• Check out the Free Press founder's new Rhode Island/New England sports blog
  • http://providencesportsscribe.blogspot.com/

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Go ahead, continue to dream
Hockey East at Fenway hardly a be-all-end-all for non-goers

Whether any individual members concerned will divulge it or not, it is safe to assume that both sects of the Friar Puck program, along with twelve other men's and women's Hockey East teams, felt at least a momentary knee-jerk sting -one worse than taking a shot to the unpadded back of one's leg- upon realizing they were not among the selections to partake in next year's Fenway Ice Fest.

On the men's end, so much for that initial suggestion that they were going to link up with Boston College, Boston University, and Vermont for a two-day mini-tournament.

As for the Skating Sorority, they know they were the odd women out when it came down to three logical finalists for the women's matchup. Just look at the historical facts: PC spawned it's women's program in 1974, New Hampshire in 1977, and Northeastern in 1980. The other five conference members didn't come about until the mid-90s or later.

Furthermore, tough as it may be for any non-Hubbers to concede, the league was implicitly compelled to include at least one Boston school in both games here. And if this had been arranged, say, four years ago, at the height of PC's postseason dominance, the Friars surely would have tipped the scale their way. Instead, in the years since, Wildcat Blue has come to be the new Friar Black, hence New Hampshire's wild card entry to Fenway.

It's indubitably hard to understand for those who know that the PC-UNH rivalry has always offered the NCAA women's answer to Canadiens-Maple Leafs of the NHL's Golden Era. But again, Northeastern is in the heart of Boston, current parts of its campus formerly housed the Red Sox in baseball's Mesozoic pre-Fenway era, so it's just the way the puck bounced.

Luckily, Hockey East is commissioned by Joe Bertagna, who admitted during last week's formal event declaration that he had been pitching for this for at least five years and, furthermore, envisions many more of its kind down the road.

"There is potential to make this an annual event," Bertagna said Thursday in a league-issued video feature. "And in doing so, other members of the Hockey East family can take part in the future."

If that is to be done, it is plain to see that all collegiate parties interested would have to strike out on their own, for an NHL Winter Classic can only come around about as often as an All-Star Game. Conversely, as the University of Wisconsin makes equally clear with its Camp Randall Classic doubleheader slated for February, it can be done without borrowing a professional pond.

As a matter of fact, it is even better that way when you consider the added flexibility. NHL chieftain Gary Bettmann is adamant about holding every Winter Classic on New Year's Day, meaning you most likely will never see the Bruins borrowing the Foxboro Snowglobe -aka Gillette Stadium.

But if a handful of teams from any other level ever wanted to reserve a couple of dates in February -well into the Patriots' offseason- they would have nothing to lose. And as all geographically technical Ocean Staters can never point out too much, Providence is a slightly quicker trek to Foxboro than Boston itself.

Grin, grin. Wink, wink. Say no more?

Actually, there is more to be said. Two other WHEA tenants who fell short of a Fenway passport -namely Boston College and Connecticut- also happen to boast New England's two most recognizable college football venues. Both BC's Alumni Stadium and UConn's Rentschler Field pack a 40,000-plus seating capacity and would make naturally fertile grounds to draw a little more attention to the budding women's editon of the BC-BU rivalry, or the Battle of Southern New England, or even the PC-BC Catholic Clash.

For the Friars specifically, there aren't as many qualitative options for the own outdoor site. All of the locally renowned gridirons are home to a nonconference rival from other sports, and the 10,000-plus seat McCoy Stadium might as well make for a "Pack the House Night at the Dunk" with no roof.

But never say never. And to take a hack at a journey to the Dunk -the piteously former site of the defunct Coffee Pot Tournament- wouldn't necessarily be such a spendthrift place to start.

Nudge, nudge. Dream, dream.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com