NCAA Hockey 101 is a weekly feature on U.S. Division I college hockey. Stick around and you just might learn a thing or two.
Last week I talked about some of the great traditions in college hockey, and the common theme to all of it was fan interaction. College hockey has great fans but, as I alluded to, sometimes the fans can go a little too far.
Personally, I'm more than a little comfortable with profanity, and chants featuring the word [expletive], [expletive] or even [expletive] don't bother me. I get it, it's college-age kids having a good time and being vocal in support of their team at a college sporting event. If it were up to me, I'd let the kids go crazy, say whatever they want.
But the problem is that probably the biggest percentage of college hockey attendees are families. Families have little kids. Parents don't like their kids hearing sweary cursey words thrown around liberally. And if they're motivated enough, they can raise a stink and cause schools to do something like this:
"After much public discussion through e-mails surveys of our season ticket holders and communication with our students, we feel we have put together some measures that will enhance the atmosphere at our home men's hockey games," said University of North Dakota athletics director Brian Faison.
"The overriding sentiment from our fans is that they love the energy in the building, but we need to make sure the passion of all of our fans is directed in a positive fashion."
That's an awful long quote that basically says, "Hey kids, your swearing is going to start costing us money, so stop." Similarly, Minnesota-Duluth just had a crackdown on student behavior as well.
(Coming Up: An interview with UMass Minutemen blogger, Fear the Triangle; Fenway Park hockey news; and why Hobey Baker candidate Chay Genoway is out for this weekend.)
It's important to keep in mind that the NCAA is, at its core, a heartless, exploitative moneymaking operation. The only way to affect change is to affect a school's coffers. Some, like me, may not consider it especially fair but that's the way things are. And, it should be noted, a student's money simply isn't as good to a school as a family of four's money and for obvious reasons.
A few years ago, BU told its students that the use of an F-bomb in their "The Song" was unacceptable and it was replaced with the far less interesting "Rough ‘em up, rough ‘em up, BC sucks." But this was, of course, necessitated by BU students chanting "(expletive) you Boyle" at BC's Brian Boyle(notes) while the Eagles were pummeling the Terriers in the NCAA regionals for about five minutes straight.
And that, I think, is the distinction. No one will care about the occasional F-bomb as long as it's a little clever and kind of buried in a song or something. But when it's blunt, it becomes a problem for parents and thus the school and thus the students, who are no longer allowed to have what they perceive to be fun.
So if you want to swear at hockey games, start writing limericks or something. You're not going to win this fight.
(It should be noted, by the way, that most schools are not like this. For every Wisconsin and Vermont, both of which have atrocious student swearing problems that have grown so big as to be uncontrollable by school officials, there's easily five, even 10, schools where there hasn't been and will never be a problem. Most student groups do a good job of policing themselves, and those that don't stand out for exactly the reasons you'd imagine.)
In which I ask a blogger for a noteworthy team five questions. This week's guest is UMass Minutemen blogger, Fear the Triangle.
1. Is James Marcou the best player ever to put on a UMass sweater?
Marcou certainly has some of the best stick-handling skills and amazing vision I've ever seen. He also has a very good shot which you don't get to see very often because he's so busy trying to set everyone else up. I think a discussion of if he's the best would have to include Greg Mauldin(notes), Jon Quick(notes) and Thomas Pock(notes). Mauldin was certainly talented and one of the better goal scorers in the conference but by being a playmaker Marcou makes everyone else around him that much better, something Mauldin probably did not. Quick is certainly the best UMass player to go between the pipes, but he only had one year as a true starter before leaving early. Pock was a game changer for the Minutemen and is still their only Hobey Baker finalist but the first couple years of his UMass career were a bit of a wash as he made the transition from forward to defenseman.
Marcou, on the other hand, came in from Day One as a freshman and made an immediate impact on this program and continues to be the centerpiece player on the team. If he stays healthy and comes back for his final season he has the chance to rewrite the UMass record books, including records dating back to the Div. 2 era that I never thought would be touched.
At this point he certainly looks to be the best from what I know of UMass hockey.
2. Is Paul Dainton the kind of goalie you trust to get your team to the NCAA tournament?
Yes. Dainton is a very solid goaltender who can be relied on to perform well every night out. The poise and consistency he offers in net I think is important for this team, especially considering that UMass is trying to develop a number of young defensemen this season. He has already surpassed his previous career high in saves twice in the past month. He probably isn't going to wow a lot of people with his play or put up mind-boggling stats but almost every game he's going to play well enough for UMass to win provided they score a reasonable amount of goals to do so. With scoring up this season for the team, that's exactly what has happened.
3. Are you at all nervous that this team still hasn't proven it can win or play consistently in the second half?
Absolutely. To say that inconsistency has plagued the Minutemen in recent years would be an understatement. Inconsistency has defined them. Recent teams have been inconsistent during the season, such as in 2007-2008 where they entered January with a No. 5 ranking only to go 5-13-1 the rest of the way out.
They've been inconsistent from game to game like last year when they followed up a 5-1 drubbing of No. 1 BU with a shutout loss to Lowell at home; and they were especially inconsistent during games last season where they seemingly would take entire periods off. Thus far inconsistency hasn't been too much of a problem. Effort has been there for the entire 60 minutes in most games and they've been able to avoid trap games like the one a couple weeks ago out at Niagara that had all the earmarks of a game last year's team likely would've dropped. Those around the team say the mindset has changed and perhaps it will lead to more consistent play. So far it looks like that may be the case.
4. What do you think the team learned from its split with UNH last weekend?
I think they learned a couple things. First off is that they've been blessed with perhaps an easy schedule to open the season and I think they now know that things are about to get tougher as their next five opponents are all ranked. Even UNH, a team that is supposedly struggling, can beat you on your home ice if you're not careful.
Secondly, I think they learned they have to adjust to different situations better. The team has lost a couple of key players, Rocco Carzo and T.J. Syner, to injury recently and as a result some of the lines have been shuffled. This seemed to create some confusion and overall the offense looked disjointed in both UNH games. They need to learn how to execute no matter who is on their wing. Poor ice conditions slowed the speed-driven team on Saturday. Coming into a stretch of games where four of five will be on the road they hopefully got the lesson that you have to find ways to execute even if conditions aren't ideal or they're taken out of their element.
5. How realistic is home ice in the Hockey East tournament for the Minutemen?
Going into the season I probably projected the Minutemen to finish a little higher than most of the pundits but even I thought it would be tough to crack home ice. My thinking was that the Big 3 of BU, BC and UNH would be joined by Lowell and maybe Vermont and pull away from the rest of the pack early. Well, Lowell has certainly played as well as expected but the rest of Hockey East looks like a complete free for all. I think as long as BU continues to suffer from the injury bug, BC's talented freshmen are slow to develop, and UNH struggles with Brian Foster in net that the door is open for other teams to hang around those third, fourth, and fifth spots all the way up until March.
Whether UMass would be one of those teams instead of a Vermont, Maine, or dare I say Merrimack, it's probably too early to tell.
• Both the UNH/Northeastern women's game and the BC/BU men's game at Fenway on Jan. 8 will be televised by NESN. [HEOnline]
• No real shock here, but North Dakota's star defenseman and Hobey Baker candidate Chay Genoway is out for this weekend against Denver after the brutal hit from behind St. Cloud's Aaron Marvin laid on him last Friday. [Goon's World]