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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

It’s not all or nothing
Fit for the job or not, Brown’s Murphy sets an intriguing precedent


For the stubborn preponderance of those who cannot so much as bring themselves to give Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice a fair tryout, here now is your reason.

As a mild spoiler alert, the 2002 Stephen Baldwin checking-liner flick centers on the Chiefs’ reluctantly acclimating to the arrival of a female coach portrayed by Jessica Steen. Her hiring is implicitly arranged out of malice and designed to add comic effect as the team is conned into playing the role of hockey’s Washington Generals in a strictly staged version of the game. Ultimately, though, that mission backfires when the Chiefs rebel and –together with Steen’s accepted tutelage- beat their rivals in a fair-and-square, Old Time Hockey tussle.

This is all relevant for the mere fact that Digit Murphy, complete with 20 years behind the women’s bench at Brown University, has reportedly dropped her hat in the ring to succeed Roger Grillo as the school’s men’s head coach –that according to the US Hockey Report.

While the odds of her winning this derby looks roughly equivalent to Lincoln Chafee’s chances of garnering the Republican Presidential nomination, the basic notion is still fascinating to entertain.

If there is any legitimate cause for objection stemming from Murphy’s gender, it would merely be that the still altogether malnourished sport of women’s hockey needs all of the female mentors it can get. But, then again, what would all of the male coaches in the women’s game say about that? Specifically, what would the six Hockey East coaches, seven ECAC skippers, six WCHA foremen, and five College Hockey America coaches say to that?

Unlike playing, coaching has no cause for barriers of any nature. Once the gang of guys or girls has had their time to come together before a game or practice, that’s the cue for someone of an elder age group to step in and fulfill their strategic and tactical duties.

On that point, one would hope that strategic and tactical aptitude will ultimately be the prime factor in the Brown athletic department’s decision. Incidentally, it is for that precise reason that the whistle is bound to be handed over to somebody else, somebody new to the university altogether. Murphy’s pupils have finished with a supra-.500 record only once over the last five seasons and have scraped out a brittle 11 wins in the last two years. She has had far better days than this, but now is not exactly the time to consider any drastic internal personnel transplants.

And then there’s the familiarity factor. Not that it’s impossible, as evidenced by the permeation of male coaches in women’s programs, but all of those men would be lying if they did not acknowledge the need for at least a minor adjustment when they had initially transitioned from playing/coaching “their” game to the women’s game. Murphy has been in the same sector of Meehan Auditorium too long and accomplished too much –the recent nosedive notwithstanding- to go most anywhere else and expect fertile plantations off the bat.

Look at it this way: someone with even half the experience of, say, Jack Parker would have an awkward time suddenly making tracks elsewhere, especially if he switched to a different level or gender of players. But two of Parker’s own former pupils –Brian Durocher and Bob Deraney- have each gone on to bring a fresh flair and flood solid ponds for women at Boston University and PC alike.

In all seriousness, Murphy and the Bears are better off sticking with the status quo and seeing if she can replenish the winning ways of the 90s and earlier 2000s. Think of it as a more extreme version of Deraney’s continuing endeavor to replenish the Friars’ formidable posture on the national landscape.

But still, Murphy is just one individual and not a thorough representation of the coaching sorority. Keep that in mind for the future.

Too cozy with the Cup?
Precisely 10 weeks after he defected from Huntington Avenue a year premature, one-time Northeastern cornerstone Brad Thiessen was permitted to join his new franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and lay hands on the Stanley Cup. Joining him were not-too-distant Boston University alumnus John Curry, the Pens’ implicit third-stringer, one-time Boston College forward Ben Lovejoy, and three others who constituted a taxi squad between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s exile from the AHL playoff and the conclusion of the NHL dance.

You don’t even need to have passed an introductory puckhead’s class to shudder at this. If it seems these guys earned a party invitation much too easily, you are spot-on.

A friendly reminder: the official Cup credit criteria are either 40 regular season appearances or one appearance in the final series. Granted, for a non-starting goalie, that merely means suiting up for X number of games, but, by all counts, that was Mathieu Garon acting as Marc-Andre Fleury’s stand-in.

Have these poor, overly eager saps jinxed themselves out of a harder-earned title of their own down the road? Again, if you have a fundamental knowledge of playoff customs, you know all about the unwritten don’t-touch-till-you’ve-won-it policy. Although, Captain Crosby did hoist the Prince of Wales Trophy prior to the Finals, after all…

What the puck?
This from a report by (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader columnist Paul Sokoloski, who collected quotes from a few bar-bound Penguins fans last weekend:

“I’m so happy,” shrieked Courtney Harrison, a Nanticoke resident who now attends Providence College, where she torments her Boston-based classmates with her loyalty to the Penguins. “Hockey’s my life. I’ve been wanting them to win since my freshman year of high school.

“It means everything.”

Well, be careful around campus the next time the two Black-and-Gold franchises clash, Courtney.

What goes around comes around
UMass-Lowell has tabbed Jerry Forton, an associate coach at Niagara University since 1996, to fill the vacant skates of Chris MacKenzie in Blaise MacDonald’s cabinet. You will recall just precisely where MacKenzie went off to pursue fresh ice: Niagara University, where he is assuming the head whistle for the Purple Eagles’ women’s program.

Quick Feeds: PC’s own Meredith Roth will link up with Northeastern’s Linda Lundigran and Connecticut’s Jaime Totten in assistant BC skipper Katie King behind the Women’s Hockey East All-Star bench when the one-shot select team scrimmages Team USA at UNH’s Whittemore Center November 22…2007 PC alumnus Dinos Stamoulis, who very briefly dropped back in to this neighborhood for one game with the P-Bruins this past season, has inked a solid new deal with the ECHL’s Reading Royals. Starting this autumn, the Royals are the new Double-A affiliate of Brian Burke’s Toronto Maple Leafs and, as far it’s looking, could very well be adding Pierce Norton to the equation…The Connecticut women are slated to tussle with Robert Morris this coming January 8 at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena…This timeless factoid dropped out of nowhere into this author’s daily e-mail news alert, courtesy of an apparent Wikipedia wannabe called karlpurdon.com: “The Cape Cod Cubs and Cape Codders were a professional ice hockey team that played at the Cape Cod Coliseum in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts.” It goes on to mention “For 1974-75, the team changed its name, its affiliations and its coach, becoming the Cape Codders and signing working agreements with the World Hockey Association’s New England Whalers and Cleveland Crusaders. Larry Kish, a former All-America defenseman at Providence College who previously had coached the Rhode Island Eagles and Suncoast Suns, was named coach. The franchise went out of business in 1977.” Incidentally, Kish, who recorded but one season with the Friars (1963-64, Bob Bellemore’s senior year), more famously coached the Hartford Whalers in 1982-83.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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