Friday, March 14, 2008

Dear members

On, one of my favorite Web sites, there's been ongoing speculation as to why I'm no longer posting in the forums there. Following standard Internet operating procedure, some pretend to know "the truth" about why I'm no longer active on the board. Suffice it to say that their knowledge of events and their ability to read my mind is pathetically inadequate.

First, I don't owe the public an explanation for my decision. I didn't announce my reason to start posting and there's no need to announce the reason behind my decision to stop. There are a few people who know the specifics as to why I stopped posting at They are the only people who need to know. There are a few more who know some of the story, but not all of it. That's the way it's going to stay.

Second, I didn't abandon in favor of the U.S. College Hockey Online forums. The fact is that I was an active poster at USCHO for two years before even existed. I've never stopped posting on USCHO.

In addition, given the fact that I've written for USCHO for nearly seven years, nobody should be surprised that I participate on its forums. Some have theorized that my USCHO participation has something to do with money. They are 100 percent wrong.

Third, I don't choose to participate at USCHO because I consider it more civil, more polite or vastly superior to Both sites have more than their fair share of trolls, flamers and idiots. There are also knowledgeable, thoughtful and reasonable posters on both sites.

I began posting in Internet newsgroups 15 years ago, which means that I've been around long enough to understand the nature of the Internet. I'm well acquainted with the "bravery" of people hiding behind the cloak of anonymity and what passes for "the truth" in the online world. That isn't going to change, no matter how much I detest it.

Fourth, my decision to stop posting on wasn't made on an impulsive whim or in a juvenile pique. It was literally at least two years in the making. I spent several months thinking about what to do before I actually stopped participating. There was no single incident that caused me to stop. It was a culmination of events over a number of years.

Finally, I have met some great Fighting Sioux fans as a result of my time on I hope that I can continue to have contact with them. I invite people to e-mail me here. The most difficult part of my decision was knowing that I'd be closing off future opportunities to meet wonderful fans of UND athletics. So it wasn't an easy decision and I didn't treat it lightly. But for a variety of reasons, it was the best decision for me at this time.

Now, I'd appreciate it if everyone would please stop talking about this subject. Life will go on.

Those who wish to continue reading my opinions and recaps of the Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show can do so on this blog. And because I enjoy interacting with college hockey compatriots, I will continue to do that in the Men's Division I Hockey Forum at USCHO, the place where I originally began posting my thoughts on and observations about Fighting Sioux hockey.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

WCHA: Control what's yours to control

So we have yet another officiating incident in the WCHA. This time, it’s referee Jon Campion being reprimanded by Commissioner Bruce McLeod for grabbing Minnesota-Duluth goalie Alex Stalock from behind. It happened during an altercation last weekend in a game between the Bulldogs and the Gophers. For the second time this season, a league referee has been reprimanded for inappropriately grabbing a UMD player during a game.

A trend I find disconcerting in the WCHA is officials losing control of games and, as a result, players and coaches losing respect for the officials. Perhaps I’m suffering from selective memory, but it seems that there are more and more incidents in which officials literally fight to maintain control of players while the players mostly ignore the officials’ efforts to restrain them.

Interestingly enough, the WCHA didn’t issue any public reprimands following UND’s Feb. 2 game at Minnesota. In that game, an official ripped the helmet off Sioux player Brad Malone and caused him to fall while being pushed into the penalty box. At the time I didn’t feel too badly for Malone because he wasn’t doing what the official told him to do. But having his helmet violently ripped off his head probably didn’t do much to improve Malone’s mood at the time.

At the end of the same game, another fight erupted between the Gophers and Sioux. When an official broke up a fight between UND’s T.J. Oshie and Minnesota’s Ryan Flynn, Flynn continued to struggle and resist the official as he pulled him away, nearly punching the assistant referee in the face. Oshie and Flynn each received double minors for roughing and 10-minute game misconducts, but Flynn received no penalty for resisting the official.

This need not continue. The NCAA ice hockey rule book is chock full of regulations designed to allow the on-ice officials to control all aspects of the game, including who is allowed to come on the ice at certain times for specific purposes. There’s an entire two-and-a-half-page section on abuse of officials that spells out the penalties that can be applied when players and coaches get out of hand. Unfortunately, these rules are not always enforced.

Some are aghast when a fight breaks out during a college hockey game because student-athletes aren’t supposed to engage in such activity. These incidents could be minimized if the officials would simply enforce the fighting rule as it’s written which is: “A player shall not fight an opponent or participate in a fight, on or off the playing surface (punching or attempting to punch is considered fighting).”

Note that nowhere in the rule does it mention the dropping of gloves. If a player attempts to punch another player for any reason – even if the other player throws no punches in return – a fighting major and game disqualification should be assessed to the puncher. Just imagine how many players would be tossed out of games if this rule was enforced as written. It wouldn’t take long for fights to become rare occurrences.

It would also help if officials broke up fights the moment they had the opportunity to do so and worked harder to protect players when they're attacked and in defenseless positions. But we've seen fights happen that could easily have been prevented. And we've seen players exacerbate volatile situations by coming to the aid of their teammates as officials looked on with seeming indifference to player safety.

There are other more mundane details that would help avoid conflict and tension. For example, the scrum that broke after the second period ended during the Feb. 16 game at Engelstad Arena between UND and Denver University was a direct result of the Pioneers coming off the bench and on to the ice. This caused the few Sioux players left on the ice to traverse the large gathering of Denver players. A bump led to a punch which led to a melee and a fight.

