Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Real March Madness

Originally written 03/20/2007

It's springtime, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of .... college hockey. (Thought I was going to say baseball or young ladies, right? Sorry - but then, I'm not a young man anymore, either. And lord knows my men's hoops brackets have been shot to hell - again. Damn Wisconsin!)

The third intercollegiate big dance starts this weekend as the 16-team NCAA Division I men's ice hockey tournament commences with three games at each of four regional sites. The four regional winners then advance to the Frozen Four on April 6-8 in St. Louis, which hasn't hosted varsity college hockey since the local SLU Billikens dropped down to club status back in the early 1970s.

I guess I have somewhat of a stake in each of the regionals this weekend, starting in Denver, where my old Alaska Fairbanks acquaitance, coach Don Lucia, will mentor first-seeded Minnesota. Then's there Grand Rapids, one of my old haunts in the '90s, which will feature third-seeded Michigan State, where I spent two of the best years of my life working with Spartan Hockey. Moving further east, there's Manchester, where the old alma mater, Boston College, is Hockey East champion and the second seed. Finally, there's Rochester, although that's a bit of stretch, as I've only met Maine assistant coach Grant Standbrook twice. Very nice man, though, and a great recruiter.

This is probably my favorite sports tournament of the year, along with the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs from mid-April through early June, because I'm such a puckhead. College hockey may just be a regional sport - but those of us in the know can tell you we have something special that's all ours, even if the rest of the nation is caught up with floorboards and basketballs thsi month. One day UAF and Princeton will join/re-join the on-ice festivities as well, and this year we'll see how Davidian neophytes Air Force and Alabama-Huntsville fare against the Goliaths of the four major hockey conferences (CCHA, ECAC, Hockey East, WCHA).

I'd say let the best team win - just so long as it's one of my teams ... Drop the puck!

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