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Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Land of Puck: A Fairy Tale

If a man were to walk far enough he'd one day reach the Land of Puck. By all accounts it is a wonderous land. The journey for an outsider is fraught with peril. Mountains must be climbed and raging waters forded. One must be prepared for difficult weather as well if it is hoped to ever reach there. The journey's end though is worth the effort for those that ultimately succeed. For the Land of Puck meets and exceeds expectations for Puckophiles everywhere. Many many are stuck in the Land of Big Balls and Little Balls and just will never have enough balls of their own to make it to the Land of Puck. But folks in the Land of Puck are ok with that. They know what they've got going is "the shit". I suspect most who read this tale are pretty familiar with the Land of Puck. It is widespread in this world but those of us once exposed are blessed (and doomed) with it's touch. But I'll explain some things for those not as doomed as the rest of us.

There is a single item of cultural import in the Land of Puck. It is said that competition there has no equal in the world; all who dwell within it's borders share above all else; an unending desire to compete and win. And it is this passion from whence the fire is born. This common trait amongst Puckiens creates many many beautiful moments to be shared betwixt all. For while there is joy in one's victory there can also be joy in another's defeat. It is such dichotomies that make the world go round. Good and evil; Black and white; Them and Us. And so it must be noted here that all is not well within the Land of Puck. For it is a place where sinister forces also reside. And this my friends, is a tale of some woe which can be certainly be seen as cautionary. I recite it as it was told to me.

It wasn't unusual in the Land of Puck for clan members to occassionally wander amongst rival clans. In fact is was normal. This is a story about Wallace Sky who had a comfortable home and a growing entourage in Seaburg (a small city in the Land of Puck). Wallace was highly skilled and as we know Puckiens value skill and talent because it feeds the fires of competition. Wallace seemed happy with his place in Seaburg . His contribution to the ideal of competition was generally well received and his potential for notoriety seemed to be growing. Wallace had many friends in Seaburg and not just his teammates. Wallace and his family were from Seaburg. They chose it as a place to make their home. They were happy and had many friends too. The comrades of competition in Seaburg included many during Wallace's life there. Some came and went as that was the way of things in the Land of Puck. And therein lies the woe of this tale. For a sinister force was lieing in wait for Wallace. A sinister force called the Hahn'jil.

Once upon a time the Hahn'jil was thought to be an honorable sort of competitor. He'd luckily become aligned with one of the legendary masters of the Land of Puck; simply known as tLoo. tLoo was so revered because of his many championships (although truth be told ... many of those reverent followers were simply mesmerized by his goofy coiffure). And the Hahn'jil had indeed become his protege. Together the Hahn'jil and tLoo coveted many young Puckiens.

It's important to know that the Hahn'jil wasn't exactly an embodiment of evil yet the emergence of his sinister nature made many decry his name. Especially in Seaburg. Why there? Because the Hahn'jil was a Seaburgien. He'd grown up there. He'd tutored under the famous Seaburgien master Crush B. before he hooked up with another of Crush's students; tLoo.

tLoo and Hahn'jil greatly contributed to the competitions and once came close to a championship in SeeSee (on the back of a fine Seaburgien it should be mentioned) but it wasn't until some years later that their joint move to Miniburg (funny name since it's one of the biggest cities in the Land of Puck) that their dreams would come to fruition. In Miniburg tLoo and the Hahn'jil showed that their "Kung Fu" was very powerful. Things in that part of the world were great. They were riding high together. Then the Hahn'jil decided to strike out on his own and move back to his hometown; tLoo gave his blessing. It seemed a good move for the Hahn'jil as now his "Kung Fu" would be his own and he could put it to use the way he wanted and not be overshadowed by tLoo. So Seaburgiens were happy to welcome their prodigal son back into the clan. It wasn't long at all though and the Hahn'jil learned that his Kung Fu wasn't as strong as he told everyone and tLoo's Kung Fu was too far away to help. In fact it wasn't pretty for the Hahn'jil. Unspeakable forces were tugging at him. And suddenly in a great cataclysm he returned to the shadow of tLoo: unepectedly shocking the fair citizens of Seaburg. Betrayal was rightleously shouted from the rooftops. It wasn't a postive moment for the competitions and the Seaburgiens were forced back to square one (which wasn't a good place to be since everyone else was at least on step three or four). The Seaburgiens soon realized though that life was better when the people living in your village want to be there and they reached step two when . And they were happy again.

