Sneddon Thrilled to See New ECAC National Champ
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
PITTSBURGH Every year, the 1972 Miami Dolphins alumni get together to celebrate when the last undefeated team of an NFL season finally loses.
The sentiment has not been the same for Harvard's 1989 alums.
Harvard is the last ECAC team to win an NCAA championship. Saturday, Harvard will lose that distinction. The ECAC will finally get another, when Yale and Quinnipiac compete for each school's first national title.
The drought was not something anyone was celebrating, but this year's results are.
"I'm thrilled for both teams, and for (ECAC commissioner) Steve Hagwell," said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, then a freshman defenseman on Harvard's championship team. "I know how happy he is, and it's good for college hockey to have the conference have such a great year.
"I didn't really think about until they brought it up yesterday. But it's always fun for me just seeing the trophy, and seeing these kids compete for a championship just brings back those memories."
Sneddon eventually coached in the league, first at Union then at Vermont. The Catamounts then departed to join Hockey East, a move that opened the door for Quinnipiac to join the ECAC.
"I think earlier in my career that was a thought, like when Cornell was going to the Frozen Four (2003)," Sneddon said. "Since then I haven't really thought about it, but it's good for college hockey."
Vermont went to the Frozen Four in 2009, but the move to Hockey East didn't necessarily become a windfall. Ironically, since then, it's been difficult for Vermont to keep up with the changing times, and budget cuts at the New England state schools have coincided with ECAC teams' increased resources.
"I think it's college hockey and college sports, there's a lot of parity," Sneddon said. "It'll be interesting to see how things change with the Big Ten and realignment. But it's a good story that teams we might not have expected to be here five years ago, are here.
"The playing field gets evened off a little bit when you see five kids get signed to pro contracts in a year (like at Minnesota) — you don't just automatically replace those guys. But I think more importantly, the investment you're seeing schools put in, in all leagues, is probably at its all-time high. It's become like a business."
Sneddon speaks now as a member of the NCAA men's ice hockey committee, a four-year term. He is the current Hockey East representative. The balance of power is constantly changing in college hockey, and college sports, and it's an ever-evolving dyanmic. But he thinks the tournament is as strong as ever.
"When you come back, this is my second year on the committee, and you get a chance to be around it," Sneddon said. "And last year, I was the committee rep for (national champ) Boston College, and you see the kids enjoy the moment. I literally remember almost every shift (of the 1989 championship game). That's what's special about this big stage. These kids will have this memory forever."