Passers, Puck Passers at Bemidji State
this for Bemidji State University president Jon Quistgaard:
He’s extremely effective at passing the buck, especially
when his institution in running short of them.
Earlier this month, Quistgaard announced that
the future of the Beavers’ men’s hockey program
lies in its ability to gain membership in the WCHA and raise
$2.5 million in pledges over the next 14 months. That the
school seeks private funds to boost its athletics programs
is no surprise, given the shrinking supply of public dollars
for such endeavors. In the same article detailing Quistgaard’s
plan for the BSU hockey program, the Bemidji Pioneer also
reports that school wants to whack $5 million in expenditures
from its budget by 2010 and permanently cut $750,000 in
athletic department funds.
Pinning the program’s survival on admission
to the WCHA, however, is the real stroke of brilliance.
By linking the program’s long-term viability to a
future in the WCHA, Quistgaard has effectively washed his
hands of any future blame should the BSU hockey program
have to drop to the NCAA Division III level or fold altogether.
|The future of the Bemidji State
hockey program appears to lie in the hands of the WCHA.
Say the WCHA denies Bemidji State’s
application for admission into the conference. Rather than
being vilified as the person who set the wheels for BSU’s
demise in motion upon issuing the ultimatum, he can now
point the finger at the league and tell the team’s
supporters, “Hey, we did everything we were asked
to do. But the WCHA said no.”
No one can say for certain whether Quistgaard’s
ulterior motive for announcing the necessity of joining
the WCHA is to set himself up for absolution of blame if
the hockey program falls victim to budget pressures. It’d
be a shame if that were the case, not only because it’s
disappointing to see Division I programs disappear, but
also because Bemidji is a good hockey town and the Beavers
have a fine program.
Taking into account the circumstantial evidence,
however, it appears as though Quistgaard has laid the groundwork
for the demise of Bemidji State's Division I program —
while keeping his fingerprints off the corpse.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Last weekend in Denver, Robbie Bina, T.J.
Oshie, and Jonathan Toews all suited up for North Dakota’s
series against the host Pioneers. In Fairbanks, Alaska,
meanwhile, Nebraska-Omaha took on Alaska without Adam Bartholomay
and Bobby Henderson.
The quintet has more in common that their
status as NCAA Division I student-athletes. Within the past
month, all five ran afoul of local police for alcohol-related
Bina is charged with trying to help Oshie
and Toews escape a squad car outside a Grand Forks tavern
Jan. 28 after police cited the sophomore forwards as minors
in a bar. All three entered not guilty pleas in front of
a judge earlier this month. Bartholomay and Henderson were
cited at a Council Bluffs, Iowa, casino Feb. 4 for public
UNO coach Mike Kemp booted Bartholomay, a
sophomore, and Henderson, a senior, off the team for the
balance of the season just days after the incident for running
afoul of a rule that prohibits bringing embarrassment upon
the hockey program. And though police last week cleared
Bartholomay of all wrongdoing, he remains suspended. Earlier
this month, Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol told Kevin
Fee of the Grand Forks Herald that disciplinary
action for Bina, Oshie, and Toews will be handled privately.
“When it comes to disciplinary action,”
Hakstol told Fee, “we're not going to see the big
car crash or the carnage … out in public."
In one case, the players’ punishment
was meted out swiftly and harshly. In the other, punishment
appears to have been levied in a deliberate, private manner.
I have no doubt that Kemp and Hakstol handled the respective
matters in a way consistent with previous actions they’ve
taken when presented with similar issues.
That said, Bartholomay and Henderson got off
easy. There’s no question they embarrassed the UNO
program, especially if, as the police report indicates,
Henderson said to the arresting officers, “I am a
hockey player. I'll get out of this," and "I play
for the Mavs, you can't f--- with me." And there’s
no question UNO misses the contributions of Bartholomay,
a productive sophomore defenseman who scored 10 goals and
19 points in 29 games.
But they’re gone. The issue is moot.
Because Bina, Oshie, and Toews haven’t
missed games as punishment for their transgressions —
and I’m not saying they should — the prevailing
assumption in the court of public opinion is that they’re
off the hook. Hardly. You want to be these guys this weekend
when North Dakota plays at St. Cloud State? You think the
Huskies’ fans will be on their cases like flies on
a field patty the moment the Sioux take the National Hockey
Center ice for warm-ups Friday? Think the taunting will
be on the blue side? You betcha.
Again, the coaches chose punishments for their
players that best suit their programs. And while taking
away a student-athlete's privilege to play Division I hockey
for any length of time is certainly severe, so is facing
the court of public opinion, as Bina, Oshie, and Toews will
do this weekend.
