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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Not easy being clean
Hope is best bet in HEA’s clean fanfare campaign


Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, like any responsible sports chieftain, has amended his game plan on the fly and stepped up his attempts to repress ignoble spectator antics in his league’s ten barns.

That’s right. It has not been enough to repeatedly issue pre-game precautions from the PA system with the fair warning that “Profanity, racial or sexist comments, and other intimidating actions...will not be tolerated, and are grounds for ejection from the arena.”

See? One who has taken in a few trapper gloves full of games this season can all but recite that straightforward PSA. Yet Boss Bertagna, in collaboration with the HEA’s ten head coaches, detected the need to take further resorts. They did so this past week by unleashing a campaign poster and proclaiming the intention to paste it for all eyes to see on each member school’s campus.

The poster’s equally clear-cut message: “Give your team a cheer, but remember who else is here.” This needn’t be elaborated any further, but this is plainly an issue that cannot stay away.

Pro hockey has its cyclical examinations and debates over fighting, player salaries, and U.S. television outreach. The collegiate game is all but inherently immune to those issues, so the next best thing is to pole-vault over the glass and critically spotlight the folks who mark the student section as the place to break out the Blutarski within.

It’s as true as it is regrettable: a fair majority of collegians, to a barely contained extent, soothe a certain sweet tooth when they demonstrate a little conscious disobedience. This author will not soon forget the PC men’s home opener this season when the overwhelmingly brimful student section –which, among other things, underscored the meaning of the phrase “standing room only”- held up the opening draw and had to be told over the PA speakers to refrain from leaning/hanging over the glass. Guess that kind of First Night hooliganism is planned and stored up too far in advance to hold back, no?

Take it from the recent history of hockey’s definitive Deltas, i.e. Yost Ice Arena of Michigan and Lynah Rink of Cornell: persuasion and pleading can only work for so long. Most fanatics have a lot of physical, mental, and emotional Rockstar in their systems. Unfortunately, when they spot a band of athletes sporting their school colors challenged by a legion sporting anything else, they are inclined to dispense their energy with the two locker room languages that Gordie Howe famously cited: English and profanity.

More likely than not, the presence of posters will do about as much to neutralize salty partisanship as an NHL salary cap has done to curb the Detroit Red Wings perennial championship contention. So how may a more surefire solution be unearthed -and without getting all Sheila Broflovski about it?

There might be a way to build on the straightforward depiction of a smattering of grade school-aged fans. After all, nearly every royal rooter –be it a student, alumnus/alumna, or local- who passes through a Hockey East turnstile has fostered his/her interest from a young age onward. They thus ought to be reminded of the captivating sense of Romanticism that came with those early excursions to Schneider, the one-time Civic Center, the Garden, etc.

They ought to be enlightened to the fact that a fraternity of fanfare encompasses every existing generation. That’s why half of those trouble-free trivia questions during TV timeouts are posed to students, the other half to mites and squirts.

Student rooters need to have those reminders of their own roots in hand and in sight at all times. They too were once drawn to the pure-as-fresh-ice perception of the game that only a child or a nostalgic Emersonian thinker can withhold. Would it have been the same if the atmosphere was sullied with boisterous, raunchy taunts seeping out of a fraction of the seating bowl?

It might not matter in such an event, for any responsible parent/guardian would reluctantly pull their children’s fragile little minds to safety. Translation: no game experience, period.

Most, if not all, if these “mature” spectators kept themselves sopped up in team-centric activities in high school and still might as collegians. For that reason, Bertagna and Co. ought to upgrade their PSA campaign to underline the unique breed of team responsibility that lies in a Hockey East fan base. For those youngsters and their escorts who either gape in fright, cringe, cover their ears, make an early check-out, or all of the above, it is like being those clean-nosed scholastic players who have to join in on Herbies every time a negligent associate bends a team rule. The innocent ultimately feel more of the consequences than the perpetrator.

Even with that approach, complete abolition of distasteful fanfare is anything but guaranteed. But the best anyone can aim for is to explain the selfless perspective to each and every ticket-bearer.

How about a New England Hockey Week?
Not without a reckonable amount of prodding from the media, but still with a genuine tone of approval, Jack Parker and Jerry York have resurrected the recently deflated proposal to pit their respective programs together in an outdoor tangle, most likely at Fenway Park. But upon watching hockey’s latest outdoor venture at Wrigley Field and hearing some less puckcentric fellow viewers remark “That’s a lot of (maintenance/construction/deconstruction) work for just one game,” this author has a few potentially boosting additives to the BC-BU movement. New England ought to make like Canada, Michigan, and Minnesota –each of whom celebrate an annual “Hockey Day”- and carve out a block of time to specially recognize its vastness in all levels of hockey.

The Olde Towne ballyard –whenever it can take a breather from perpetual renovation- should be frosted for enough time to hold at least three ticketed events, coupled with piles of open skating and youth games: the quintessential college clash (working the women’s programs in there as well), at least one AHL showdown (perhaps the Baby Bs versus the Lowell Devils), then climax the week with a Bruins game.

And, not to stoke still-touchy flames, but if this were pushed off to the depths of February, it could just as easily and more seasonably be conducted at the Foxboro Snowglobe, no problem.

Fashion Retraction
So, the Tim Army Corps has purged the inadvertent PC Lax look-alike attempt, reverting from the silver buckets back to black, but transferring the excess grayness to their upper bodies in a new “third jersey.” On the whole, they look no different than the retro Pittsburgh Penguins attire –save, of course, for the mortifying light blue core. The immediate reception points to a somewhat propitiated fan base, but then again, with two wins to start the calendar year, PC’s posture in the standings has undergone a bit of a chop-chop makeover as well.

The last eight years for Friartown
Each with two games yet to be recorded as of this write-up, here is an overview of how each PC hockey team fared in concomitance with the Bush presidency:

Women: cumulative record of 152-106-33; four league championships; one NCAA tournament bid.
Men: cumulative record of 103-123-32; one league championship; one NCAA tournament bid.

Quick Feeds: Boston University alumnus Chris Drury was voted the HEA’s best all-time defensive forward, as was declared Thursday. The league now awaits poll masses to weigh in on the best “Unsung Hero” now through a week from today…Four season series in the Hockey East women’s league are done with, two of them clean sweeps: PC over Maine and BC over Northeastern. The Eagles docked the gradually receding Huskies, 4-2, Thursday…The Central Scouting Service unleashed its midseason installment of 2009 NHL Draft projections, ranking PC recruit Alex Velischek #112 in a pool of 210 North American skaters. Velischek has spent the 2008-09 campaign playing under his father, ex-Friar Randy, for the New Jersey Colonials. He is accompanied by 13 fellow Hockey East pick-ups plus Warwick native and Michigan Wolverine-in-waiting Mac Bennett…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: the ever-ascending North Dakota, 8-2 in their last ten after a toe-curling 5-8-1 start, hosts the WCHA’s regal Denver Pioneers.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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