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On Ice

April 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Yale scores over Quinnipiac

Yale scores over Quinnipiac

[Gene Puskar/Associated Press]

It’s been a while since I’ve written about college hockey. I’ve explained before that I used to be a big fan. That happens when your older brother goes to school at one of the great hockey powers out west (which wins the NCAA title his junior and senior years), and then you head to school at one of Boston’s four great hockey powers—ranked #1 frequently during your time there—only to watch another of the Boston powers win two titles in a row, with the championship games played in Boston three consecutive years.

Starting sophomore year, I never missed a home game or a game in that best of all Boston sporting traditions, the annual midseason Beanpot tournament. Boston schools continue to dominate, BC having won three championships in the five years prior to this one and BU another. Harvard, though, has fallen on hard times, with former doormat Yale becoming the best Ivy team of late.

Well, none of this is germane to the point of this silly post, which I’ll soon get to.

In recent years, I haven’t followed college hockey so closely. There was a bit of a revival of interest when Joel attended one of Boston’s big four schools. I followed their hockey fortunes more closely than he did. And at the same time, a good friend of mine became president of a new hockey power, Miami University in Ohio, which lost the championship game way too painfully four years ago after leading BU 3-1 with just under a minute left.

So I keep up. A little. Enough to have learned that the NCAA tournament has come to be run in two parts. Sixteen teams are selected. On the same weekend that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments reach their sweet sixteen and elite eight stages, hockey’s first two rounds are played, producing the four teams that go to the Frozen Four. (Get it? Frozen Four, not Final Four?)

Then something incredibly annoying happens. The four finalists are in top shape and eager to go at it. But the next weekend, what does the NCAA do? Okay, get ready. This post is not about hockey. It’s about a pun, one I used in explaining the situation to Gail two weekends ago, when basketball was on but not hockey. Here’s what happens:

The NCAA puts their hockey tournament on ice!

Yes, they put it on ice! Instead of letting hockey get lost amid the basketball, they postpone the Frozen Four a week, as if delaying will focus more attention on the hockey games. I just don’t get it.

But how about that pun? I was proud of it, as you can see, proud enough to devote an entire post to it.

As for this year’s tournament, the championship game was played two days ago, Yale playing another hockey upstart, Qunnipiac. (Imagine that! Suddenly Boston isn’t the epicenter of college hockey. Greater New Haven is, with two schools just six miles apart, though much farther apart in their histories.) Quinnipiac was ranked #1 in the country and had beaten Yale three times already this season. Through almost two periods, the game was scoreless. With seconds to go in the second period, Yale scored, adding three more goals in the third to shock Quinnipiac 4-0. Yale, national champions of hockey. I never would have expected the day to come.

Categories: Hockey, Language, Sports

Home Goal Light

March 4, 2013 1 comment

Bear with me on this one. I wouldn’t ordinarily use the blog to be a Budweiser shill, but I just love this promotion. And since it’s for Budweiser Canada, we don’t even get to see it here in the US. First, watch the video above. Go ahead. It’s less than a minute long. Then, read Raju Mudhar’s explanation a month ago in the Toronto Star:

Budweiser Canada is launching an ambitious campaign that it hopes will literally score with consumers.

The brewer’s one-minute ad [on Super Bowl] Sunday will launch Budweiser Red Lights, replicas of the goal light that shines whenever your favourite NHL team scores. It has created a spokesperson, Ron Kovacs, the hockey-loving inventor of the Red Light who — beyond just appearing in the spots and teasers — may actually come to your home to install it.

The home version can be synced to your favourite team. It will flare and a horn will blare whenever your team puts one in the net, even if you’re not actually watching the game. It’s a piece of the rink in your home, or more likely, your man cave.

Kovacs’ entirely fictional back story is that of a hockey-crazed inventor who wants to bring a bit of the game experience into homes. Beyond the main ad, which shows him in action installing the light at a home where people are watching a game, there are extended clips online telling his story, including his second in command, Vance, who helps with installations. It’s a sort of hockey-mad spin on the “most interesting man in the world” beer-spokesperson trend.

“If I come to your house to install it, you’d better bet we’re going to talk hockey,” Kovacs says.

[snip]

Available online at Budweiser.ca on Sunday after the spot airs, they will cost $149.99, although the company say it is taking a loss in hopes of creating buzz and demand for the product.

“We’re not making money off this thing, I can guarantee you that,” says Norrington. “The opposite, quite frankly, but we spent a lot of time to get it right. It is simple, and it’s not going to make you breakfast in the morning, but it’s going to go off every time your team scores.”

My days of intense hockey fandom are past, but I have to say, there was a time when I would have thought seriously about buying one. Especially if Ron came over to install it.

I recommend a look at the CBC interview with Ron Kovacs, which you can find by going here, scrolling down a bit, and clicking on the video. You’ll have to sit through two ads, but then you’ll be treated to Monika Platek’s interview.

Tempted? You can order one here. New orders are scheduled for shipping the week of June 10. That’s just in time for the Stanley Cup finals.