Normally, this space is reserved for
my answers to questions that you, the reader, have lobbed
into our inbox. This is a very special Letterbox, however,
as I’m running in its entirety an e-mail sent to us
by a couple of hockey fans from WCHA country who experienced
their first Beanpot earlier this month. This may be the
best e-mail INCH has received in its history.
Note: Sprinkled throughout this
missive is the term “gay.” Please don’t
view this as some sort of anti-homosexual rant. In the dictionary
of everyday vernacular, calling someone or something “gay”
has nothing to do with sexual orientation just like referring
to someone or something as “retarded” doesn’t
refer to mental capacity.
Now that we’ve got that straight,
here’s the epic Beanpot e-mail from two WCHA fans.
And with God as my witness, I didn’t write this.
Just got in from my first
Beanpot and I have to be honest —
this thing really is overrated. Maybe since I'm not from
Massachusetts I will never get it but … [h]ere
are some thoughts from a first-timer.
BU fans are the gayest bunch of fruit
loops I've ever seen at a college hockey game, correction,
at any sporting event ever. It was like I was at an Elton
John concert whenever they showed BU fans on the Jumbotron.
And the jumping up and down ... my good God. Is there mass
castration going on at BU? I'm not sure what's up with the
soccer-hooligan chanting, either. This is hockey, right?
Just a strange experience watching those kids.
The BC kids seemed normal. Not much
going on in terms of cheering but they at least kept things
under control on the gay-o-meter. Bland is better than blatantly
gay, in my opinion.
I was amazed at the amount of crap that
goes on in Hockey East and how bad the officiating is. BU
scores early, then clutches and grabs for the next two periods
trying to sit on the lead. And the refs just let them do
it. I [talked to] Ray Ferraro at the game and … he
was shocked at how much they let BU get away with trying
to sit on a one-goal lead. He said they'd never get away
with that in the new NHL. No doubt about it!
coach Jack Parker: Former centerman, straight shooter
Dick Cheney: Right winger,
can't control his shot
Even though BU took a lot of penalties, the
officials still allowed a ton of obvious penalties go or
got the call wrong in the first place. For instance, Gilroy
diving in the corner like he was shot from the grassy knoll,
or Gerbe getting cross-checked in the face by Morrow. Unreal.
I hear Yip is good, but BU's forwards left
a lot to be desired. BC, on the other hand, had several
kids that looked fantastic. Boyle was a beast. Gerbe was
unreal — no one on the ice is even close to his skill.
[It was] a real shame the refs didn't keep penalizing BU.
That kid took a pounding, the majority of which were cheap
shots! BC's defense is not that good. It took them two periods
to figure out how to work with the puck.
Popko was clearly designated as Boyle's shadow
and he did a terrible job. The only thing he did was win
a lot of face-offs in the first period vs. Boyle. Boyle
then went on a massive streak at the face-off dot and they
were using him on face-offs exclusively — [they] had
him change immediately when his line wasn't out there.
[On] the GWG, however, BU trots out some line.
BC has last change and takes Boyle's line off the ice. What
follows is the worst coverage ever in hockey face-off history.
Game over. Wow. Terrible decision by York. Have to second-guess
the decision not to leave Boyle on the ice to get the face-off
win. At least he'd have covered the guy if he lost it.
Check Fan Poll
St. Cloud State
2. Notre Dame
3. New Hampshire
5. Boston University
7. North Dakota
9. Boston College
13. Michigan State
14. St. Lawrence
as promised, the Mike Check Hobey Baker Memorial Award
David Brown, G, Notre Dame
2. Ryan Duncan, F, North Dakota
3. John Curry, G, Boston University
4. T.J. Hensick, F, Michigan
5. Bobby Goepfert, G, St. Cloud State
In the third period and overtime, BC beat
BU's brains in. Is BU seriously going to go to the national
tourney and BC might not? BU has no business in the national
tourney, or with a high ranking in any poll or mathematical
system. If they are high up in anything, it's time to rethink
the way rankings are done.
A real shame no one was at the consolation
game. That's just pathetic and goes to show you how meaningless
and overrated this tournament is. If this tourney is so
great, this game would mean a lot and people would come
to see it. Give me a break about Boston being a hockey town
and this tournament being so beloved. Harvard vs. Northeastern
and no one is there. Embarassing. Credit to NU students
for showing up to their game.
The more BU wins this the more irrelevant
the tournament becomes, so it is funny to see them celebrate
[it]. BU will be an easy win for someone in the NCAAs.
