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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Ponds of ink bear various fish
Distinguishing the breeds of bloggers

Through the young, nearly fourteen-month existence of the Friartown Free Press, its founder and thus far only reporter has admittedly detested the label of “blogger” for its generally amateur, nonchalant connotations. Strictly spreaking, the purpose of the Free Press is to function as convenient, laborious training grounds for aspirant sports reporters attending Providence College.

But, on the whole, and for reasons that will be elaborated as this week’s column rolls along, we’ll let it slide. This is, strictly speaking, a blog, grounded and fueled by the appreciable services of an establishment entitled blogger.com.

Still, it is comments like those out of Minnesota men’s hockey coach Don Lucia, caught on record and lacquered online by the tireless Denver Pioneer hockey blogger –also a satellite of blogger.com- that warrants a record-straightening response.

According to the “Lets Go DU” inkslinger, last weekend, prior to Part I of the Gophers two-night visit to the WCHA-rival Pioneers, Lucia had fervently warned against the influence of the new media in a chat with the Minnesota television broadcast crew.

"The internet has probably had the biggest impact,” he said of the last decade’s transformation in exposure, “because it is a sounding board for people. They want the instant gratification. Maybe they think they understand what is going on and they really don't."The internet is a way for people to get together and say how great our program is or how bad our program is. I always say it’s never as great as you think our program is or as bad as you think it is."I think you need to not get caught up with what people say on a talk radio show. Not what somebody's saying in a newspaper. Not what somebody's saying on a blog."

From Lucia’s implicit viewpoint, anybody and everybody who disseminates facts, analysis, and speculations beyond their own walls constitute the media. This means encompassing all of the seasoned, credentialed talkers and typists as well as the loiterers from fan forums, and, yes, bloggers.

To be fair, Lucia likely yearned for nothing out of his remarks beyond a reiteration of the don’t-dwell-on-what-you-don’t-control homily to his players. But now is the time to bat away the excess ice chips and, in the classic spirit of old time journalism, deliver the other side of the story.

Following a trusty goaltender brandishing the number 1 and the name “Amendment” on its back, the puckheaded citizens of the blogosphere exercise their right and ability to communicate their observations of the game through whatever approach they please. Much like your compact neighborhood rink, the Internet is designed to operate around the clock and to accommodate skaters of of all ages, shapes, skill levels, and ambitions.

Right on the Divine Campus, Schneider Arena strikes a peak, professionalistic atmosphere roughly 17 nights a year when the PC men throw on their game attire and management breaks out the turnstiles. When the program’s female counterpart conducts a home contest, all the actions at ice level are professional enough, though a spectator’s experience of attendance is often more reminiscent of high school.

And then, when the campus ice house is wholly without the public eye, its tenants will range from local youth novices, to student intramural icers, to title-hungry high school powerhouses, to beer leaguers.

Ditto ciberespacio; and nowhere is this more boldly underscored than collegehockeynews.com, which provides distinctive stables and headings for articles coming out of official media websites, professional media blogs, and amateur blogs. (Once again, the Free Press isn’t 100% satisfied with being classified as a “fan blog” on account of its nonpartisanship vow, but we’ll take what we can get.)

With an immeasurably copious supply of metaphorical rinks and ice time, you’ll inevitably find everybody partaking. The most detectable distinction in the blogger caste system, though, is that professional scribes have let their websites branch out to make blogs their equivalent of a practice facility. The rest of us, like all recreational or aspirant NHLers icers, are confined to the same sheet for both practices and games.

This is where the supposed contemptuous veil prying the formally credited reporters from the full-time bloggers lies. In the Hockey East media guild, the scribes –especially student scribes- who put in the energy of a veteran pro within the smaller barns can’t help but suspect belittlement from the Dave Hendricksons, Jeff Howes, and Larry Mahoneys just for our label and location. From where this author sits, you have to start somewhere. Just like men and women we chronicle had to start in cold, compact ice boxes in those before-dawn skating seminars.

But then, there are those who blog for blogging’s sake, which is equally acceptable. They may carry the mindset of a beer league journalist (hence Lucia’s “instant gratification” notion) or they may simply be assuaging their appetite to have a widespread say on the program they bleed for.

Regardless, let the ink flow. You need to not get caught up with what somebody is saying about your occupation. What somebody is saying about your credibility. What somebody is saying about your blog.

Beefy arms engage in poll-wrestling
This week’s USCHO poll readmitted the same six Hockey East inhabitants from the previous week –Northeastern, BC, BU, Vermont, UNH, UMass- while the sudden arrival of Alaska-Anchorage in the #19 slot helped the WCHA equate that pool.

Going into the weekend the HEA had a stilt-sized leg-up in head-to-head tangles, its teams aggregating a 5-2-1 record against the WCHA. And, if you froze everyone in their tracks and based the March selections on the 1-16 string, five HEA satellites would have a passport to regionals versus four out of the WCHA.

But if you formulate the sum of all the positions occupied by the two leagues, keeping in mind that the goal is to make like a golfer and keep one’s numbers shallow, the western conference holds a narrow 62-60 advantage.

Perhaps most tellingly, though, are simply the individual assignments. Minnesota overwhelmingly withheld the throne this week with 41 of the 50 first place votes, followed immediately by the CCHA’s Notre Dame and Colorado College. As if proud easterners need a Spring 2007-like reminder that filling up the bracket on HEA schools won’t guarantee long-lasting breakage of the western championship hegemony.

Quick Feeds: The red scare if officially genuine. Boston University women, who are idle all weekend, relinquished an overall ten-game unbeaten tear at Yale on Tuesday, but remain the last of the unblemished in Hockey East play at 5-0-0, coupled with the league’s best GF-GA differential of 20-9, a top-rate power play (25.6%), and a few can’t-hurt games in hand on all of their cohabitants but Vermont…On the whole, the PC men have rapidly come to look more PC men-like in the way of laudable discipline. But as should be expected out of any smattering of mere humans, spurts of dysfunction still come up, none more evident than senior captain Kyle Laughlin taking a tripping penalty before a single second had hopped off the clock in Friday’s loss to Dartmouth. That breaks the known world record of Mighty Ducks II enforcer Dean Portman, whose antics once warranted ejection after three seconds of play…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: inseparable rivals Michigan and Michigan State conduct a home-and-home series. Meanwhile, the Harvard and New Hampshire women, both continuing to jealously guard their membership in the Top 10 leaderboard, rekindle their healthy nonconference rivalry at Lake Whittemore this Friday.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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