Gail, what do you think? (And Russ, do you have one yet?)

Categories: Hockey, House

Pacific Northwest Hockey

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Tonight the Boston Bruins return to Vancouver, BC, for the seventh and final game of the Stanley Cup against the Vancouver Canucks. It’s been a wild series, as all hockey fans know, with the Canucks winning three painfully close games in Vancouver (1-0 with the goal scored in the final seconds, 3-2 in overtime, 1-0), while the Bruins have won three blowouts in Boston (8-1, 4-0, 5-2 and not as close as that suggests).

It’s not that often that the hockey world focuses its attention on this part of the continent. But there was a time when the world did so routinely. Before attention shifts again, let me recall those days of Pacific Northwest hockey glory.

We’re talking about 1915 to 1922, when the Stanley Cup was a competition between the champion of the Pacific Coast Hockey League and the champion of the National Hockey Association (which in 1918 became the National Hockey League). Under this arrangement, a team here in the northwest played for the Cup every year.

Reviewing the data, which you can find here, we see that Vancouver was the Stanley Cup champion in 1915. That would be the Vancouver Millionaires, who defeated the Ottawa Senators. The Portland Rosebuds lost the next year to Montreal, and then in 1917 our very own Seattle Metropolitans beat Montreal for the cup, bringing the cup to the US for the first time. We missed out in 1918, when Vancouver lost to Toronto, but we were back in the cup competition in 1919. Alas, the series was cancelled midway through because of the flu epidemic, with Seattle and Montreal tied. A year later, we were in it again, but lost to Ottawa.

That’s three cup appearances in four years for Seattle!

Then it was Vancouver’s turn, losing in successive years to Ottawa and to Toronto. By this point, a third league had entered the fray, the Western Canada Hockey League, soon to become the Western Hockey League. Soon thereafter, the PCHA folded, with the WHL absorbing the Vancouver and Victoria teams. In 1925, the Victoria team, the Cougars, beat the Montreal Canadiens for the Cup, and in 1926, they lost it to the Montreal Maroons.

With that, the WHL folded, bringing Pacific Northwest Stanley Cup hockey to an end, at least until the NHL added the Vancouver Canucks in 1970. Since 1927, the Stanley Cup has been an NHL-only competition.

Will the Cup return to the northwest? We’ll soon know. But how about returning a team to Seattle? It’s a continuing joke that the NHL has teams in some of the most unlikely southern outposts, but none in this historic hockey hotbed. We’re ready and willing. And imagine the rivalry with Vancouver.

Categories: History, Hockey

NCAA Bracket: Hockey Edition

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Every year at this time, Ron’s View turns its attention to college hockey, a great and greatly under-reported sport. We’ve been studying the bracket for the NCAA tournament, which starts on Friday, and searching the mainstream sports outlets in vain for analysis. Our own analysis suggests that it will be yet another exciting tournament.

Past readers of my hockey coverage will know that I have my favorites, starting with Harvard, which isn’t invited to the tournament this year. After Harvard, I have an attachment to its Beanpot brethren: BU, BC, and Northeastern. (And when Joel was at Northeastern, I was even rooting for them over Harvard.) And pre-dating Harvard in my hockey heart is Denver University, which my brother attended in the late 1960s, bringing home stories of their hockey prowess. And for good reason — they won back-to-back NCAA championships during his junior and senior years. More recently, I’ve developed an attachment to a new hockey power, Miami University, which lost the championship in such heartbreaking fashion two years ago when BU came back with two goals to tie in the final minute and a goal to win in overtime.

This year, three of my sentimental favorites are in the tournament: BC with the #3 overall seed, Miami at #4, and DU at #7. Then there’s Yale, the #1 seed, which I suppose I can regard as a substitute for Harvard, though back in my Boston days Yale may as well have been a Division III team for all the attention we paid them. And what do you know? These four schools are in four different brackets. It’s just possible that they will all skate into the Frozen Four.

Let’s take a closer look.

Yale gets not just the #1 seeding but a virtual home regional, down the shore a bit in Bridgeport. There they will host #16 Air Force on Friday, while #8 Union plays #9 Minnesota-Duluth. It’s a very favorable bracket for Yale. I don’t see anyone stopping them.

The #2 seed, North Dakota, meets RPI Saturday in Green Bay, the winner to play against #7 Denver or #10 Western Michigan. It’s hard to pick against UND and DU in the first round, but their second-round matchup could go either way. Denver might just get through.

BC, the #3 seed, is being shipped out to St. Louis to open against #13 Colorado College, while #5 Michigan plays #12 Nebraska-Omaha. I think, as with the previous region, that the two top seeds should win the opening games, but once again, the meeting between them is tough to call. Let’s go with BC.

