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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Stop Talking About It

As far as I can tell nobody that matters much is talking about a new arena for UAA. And after I finish this post that will continue to be the case. But having heard some talk about a new arena I'll happily chime in. I'm all for it ... duh. It makes some sense to me to build a new arena on campus. It makes sense to me for it to seat at least 8,000. It makes sense to me for it to accomodate all of UAA's athletic's. Lastly, it makes sense to me to move this from the talking stage to the planning stage.

For most of UAA's D-I history, UAA has played it's home games at Sullivan Arena. The Sully was built in the early 80's. The "glorydays" of the early 90's saw 6400+ in attendance at virtually every UAA game. There were a couple of years where UAA ranked in the top 5 nationally for average attendance. The Sully's been a good home rink for UAA; it's always had good ice and it can be a damn noisy place when it's full. But with that in mind it's important to remember that the Seawolves certainly haven't outgrown the place. I can't remember the last time the place was packed. No longer is UAA the darling of the local sports community. The Aces have long since gained that blessing.

Building an arena on campus will bring the opportunity to about 900 dormitory students to attend games. Walking five minutes across campus is a helluva lot easier than getting to the Sully. We've never seen any sort of organized student presence at the Sully. There have been times when a few more students showed up and those limited instances tell me that their enthusiasm is regularly missed at the Sully. 500 or 600 students in a section being raucous has an effect on the whole arena. I've seen that happen. When 500 or 600 organized UAF fans (lots of students) showed up at the Sully and humiliated the UAA fanbase. The Sully has lost it allure as a great home ice venue when that sort of thing happens. A campus arena would give UAA the true home ice that it needs in the WCHA and it will provide better access to a cultural right of passage for university students.

What? You say that if UAA were more successful, that those problems wouldn't happen at the Sully? It'd be packed with UAA fans so 500 Squarebankers couldn't take over. Yeah .. perhaps. But the competition for the working man's dollar is going to go to the Aces. Beer and fighting? You think "Joe Hod Carrier" goes to sports to appreciate the amateur athlete? No. They go for the beer and the fights. So even if UAA were successful what we have at the Sully is a very similar situation to other programs with off-campus arena's. Lots of people who are loyal to the program. Lots of people that appreciate amatuer hockey at it's highest level. And (unlike those other WCHA schools with off campus arenas) a few students. Unfortunately people loyal to the program combined with amatuer hockey affcianado's don't exactly make the loudest supporters. And 27 students sitting in the student section of a half empty Sully means virtually nothing. So what I'm saying is if you transfer the current core of UAA supporters (3.5K to 4K) and add a few hundred students in a section then home ice would be more meaningful. Access for the on-campus popualtion is absolutely necessary for UAA hockey. We need the student's enthusiasm.

Put 4500 people into a rink that seats 8000 when they're already playing at a rink that sits 6400? It'll look even more empty! It's true. It will at first. But even just a marginal increase in success and more UAA fans show up. A big increase in success (like home ice for the playoffs) would fill the place. I have little doubt of that. Besides, it would be an arena for the future. A future that already includes D-1 gymnastics and perhaps a possible (probable?) move to D1 basketball at some point. Real planning should start soon. I'd imagine it would take at least 5 years from the start until the opening. Corporate sponsors and politicians need to be wooed to get the ball rolling. So everyone who likes UAA hockey outta get to wooing. Bribe some politicians or whatever it takes. Call up Exxon and tell them we'll name it after Joe Hazelwood if ya havta.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fairy Tale Fever Strikes!!

I didn't know when I wrote it; how my Fairy Tale below would go over. Not much commentary from my 16 readers (and thanks for visiting 3 times a day by the way); but then the UAA Fan Blog's bestest friend in the WCHA let me know she'd also responded to the Western College Hockey Blog entry which is called "All Things Colorado College" on which I'd commented.