The happiness was short lived though. Because soon after reaching that second step there came rumors of unhappiness amongst some of the Seaburg competitors. It's never easy in the competitive Land of Puck to keep a group of competitors together (we all know that). But in Seaburg it seemed more than just the occassional unhappy competitor was the problem: there were several. Unusual indeed. To say the least. One of those several competitors was Wallace Sky.

It hadn't been a exactly a picinic back at step 1. Wallace knew of his own potential. Yet that alone wasn't enough to make the valiant Seaburg competitors successful again. But a step forward is a step forward and everyone knew the difficulties that would lay ahead to reach step three. All the competitors would have to work exceptionally hard. They'd have to strive and perservere through many challenges to make it happen. But Wallace and others were not quite happy. They might not make it to step 4 with the time they had left.

Then while wandering the forest one day he looked up to see the Hahn'jil coming his way with a big smile. The Hahn'jil's Kung Fu (reenergized by being in tLoo's shadow) had revealed to him that Wallace wasn't happy in Seaburg. Wallace waited patiently as the Hahn'jil approached smiling. With all the subtlty and aplomb of a horny spider monkey mounting some treetop trollop the Hahn'jil spoke his sinister almost unheard words, "The grass IS greener in Miniburg. We're almost on step 5. Get a release. Fax me." Fade to black.

Wallace awoke from a fitful sleep. Had he dreamed it? Had the Hahn'jil really offered him a chance to skip a couple of steps? He told a couple of his fellow competitors. They were unhappy too. And what do ya know? They had the same surreal experience. The Hahn'jil had spoken to them as well. Or had he? They knew he shouldn't for it was one of the many laws of competition that competitors had to get permission to contact other clans such as Miniburg. It was hard to know if they'd just dreamed it. Then a light at the end of a metaphorical fairy tale tunnel appeared. It was being shined by that master of masters; the revered tLoo. The Hahn'jil had indeed spoken to Wallace Sky. How else would tLoo know to complain about Wallace being forbade to send a fax to Miniburg? How would he know Wallace was even interested? Who told him that Wallace couldn't send the fax? Fairy tales have obvious endings. Poaching is clouded but those clouds can often clear. Ask Nick Reuheisel.

Really.

This story ain't over yet.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Two New Assistant Coaches

UAA has got it's two new Assistant Coaches in the fold. They announced the Damon Whitten hiring on their website yesterday. And I learned on USCHO today that USHR (subscription only website) has reported that Campbell Blair (current Maine Assistant) will be hired for the other opening.

Campbell Blair will bring an interesting and probably very useful resume' to UAA. Maine's website has all the details but in summary he started there in November of 2001; he has worked exclusively with their defense which allowed 2.33 g/gm in 02-03, 1.56 g/gm in 03-04, and 1.98 g/gm in 04-05. Maine's penalty kill in 04-05 was ranked 2nd. He was also the Head Coach and General Manager with the BCHL's Victoria Salsa and is that organizations winningest all-time coach. But lest we think Campbell is all about stifling defense ... the guy put up 247 points in the BCHL during his junior career. The Maine website says that number along with a couple of other nice offensive stats are still BCHL records. So he can teach kids how to keep the puck out of the net and he knows how to move the puck out of the zone to contribute offensively. Apparently, (I don't have a subscription) USHR is reporting that Campbell is hiring on as the "top" assistant. It's not a designation that UAA fans will have seen before at the school since all of our assistants over the past decade or so have all basically been at or near the beginning of their careers. Dave Shyiak was an Associate Head Coach at NMU so he's well aware of how those sorts of professional/heirarchical coaching relationships should work. So to me it feels like Campbell will probably be responsible for UAA's defense as well. It's been his specialty and if UAA is going to name him as "top" or whatever designation they prefer then it would make sense for him to continue those efforts. He is a good get and a definite upgrade in terms of skill set. His BCHL experience is also great news for UAA as that's perhaps the most important recruiting region for the Seawolves.