Here's what my pal and I concluded after going
to this "event:” BU's gay fans + BU always winning
+ BU getting referees help + no one at consolation game
= incredibly overrated tournament.
GOTTA GO SOMEWHERE ...
Edmonton received these notes as part of the
Ryan Smyth trade
• On the topic
of e-mail missives, I got quite a few responses
from people I can only assume are Boston College supporters
jumping to Brian Gionta’s defense after inferring
he was a whining crybaby in the last Mike Check.
Allow me to explain. My thinly veiled reference
was neither a blast regarding Gionta’s admirable NHL
career, nor his skills. Instead, it was a crack at his overtime
dive against Michigan State in the 2000 NCAA West Regional.
That was the one where he crumpled like the front quarter
panel on a Volvo, writhed around on the ice like World Cup
soccer player, then returned to the game roughly 10 seconds
after play resumed with a Spartan in the penalty box serving
a five-minute major. And BC would go on to score the game-winning
goal during said power play thanks to one of the of the
all-time biggest jakes in college hockey history.
Here’s what’s really funny about
the whole Gionta thing, though. Out of all the e-mails I
got calling me a miserable s.o.b. for the jab, none left
a return e-mail address. So you pretty much did what I accused
Gionta of doing. Way to nut up, Superfan. Next time, I’ll
include my home address so you can fling paper lunch bags
filled with soggy dog poop at my door like Patrick Dempsey’s
character in “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
By the way, Gionta’s play-dead routine
in 2000 had its silver lining for non-BC fans in that it
led to the creation of the greatest parody song in college
hockey history. Sung to the tune of “What Would Brian
Boitano Do?” from the South Park movie, here’s
the first verse of “What Would Brian Gionta Do?”
What would Brian Gionta
if he were here right now?
He’d take a dive and slash at you.
That’s what Brian Gionta’d do.
I used to have the complete lyrics, but have
since lost the file. When I find it — and I will
find it — I’ll run the song in its entirety,
including the part about Gionta and referee Matt Shegos
drinking herbal tea.
State hosts a first-round CCHA playoff series against
Northern Michigan this weekend at OSU Ice Rink, which seats
roughly 16,300 fewer fans than does Value City Arena. Seriously,
Greg Oden can stand at center ice with his arms outstretched
and touch the crossbars on both nets.
The Buckeyes were kicked out of their
normal barn because John Markell keeps leaving half-used
containers of Bed Head scattered around VCA. Actually, I
think it’s because of the state girls basketball tournament.
Anyway, how’d you like for your team to scratch and
claw to get a home series for the first round of the playoffs
only to end up playing in a mausoleum? Tough break for the
• If you read
the small print in the Mike Check Fan Poll box above, I
also asked our civilian voters to submit their top
three choices for this year's Hobey Baker Memorial Award
as a way to take the pulse of the fan.
The truth is, I'm obsessed — no, that's
too strong — fascinated with the award this year.
It's like trying to figure out the 2008 Presidential race
today. The pro- and anti-candidate buzz changes almost daily.
• It was bound
to happen: Former Minnesota Duluth and NHL standout
Brett Hull, now a talking head on NBC's sporadic
NHL broadcasts (seriously, does Dick Ebersol decide which
games the network will broadcast that morning?), complained
in Wednesday's USA Today that he doesn't get
enough air time.
likes lists. Sometimes, the Meaning-List will be relevant
to college hockey. Other times it’ll be, well, meaningless.
Wholly Unscientific Listing of the Top Five Underclassmen
Likely to Turn Pro in the Off-Season
Jonathan Toews, North Dakota: Taken by Chicago
with the third overall pick in last year's draft, a number
of media types believe Toews will sign with the Blackhawks
as soon as North Dakota's season is over.
Jack Johnson, Michigan: Yeah,
I know he says he's having fun in college and I know the
team that holds his draft rights, Los Angeles, stinks.
But the Kings desperately need him.
Johnson, Minnesota: John Davidson would like
the Gopher to stay in St. Louis after the Frozen Four,
and when J.D. talks, people listen. At least, they did
when he was on CBC's Satellite Hot Stove.
Okposo, Minnesota: He's property of the New York
Islanders. Can you imagine if GM Garth Snow convinces
free agents-to-be Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake to stay and
adds Okposo to the mix? That'd make a pretty good first
Nodl, St. Cloud State: The Phildelphia Flyers
hold his rights and they're in a serious rebuilding mode.
Plus Nodl, who celebrated his 20th birthday today, is
a little older than the average freshman and probably
ready to test his game at the next level.