There's some fairly direct commentary (in other words I didn't hold back much) to the article regarding the Walsky situation. Apparently, WCH wanted an additional viewpoint so he (I assume emailed) the Double-A Zone Blog (an official NCAA Blog) who added his views advocating for the rights of student/athletes. WCH then posted this entry proclaiming his righteousness.
Vindication, Baby
The NCAA's official blog, The Double A Zone, picked up on the story about Eric Walsky's transfer. Josh Centor, the writer for the blog, agreed with me that it was wrong for Steve Cobb to deny Walsky's transfer to Minnesota.
Whats with the fairy tale title? Running With the Dogs proffered this lovely Fairy Tale homage. And WCH's interpretations of Steve Cobb's state of mind and his version of the church-lady dance based on Double-A Zone's entry are clearly the stuff of Fairy Tales.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Seawolf HOF Adds Derek Donald

Derek Donald will be inducted into the Seawolf Hall of Fame this October 15th. UAA made the announcement on July 13th. Here's the link. Along with Derek they've named Allegra Stoetzel and Harry Larrabee. All three are nice additions for lots of reasons. The ADN also has a story.

In four years at UAA Derek amassed 165 points on 74 goals and 91 assists for 4th on the all-time goals and total points list. He was one the most hard-nosed players ever at UAA. He played with the grit and determination of Justin Johnson with the hustle of Brian Kraft and a nose for the net like well ... Derek Donald. I don't ever recall him backing down from a confrontation. At 5ft 8in he always surprised and delighted fans with aggressive style. He was part of the UAA squad that beat Boston College in the 91 NCAA's (a great account of which I copied into a post at the beginning of April). Derek also cranked out a nice 239 career penalty minutes. I'm sure a few of those were slightly inappropriate or even mildly selfish but that's what scoring 20 goals a season earns you. It earns you the right to knock an opponent on their ass every once in a while and if the referee catches you; you go out your next shift and bury one. That was the kind of player I remember Derek being. I remember being proud that Derek was a product of Anchorage hockey.

Congratulations Derek. I hope the current team all attend your induction and some of that determination (and goal scoring) you showed game in and game out rubs off on them.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Some Things Finally "On The Record"

Doyle Woody at the Anchorage Daily News has compiled a general update of the comings and goings at UAA over the last month or so. Most of what is in the article has been stated here but the advantages of being a full-time professional journalist versus this part-time blog hack are clear when you read his article. As a hack I'm certainly not going to track down Eric Walsky to get an interview. Doyle also has thousands of readers. I have substantially fewer (of course all of my 51 readers are way cooler than his thousands). In any case, once in a while I hear negative comments from some UAA fans about Doyle. I understand their perception. Sometimes there's not much in the ADN about UAA hockey: that'd be because sometimes (a few long ugly seasons) there isn't much to write about. Some people tell me they don't think Doyle is a UAA Hockey fan. I can't see that he is anything but a UAA fan. As much as anyone else in this city I'm sure Doyle will be thrilled when UAA starts having consistent success in the WCHA. He grew up here. He's seen more UAA hockey games than anyone in town. How could he not be a fan? And hey ... the guy is a journalist. He has to maintain a separation from the program in order to maintain his credibility. Besides there are plenty of other "bag man" journalists in other WCHA cities trying to latch onto their Hockey program's teat and I'd prefer to not witness that in this city. So three cheers for Doyle Woody. That said, the only point of comparison in which I give myself an advantage is exactly the reason I started this blog. I just get to spout off. Which begins in .... 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, ...

There's no big surprises in the article. Walsky is gone. Felde ain't coming. There'll be an announcement from the school about Campbell Blair's hiring later this month. I'm glad with all the speculation around here that Eric got his say about his reasons and how he feels about the situation. Clearly he is primarily concerned about his career. Clearly Dave Shyiak is primarily concerned about his team. I'd say to Eric (as I think I've said here ...) that team championships don't get you a professional contract. Example: Curtis Glencross left UAA after his sophmore season because his numbers got him an offer (no team championships involved). I personally believe Eric is one of the most talented players in the WCHA and EVERY player in the WCHA that deserves consideration from scouts gets it no matter which team they play for. There are more than a couple of fans that think he was a puckhog too though but I graciously disagree. I'd also say (and I'm sure he knows this) that if Anchorage's most talented youth players stayed at home, then UAA would be dramatically more competitive in this league. I'm looking forward to a day when a couple of Anchorage studs lead UAA to a championship. It'll happen someday, I swear.

Now to the important bit. The article says:
Despite those personnel losses, Shyiak said he is looking forward to his second season behind the Seawolves' bench. He has recruited four forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender for 2006-07.

"I'm excited about the guys we have coming in here,'' Shyiak said.
Could he have said anything more appropriate? I don't think so. His attention is no doubt focused on the future and the guys that are coming to UAA are that future. The guys that aren't coming or the guy(s) that are leaving aren't a factor. Good on ya Coach.