Damon Whitten was the name that came originally from the now apparently defunct Northern Hockey Blog. Damon is a Michigan native that played 4 seasons at Michigan State. He had a misspent youth playing goalie but converted to forward when he played Juniors. The last two seasons he spent as an assistant at Wayne State and the year before he was a volunteer assistant at MSU under Rick Comely. Commentary I've read all overwhelmingly describe him as very hard working and its seems that Comely probably suggested Whitten's name to Shyiak. Damon's work ethic will be a definite asset at UAA.

Shyiak can be commended for both of these hires. 06-07 is shaping up to be perhaps a very very challenging season for UAA so all I have to say at this point is welcome to Campbell and Damon. Now please get to work.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Summer Elite Hockey League (SEHL)

For the last few years the Summer Elite Hockey League in Anchorage has been providing a quality league for summer development of Midget, Junior and D-1 hockey players. In my little bit of looking around the web I didn't see another summer league anywhere in the U.S. that really compares. Each and every year quite a few current and former UAA players have participated and again this year is no exception.

Current UAA players in this year's SEHL are: Nick Lowe, Peter Cartwright, Merit Waldrop, Erik Felde, Shane Lovdahl, Matt Jolly.

Former UAA players: Daron Underwood, Chris King, Kevin Reiter, Lee Green, Dallas Steward, Matt Shasby, Jim Dahl, John Decaro, Chris Fournier, Vladimir Novak, and Eric Walsky.

Other (former and current) D-1 notable players: Matt Carle, Jason Rhyzner, Billy Bagron, Tim Wallace, Joey Crabb, Drew O'Connell, Jordan Pearce, Cam Keith.

Professional players (including Major Junior): Scott Gomez, Brian Swanson, Kimbi Daniels, Brandon Dubinsky, Nate Thompson, Moises Guitierez, Keith Street, Peter Metcalf, Corey Millen, Corbin Schmidt and last but not least league founder/organizer and Head Coach of Wasilla's NAHL team Dean Larson.

Additionally there is a large contingent in the league of elite level Junior and Midget players like Rob Haider, Shane Wheeler, Gavin Dittman, Tully Labelle-Hamer, J.J. Waldrop, David Carle, Graham McMannamin, Sam Tikka, Cody Butcher, Justin Kern, Spike Alvarez, Tyler Currier, Ryan Kowal, Grant Dye, Nick Merkle, Jacob Thelen, Gage Christianson, and many others whom I'm just too ignorant to recognize as elite level players.

The Junior and Midget games are played on Monday and Tuesday nights with Wednesday and Thursday for the Elite league games. The Junior Showcase event will be held on June 29th (Thursday) at 6pm with the Elite League All-Star game following from 7:30 to 9:30.

More than a few of these Junior/Midget players will be playing D-1 hockey and/or Major Junior in the next few years. So if you're jonesin for some hockey in Anchorage git yer ass over to the Tesoro Rink and check it out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Linkages: 'Cause I've Got Zip

We're in the doldrums. Other than Don Lucia bitching in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that UAA wouldn't give it's permission for them to talk to Walsky there's not much going on UAA-wise. Isn't that awful? It's a good thing that Head Coaches don't have to get permission to talk to other schools about Assistant Coaching jobs.