While allowing players to come on to the ice at the start of an intermission isn’t against the rules per se, under the section on protocol, the NCAA rule book states: “Game management officials should avoid having teams cross when entering or exiting the ice surface. Conferences and institutions are encouraged to establish a written policy for visiting teams.”

In other words, it’s recognized that allowing players to mix during the course of a game invites the potential for trouble, as was demonstrated during the UND-Denver game. However, two weeks later when UND played conference opponent St. Cloud State the Huskies engaged in the same practice of pouring on to the ice at the end of a period. Why?

Didn’t the WCHA learn from experience? Players should not be allowed to come on to the ice between periods when it’s totally unnecessary and has been demonstrated to cause problems.

As UND coach Dave Hakstol is fond of saying, “Control what’s yours to control.” The WCHA has the authority to control the games it schedules. The NCAA rulebook gives on-ice officials the tools they need to maintain control of the games in most situations.

However, if the participants are allowed to flout the rules and the league doesn’t use common sense to minimize volatile situations, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the officials find themselves having to use greater amounts of force to establish or regain control of a game. Such actions wouldn’t be necessary if players and coaches respected the authority and the ability of on-ice officials to do their jobs properly. But based on what I’ve seen this season, that’s not the case.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show summary

Here’s a summary of UND hockey coach Dave Hakstol’s comments on tonight’s Fighting Sioux Coaches’ Show with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM).

Wisconsin was very happy up until the point when Ryan Lasch scored the overtime goal for St. Cloud Saturday night. It was right down to the wire for everybody in the league. When you spread it out over 120 minutes in the weekend and it ends up a tie, it has a lot of significance. On Friday night, we had ample opportunities to score and just didn’t. It would have been a different game if we had scored a goal or two in the first or second periods.

Our goal for either night wasn’t to tie. On Friday, we wanted to be in position to have a shot at the McNaughton Cup. We wanted to win that game. Other than finishing our opportunities, we did a pretty good job. We just didn’t finish. We needed to be a little bit hungrier. It’s important to finish this time of year because you don’t have a second chance once you hit the playoffs.

In Saturday’s game, I thought we stumbled a little bit in portions of the first and second periods. We knew where we were health-wise. We just didn’t have a ton of energy. We were ready to play. I felt like we got ourselves in great position in the third period. Rylan Kaip nearly scored a minute before the penalty call, and that probably would have been the game. SCSU took advantage of a bounce on the power play and scored to tie it.

Lasch is a good goal scorer. That’s his position on the power play. He puts himself in good position to get rebounds. Phil Lamoureux was probably trying to put the rebound in a different spot, but it just didn’t happen. His awareness is usually good enough that it doesn’t happen.

There is always something to play for this time of year. You put the jersey on and you have something to play for. You want to keep momentum going this time of year. We put out best foot forward and just didn’t quite get it there. The last 10 minutes of the third period on Saturday, we were playing very solid hockey. We were still creating chances and opportunities. One of the lessons is that you have to be ready to deal with the hooking and slashing penalties because they can cost you.

Regarding the injuries to T.J. Oshie and Chay Genoway, I don’t know if they will be ready. It’s up to the two players and our medical staff. We want them in the lineup, but it’s still too early to say if they will be. We’re only half way through the week. The track record of Mark Poolman, our athletic trainer, is outstanding. Once you get past a certain point, it becomes a decision of the staff and the player. It depends on whether the player can contribute anything on the ice.

Hakstol doesn’t think coaches should go after players who have made verbal commitments to other teams. Our gentleman’s rule in college hockey, which is different than Division I basketball and football, is that we’ve always honored verbal commitments. I hope that doesn’t change. That’s been the way it’s been in NCAA Division I hockey and among the small group of coaches. At some point in time, maybe that will change, but I hope it doesn’t. I like the way we’re doing business now.

I hope the discussion is larger than honoring verbal commitments. I hope we’re thinking about what’s right for the development of a young man. I hope we’re talking about other things than our jobs. It’s a competitive job and we understand what our jobs are and where our loyalties are. Right now, there’s a good level of professional respect between all programs. We don’t all love each other, but there is mutual respect.

Hakstol isn’t concerned that beating Michigan Tech twice might hurt UND’s standing in the PairWise Rankings. At this time of year, I take the PairWise, RPI and throw it out the window. I want our team to play as well as we possibly can. This is the time of year you want to play well. There are a lot of things we can’t control, but we can control how well we’re playing and the momentum. For the NCAA tournament, it doesn’t matter what seed you are, you’re going to have to play two good teams to get out of the regional.

Regarding the upcoming series with Michigan Tech, Hakstol said: We’re going to expect what we always see from them. They’re extremely competitive. Michael Lee Teslak is as good a goalie as you’ll see in the league. They’re dangerous on the counterattack and they’re based on a sound defensive system. We’re going to have to go through some hard areas in the offensive zone. We’re going to have to win some battles down low and use our defenseman to get some pucks through to the net. You can’t get too fancy. These games will be battles.

Hakstol wouldn’t make any predictions for the upcoming WCHA series. He thinks Scott Sandelin and the UMD Bulldogs have a real opportunity in Denver. He thinks Colorado College has the upper hand because of how well the Tigers have played in their building. The others series, UND’s included, will be very close and hard-fought series. Some will go to three games.

Hakstol said the Fighting Sioux just want to be one of the teams that get to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul. They’ll be happy to see any other four teams there.