscore.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Assistant Coaches Resign: Drama Ensues

Stability. It's a state of being that is a necessity for a D-1 program to succeed. Players need it. Fans want it. But instead of that stability, today the UAA program has drama. Assistant Coaches Jack Kowal and Keith Morris were told this week their contracts were not going to be renewed. They did what anyone of us would have done and immediately handed in their resignations. According to their interview with Doyle Woody in todays ADN both Morris and Kowal are completely nonplussed with the way things got handled. Coach Shyiak had nothing to say. As both assistants noted it's reasonable for a Head Coach to have his own staff in place. What Morris and Kowal are bothered by is the delay since the end of the season in informing them of this eventuality. I don't blame them. 52 days after the end of the season? Shitty.

First we hear about John Hill leaving through the Gopher-rumormill. Now Morris and Kowal find about their status via phone calls from other league assistants? What the fuck is that? I'll tell you what the fuck it is. It's the 2nd big PR fuck-up of Dave Shyiak's UAA career. This sort of DRAMA is unacceptable. It seems to me from reading the ADN story that Dr. Cobb admits the fuck up. He said "This situation probably could have been handled better, and I take responsibility for that" and then went on to add "I think they got a little bit of late notice and we did something to offset that". Dr. Cobb didn't say exactly what that "offset" was but it'd be only proper that offset be some sort of decent financial renumeration. This is unfortunately the only positive in this whole public drama.

Jack Kowal and Keith Morris were both excellent 4 year players at UAA. Morris joined the Canadian National team for a season but returned to UAA for his senior year after that hiatus. These guys are both the very definition (no ... the very essence) of what it means to be a Seawolf. They both banged in more than their share of goals for UAA (Morris had 24 one season and Kowal potted 38 during his career). They both took more than their share of licks on the ice. It sucks to see this. They have a right to feel disrespected.

I fully believe that in order to be successful a head coach has to have complete control of all facets of the hockey team. He has to be able to hire his own assistants. It's crucial. Morris and Kowal had a year to show that they were the sort of assistants that Shyiak wants for his program. But in the end it seems they weren't. I'm all good with that. It's Shyiak's ship, he has to steer it. I just wish he'd seen a nearby port to drop off his ex-mates rather than making them walk this public plank.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Burnaby's Schedule @ The RBC

Anyone interested in a good place on the internet to follow Paul Crowder and Burnaby's progress at the Royal Bank Cup should click on this link. They've got schedules, rosters and pages devoted to each team. Burnaby's full schedule is:

Saturday May 6th vs. Streetsville Derby's (the RBC host team)
Monday May 8th vs. Yorkton Terriers
Wednesday May 10th vs. FWFN Northstars (SIJHL Champs)
Thursday May 11th vs. C.R. Joliette Action (QJAAAHL Champs)

Saturday May 13th will be the semi-finals between the top four teams from the round robin with the Championship game on Sunday.

I'll post any noteworthy performances from Paul Crowder here. Good Luck Burnaby!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sioux to Sue?

The University of North Dakota was dealt a blow this week to its nearly year long fight against the NCAA's interpretation that their name/mascot/logo is "hostile and offensive". Because of this determination the NCAA will no longer allow UND to participate in NCAA sanctioned championships while wearing their logo. As you would expect this has spurred a great deal of debate/argument about the subject with many (if not most) on one side railing against the "Politically Correct" crowd that they perceive has perpetrated this horror against UND (and other schools with such nicknames). I'm not going to detail the argument in favor of the NCAA because frankly it's mostly a boorish political squabble.

So let me make a couple of things clear: I don't advocate that UND should have to change their name. For me it simply isn't an important enough issue to advocate or not advocate (just my personal views about symbols in general and their relative worth in society and I'm not here to drone on about that ... ). The reason I'm writing though isn't because of what D-1 fans at USCHO (or any other forum) are saying (from the sublime to the bizarre). I'm writing because of what the UND administration is saying and I really haven't read any discussion which addressed my thoughts regarding those statements.

University President Charles Kupchella has quite correctly characterized the NCAA's decision as "arbitrary and capricious" and is talking lawsuit. There is no doubt in my mind he is correct about the NCAA's decision. They've unequally applied their (silly) ruling about Native American logos/nicknames being "hostile and offensive" by giving big-time football money-maker Florida St. a total pass? Saying they've applied the ruling "unequally"; doesn't quite do it justice though. They've really made an ugly hash of the whole thing and deserve every bit of criticism and vitriol they get. It's been grandly stupefying across the board at every turn. They've reached a new level of incompetence. They're really really bad.

Unfortunately, Kupchella can be right all day on this one and I don't see any possibility that he'll get any relief in a court. The NCAA is comprised of institutions that are voluntary members. As such the members make the rules through internally defined democratic processes (the same sort of indirect democracy as the U.S. Govt). Those internal NCAA processes result in rules that affect every member institution. So if a member doesn't like a decision then the only choices they have are to suck it up, find redress internally or forego membership in the NCAA. This latest ruling by the NCAA is the last step of the appeals process. UND is clearly not sucking it up so are they going to leave the NCAA? Nope. They're saying they'll likely file some sort of action in Federal court. Nobody told Kupchella about this whole NCAA voluntary membership thing? I can't see how that lawsuit isn't anything other than DOA. No court is going to hear it.

One ramification of a court doing otherwise would be a multitude of similar lawsuits; unhappy with your membership in the NRA? Don't stop sending your fees or try to change what you don't like ... take em to court! Perhaps it is somewhat of an extreme example but do we really want the courts filled up with cases like this? Associations (like the NCAA) do fucked up things to their members everyday. It sucks for whoever happens to be getting screwed but um ... uh ... that's life; and when life gives you lemons you're sposed to make lemonade ...right? Whether it's fair or not this new "Politically Correct" version of Manifest Destiny looks to prevail.

The U.S. Federal Courts are not the place to settle internal pissing contests between members of a voluntary association. I'm just sayin ...