Over at the DU Blog, mah man dggoddard added a WCHA referee to his "All Bad Boyz" team. This particular ref has a resume' that includes a criminal record for Bookmaking and Gambling. EDIT: DG has added a post about Shea Hamilton's transfer to UND in which he characterizes Shea as a "penalty ridden, sucky underachiever". Harsh but funny.

MeanEgirl over at the Michigan Tech Blog put in a helluva lotta work to detail MTU's new skating treadmill. She's got pictures. She's got interviews with staff. She's got loads and loads of info all which she says indicates that MTU is "better" than UND (or anyone without a skating treadmill). I guess Uncle Ralph was satisfied with a $100 million in Italian marble and forgot about important stuff like teaching kids to skate uphill. I kid. It's a good post which required much more time and effort than I'm ever likely to put into a post.

Looks like goaltender Jordan Parise at UND is turning pro early (hopefully to a pro team that HAS a treadmill). Otherwise Goon is spending a lot of time hoping the 'Canes finish off Edmonton soon (which they probably will). Unfortunately, I cheer for underdogs and teams that don't have brutally ugly guys named Brindamour playing for them.

My favorite Minisoda Blog; RunningWiththeDogs has a post describing (with three top ten lists) why she likes Blogging. Good stuff but if she keeps up with the lists then I'll feel like I can't use the same "list" format. Sigh.

Gloryboy Bobby (Goepfert not Motzko) and his agent are apparently insisting that the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement should mean that he became a free agent on June 1st of this year. Pittsburgh holds his rights and says he doesn't become a free agent until next June 1st. Apparently nobody in St. Cloud seems to realize that if the kid and his agent are fighting for free agency status that means he's hot and bothered to get out of skankville (I mean St. Cloud).

So I think all this is confirmation that the offseason is not over yet.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

2006 Alumni Golf Tournament

A couple of weeks ago I noticed this link on the UAA website for the annual golf tournament on July 8th. It's been a while since I swung a golf club in anger so I figured I'd sign up. Procrastinator that I am, I figured I'd get to it this Friday (payday) so I went back to the site to find the sign-up form. The skinny is that for a hundred bucks you can golf 18 holes at Moose Run in a foursome including one Hockey Alum.

Oh wait that's not the skinny. There's another (newer) link from the main Athletic's page and when you click on the entry form link you find out that the tournament is now August 8th at Eagleglen and the price has SKYROCKETED to a hundred and seventy-five bucks. My first guess is that Eagleglen's carts must have V-8's installed which would account for the $75 increase.

Interestingly, now the tournament is "presented by Lexus of Alaska". Well that's nice. They got some sponsorship. They're also selling $100 raffle tickets (200 of em) for a chance to go to the Lexus Champions for Charity torunament at Pebble Beach in December. Not to be critical of an organization that I'm not a member of but wouldn't adding a sponsor tend to keep the price for participants down instead of JUMPING UP to $175? The entry form says "Full Field Expected". No doubt all the proceeds will go to UAA Hockey so if it's in
your budget go sign up and enjoy.

Correction:
Thanks very much to the person who commented below and straightened out my massive dysfunction in not understanding that the 2 golf tournaments above are actually 2 distinct events. The July 8th event is put on by the UAA Hockey Alumni Association. The August 8th event is put on by the Athletic Department and supports all Seawolf sports. Go to both of 'em if you can ... but if you can only make one of them, then July 8th is the best day for you. I'm thinking I should make it a rule to not post things here after 1 a.m.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dear Rumor Spreader(s)

Ya know what? I'm not a big fan of rumors. The recent spate of rumors with regard to possible assistant coaches and/or players reconsidering and/or players coming and/or not ... has me pretty much fed up.

So first; I'll just ask that you not propagate rumors in the comment section. Naturally there's a select few asswipes that will take me asking that as an invitation, but hopefully it will give anyone else who finds themselves compulsively repeating crap they've "heard", a chance to briefly consider not doing so. So how can you fill that compulsion to tell your secret? You're busting to prove to the world that you know something that they don't so what should you do?