That brings us to Manchester, New Hampshire, where #4 Miami has to travel to play — get this — #13 UNH. What kind of reward is that for a top-four seed? Why didn’t BC get placed in that region? Why does Miami have to play UNH in what is a virtual UNH home game? But wait. It gets worse. The other regional game is #6 Merrimack versus #11 Notre Dame. If Miami beats UNH, they could find themselves playing Merrimack next, and Merrimack, though across the state line in Massachusetts, is even closer to Manchester than UNH is. I have a feeling that second-round matchup won’t take place. I’m going with Miami and Notre Dame in the first round, setting up a regional final between the two CCHA rivals, with Miami advancing.

There you have it — a Frozen Foursome of Yale, UND/Denver, BC, and Miami. The draw would then have Miami meeting Yale in the semi-finals and BC playing, oh, let’s just say Denver. Might we have an all New England final? I would like to see Miami win it all, but I won’t bet against this.

Check back in a week.

Categories: Hockey

Miami vs. Michigan

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again: the NCAA men’s college hockey championships are underway. We’ve been saturated with coverage of the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments, both of which have been in the round of 16 this weekend, so you might have missed the fact that this is also round-of-16 weekend in men’s hockey. And as I write, an amazing game is taking place, the last of the four regional finals, Miami University versus the University of Michigan. The second overtime has just begun. I’m typing in one screen while watching it on another.

[Well, it just ended, in the second minute of second overtime.]

Last April, I wrote a long post about college hockey in the aftermath of the championship matchup between Miami and BU. You may recall that Miami had a 3-1 lead in that game with 59 seconds left. BU proceeded to score two goals, 42 seconds apart, forcing an overtime in which they won. I have a special attachment to Miami hockey, thanks to my friendship with the university’s president. I also have an attachment to Boston hockey and an affection for all four of the major Boston college teams (Harvard, BU, BC, Northeastern), having spent so many years there and watched so many of their games. But I suffered with Miami after their loss, and looked forward to greater success this year.

So far so good. Miami has been ranked #1 for much of the season, occasionally slipping to #2 after a loss and then regaining the top ranking. In their conference tournament two weeks ago, they were upset by Michigan in the semi-finals, but despite that loss, they were given the #1 seed overall for the NCAA tournament.

Let me explain how the tournament works. Sixteen teams are invited, sent in foursomes to four sites for the four regional tournaments. The four top-ranked teams are split up, each one sent to a different regional site and given that regional’s #1 seed. The other three teams in each region are given seeds #2 through #4 for that region, with the #1 seed playing #4 and #2 playing #3. It’s single elimination — the losers go home, the winners face off in the regional final to determine who goes on to the frozen four. (Yes, that’s right, in hockey the semi-final and final rounds are called the frozen four, not the final four.)

The tournament committee ranked the top four teams, in order, as follows: Miami, Denver, Wisconsin, BC. In the East Regional, fourth seed Rochester Institute of Technology shocked Denver 2-1 in the first round two nights ago, then beat third seed New Hampshire 6-2 yesterday to advance to the frozen four. The West Regional held to form, with first and second seeds Wisconsin and St. Cloud State winning their opening games, and Wisconsin then beating St. Cloud in a close game to earn its spot in the frozen four. (I watched the end of this one, thanks to Joel. The regional games are all on ESPNU, but ESPNU is not part of our cable package. Joel, however, showed me how to get catch the ESPNU broadcast online.)

The Northeast Regional was exciting. Third seeded Yale beat traditional power and second seed North Dakota 3-2 in a thriller, while first seed BC beat Alaska. Today, in a wild one, BC beat Yale 9-7 to advance to the frozen four. BC was the national champion two years ago, but didn’t make the field last year.

That leaves the Midwest Regional, the one I most cared about. Yesterday, Miami beat fourth seed Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 in an unexpectedly close game, while third seed Michigan wiped out second seed Bemidji State 5-1, setting up tonight’s final between Miami and Michigan. I wasn’t able to start watching until midway through the third period, at which point the game was tied 2-2. Miami had a shot off the post with 3:00 left in regulation time that looked like it was going in, but somehow it didn’t. Early in the first overtime, play was stopped by the ref’s whistle just as Michigan scored. The ref had lost sight of the puck, which it appeared might have been smothered by the Miami goalie, so the whistle was blown. But the puck was free and, just as the whistle blew, a Michigan player put the puck in the net. It didn’t count. Michigan dominated the rest of the first overtime, but couldn’t score. As the second overtime began, I started writing this post. And then it was over. In the second minute, Miami scored and the game was over.

A painful loss for Michigan, but a well-deserved victory for Miami. I was exchanging messages with David (the Miami president) late in the game, which added to the excitement, hearing from someone watching the game in person. On to Detroit for the frozen four.

As the #1 overall seed, Miami will face BC, #4, in one of the semi-final games. Wisconsin, at #3, plays the surprising R.I.T. team, which took the place of #2 Denver. These games will be on ESPN2, so we’ll be able to watch them on TV rather than through a web stream. I recommend you watch them too. There will be some great hockey.

And remember, root for Miami. They deserve your support. Go Redhawks!

Categories: Hockey, Sports