Wrapping It Up
by Dave Starman/Columnist
When you look back at the NCAA tournament, you realize how good it was. The Frozen Four was awesome in terms of the games and the drama. Great storylines played out, future NHL players played either their last game in college or a game for the ages like Shayne Gostisbehere did. Plus 7; wow!
Johnny Hockey won the Hobey and then went to Calgary and scored in his NHL debut. How Anders Lee of him, who also scored in his NHL debut for the Isles last season. Wonderful college hockey stories. As for Gaudreau, can he be the next "little" guy from BC to follow in the footsteps on Nathan Gerbe and Cam Atkinson? I sure hope so.
I can't wait to see the continued development and evolution of Notre Dame's Stephen Johns and St. Cloud State's Kevin Gravel. These two behemoth defensemen have come so far as players. Both were well coached and brought along in a way that prepared them for their eventual defensive-minded roles in pro hockey while allowing their offensive instincts to shine. By putting them into offensive roles, the coaching staffs at Notre Dame and St. Cloud State prepared these two for the defensive challenges they'll face as NHL players by making sure they understood the options of the offensive side of the game. Both played for the US in different World Junior Tourneys.
How about the job Rick Bennett has done at Union? From the hands of Kevin Sneddon to the careful watch of Nate Leaman and now to Bennett, Union has emerged as an NCAA force to be reckoned with, much like other ECAC schools in Quinnipiac and Yale. These off-the-beaten-path schools have managed to recruit some high-end kids and have developed their programs into ones that offer the student athlete a great place to play and get their education.
While on the subject of Bennett, he certainly cemented his spot with the big boys of college hockey coaching. The last three years have been good ones in Schenectady and the future looks bright. Speaking of bright futures, can a head coaching role with our World Junior Team be in his future?
Speaking of the future, I hear new stories and rumors of more realignment of the conferences, new programs being added at the D-I level, and other changes. I don't know where that is all heading but I would bet a dollar that in two years the current set up will be altered slightly in terms of what teams are in what conference.
There are still issues to fix such as attendance at the regional sites and conference tourneys. The feel is that we should go back to campus sites for these events. There are a few coaches who like the current system. The AHCA convention in Naples should address this once again.
We have a rule change year coming up and there is always the debate as to whether games are being called to tight or too loose. Should the NCAA standard of play be closer to that of the NHL? That will get discussed this spring.
USA Hockey will have its annual congress in Colorado Springs and those in the ADM and Coaching Education Program will continue to find ways to make each better. Both are doing great nationally and the key is that we now have a player development system and a coaching development system that work hand in hand with each other. You can't develop great players without great coaches.
The CEP continues to get better and better and more coached are getting the help, resources, and training they need to take their hockey backgrounds to even higher levels. The USA Hockey Masters symposium is in Las Vegas this August; I highly recommend the experience to all youth and junior coaches out there. It is three days of great insights into how to teach our game to any age level of player.
Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Michigan are often touted as the big hockey development states and they have earned that reputation. New York State is home of the Division I National Champs on the men's and women's side, as well as the women's Division III champs. That is a huge thing for hockey in New York State. Remember, there are more NYS-born players in the NHL then Russians right now. The Empire State has come a long way in amateur hockey.
I have said it before and I will say it again as I do every mid April; I am the luckiest guy in college hockey to do what I do with and for the people I work with. I am told that my passion for our sport comes through on the air. How could it not? I love our game and love being able to talk about it and learn more about it from the players and coaches I talk to weekly.
A lot of that passion is driven by my long time association with the game as a player, coach, youth hockey administrator, scout, broadcaster, hockey dad. Mostly it is driven by my being a huge fan of the game. Whether it is the Apple Core mites, a local high school team, Team USA at the WJC, the NCAA or the NHL, if there is a game on or being played nearby, I'll find a way to get to it.
I'm lucky because my wife Shireen is our rinkside reporter at CBS Sports Network where I have now been for 11 seasons (she's a great personal and professional free agent signing). I have a son who is a squirt. I have another who loves being on the ice just for fun but I can see the business side of him coming out in hockey. I can see his attention to detail making him a hockey administrator. They allow me to be the hockey-crazed person I am and I can't thank them enough.
I am lucky that CBSSN, ESPN, and NHLN all allow me to be a part of their hockey coverage. Those organizations have made a commitment to making their broadcasts high quality whether it be the NCAA regular season, the NCAA tourney, or the prestigious World Junior Tournament. Philosophies may differ, but whether it be Ross Molloy, Stephen Karasik and Chris Fitzpatrick at CBSSN, John Vassallo and Meg Aronowitz at ESPNU, or Joe Whelan and Eric Eisenberg at NHLN, the dedication to high quality entertainment value on their air is very high. It starts at the top with these amateur hockey loving execs and their enthusiasm is contagious to all who work on their shows.
Wrapping up, a special shout out to some folks who have brought you the pictures and sounds from the various outposts I have visited this year. The NCHC on CBSSN crew of Andy Kosco, J Shawn Jensen, Dan Koniar, Mike Nastri, Brian Kozlowski, and the audio genius of the man known as "Weaves," who always had some Skynard playing in my headset pre game. The NCAA hockey crew at ESPN who borought you games on the U and ESPNews under the watchful eye of Mike Baker and Bob Whitelaw. To Jim White and Mike Fox at NHLN, who were just awesome on the World Junior Coverage.
Play by players Ben Holden, Steve Mears, Clay Matvick and John Buccigross all were to the left of me at some point this season and I enjoyed working with this elite group of hockey fanatics. The level of professionalism and the talent of this quartet probably makes me sound better than I deserve to, so thanks boys!
For the NCAA tourney coverage at ESPN, tremendous job by Matt Schick, who dove into the tourney head first and was awesome as our studio host. Did he ever do his homework. Loved being back with Tom Anastos in studio and exchanging ideas, stories and thoughts on college hockey. Ryan Yocum did a great job producing these shows from Charlotte for ESPNU, ESPN2, and ESPN.
We on the broadcast side get a ton of info on our own, but we'd be in trouble without the team SIDs and conference PR/media directors. It's a nameless, faceless group but they work countless hours on news releases, stat packs, stories and keeping the pulse of their teams so that we can bring you some of the great stories that are out there. They know how important they are, all 59 of them on the team side and the six who do it from a conference level.
To the coaches and players we appreciate the time you give us to help us prepare. Your insights and trust make our shows that much better for the fans. The equipment managers and trainers and support staff are the hardest working people out there. You take care of everyone and make the impossible happen, usually within minutes. Allowing us the access you do to see the inner workings of your programs and the demands that come up at the last minute gave me personally a new appreciation of how much you matter to your programs.
Year 12 is a few months down the road. Let the countdown begin. See you in October.