E-mail me. Want credit? I'll print your name. Don't want credit? Well then convince me your information is true and I'll put my name on it. I'll answer any/every email and give you a clear answer as to whether I'll print the information and why. Isn't that a more adult way to handle the info? Or you could go start you're own blog.

I don't want to censor my comment section since we live in America and all. But I will.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Just Filling The Void

I've been mostly trying to hold my water with regard to the 06-07 Seawolves roster this off season. I'd mentioned that Shea Hamilton was rumored to be leaving. It's also been rumored that Eric Walsky would be leaving. I'd been trying to be patient until we saw what the roster looked like at the beginning of the school year. Speculation and rumor isn't anything that interests me. And frankly the roster at the beginning of the season almost never looks like you'd have expected when the previous season ended. It's that way at pretty much every D-1 school. But because others seem to be endlessly buzzed by speculation and rumor I figured it was as good a reason as any to write something.

Happily, when I surfed over to the UAA Hockey homepage and clicked on the roster link; I found that it was recently updated. I feel like this entry might even be legitimate now and not just some inane attempt to fill the week long void. So as expected and to confirm all those rumors; Walsky and Hamilton are both not listed. Walsky appears to be transferring to the University of Minnesota and I'm fairly certain Hamilton is transferring to North Dakota. I guess Minnesota wins the "bag-a-disenchanted-Hill-recruit" contest. Both guys sit out next season before we'll see them in opposition uniforms. My point is that Walsky is likely to put up some nice numbers as a Gopher. As a junior my guess would be he'll earn perhaps as many as 35 assists. His potential goal output is harder to gauge. The general agreement is that Walsky can stick handle in a phonebooth. There were plenty of times during last season that Walsky owned the ice during his shifts. Paired up with a couple of goal scorers (and they ALWAYS have those in Mariucciland) he should flourish (unless the assertions that he's just a puck hog are true). I think Hamilton is a hit/miss prospect wherever he ends up. I like his gritty style and attitude; but it was his overly liberal misuse of those positives that made him as much of a hindrance as a helper to the team. He took a lot of unnecessary penalties. If he matures (and a year of school and only practice could be just the ticket) and then plays his part (fills whatever role Hakstol tells him to) as Junior then perhaps he could pop in 15 goals as a Senior.

Now that I've talked too long about a couple of guys that aren't Seawolves I should give equal time to the group that is. I'm happy they updated the roster just because I like to see what numbers the new kids end up with. The first thing I notice is that Erik Felde and Shane Lovdahl are both going to wear #20. OK? Hmmmm ... dunno what to make of that. Erik wore #20 for Vernon in the BC. Shane wore #20 last year for UAA. Hmmmm ... the season before last they were teammates on the USHL Champion Cedar Rapids squad. I can't seem to find a roster with numbers from that team but I'd assume only one of them wore #20. Hmmm ... are they gonna arm wrestle for it before the season starts? Who will get the apparently coveted #20. Stay tuned. Josh Lunden ends up with one of my favorite UAA numbers #21 (his same number as with Chilliwack). I'll have to constantly judge next season whether or not I think Josh will live up to the legacy of Brian Kraft's number. Big shoes to fill; I promise to not judge too harshly. Paul Crowder will be #11 and his number last year with Burnaby was #20. What? He doesn't get to arm wrestle for #20? Trevor Hunt goes from #24 at Chilliwack to #42 at UAA. I can't think of any previous #42's at UAA. At least he didn't want #20 eh? Ken Selby will wear Joey Hayse's #8 after wearing #27 for Dauphin last year. And lastly Kevin Clark will wear the #9 jersey as he did in Winnipeg last year.

Having a roster published is nice to see. Imagining what might be good lines is an excellent process if you want to kill some time. Not me though. I'm staying away from speculating about lines this season. I swear. But an all-freshman line of Clark-Lunden-Selby would be the CLS-line ... the CLOSE line ... get it? If those guys play together then remember who thought that up first.