NCAA hockey going with new “super conferences” a dangerous route to take

13 Comments

With college hockey becoming more well known to mainstream sports fans with the proliferation of the Frozen Four and more games appearing on cable TV, many people around the NCAA feel like it’s their time to seize the day. The first shot in this happened when Terry Pegula gave Penn State $80 million to help start the varsity program there that will begin play in 2012.

Penn State joining the varsity ranks helped give rise to the Big Ten Conference in hockey, a group that will pull teams out of both the CCHA and WCHA to form their own little party as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State will team up with Penn State to form their own league.

That drastic move that awaits in a few years meant that the WCHA lost two of their biggest earning and drawing teams and the CCHA essentially lost their lifeline with the two Michigan schools. Everyone else that will be left behind in 2013-2014 when the Big Ten comes to order would be left trying to figure out what in the world they’re going to do. As it turns out, six schools figured things out on their own and will form a “super conference” of their own that will see North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Western Michigan, and Miami University form the Collegiate Hockey Conference that will start in 2013-2014 as well.

Left on the outside looking in are the rest of the teams from the soon-to-be-defunct WCHA and CCHA (St. Cloud, Mankato State, Bemidji State, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage; Alabama-Huntsville is already independent) with a future that is uncertain at best. Ryan Lambert from Yahoo’s! Puck Daddy says that the start-up of this new conference along with the Big Ten Conference means that pain is on the way to those who are left behind.

What they’ve essentially done is left other programs for dead. Far be it for me to advocate a welfare system in college hockey, but what the hell, one has existed for years anyway. The NCAA has been giving autobids to shall-we-say undeserving conferences for years, and how much good has it done them? Next to none. Teams and conferences have been folding left and right in the last few years, and no one seems particularly concerned about the state of the sport at the college except for people who want to write weepy eulogies to teams no one cared about at relatively small schools that can’t support the team without the money brought in by bigger teams. Imagine what a weekend’s worth of gate receipts against Minnesota or NoDak means to teams like Michigan Tech.

By creating this new conference, the six teams are ensuring their own insulation from the fallout created by the Big Ten by shoving smaller teams into its path.

On the opposite side of this view, there are those that think by doing things this way that college hockey can become more of a draw for television and that by breaking everyone into this odd sort of caste system will make life better for those who are able to keep up. Minnesota-Duluth radio play-by-play man and former Fanhouse writer Bruce Ciskie makes his case for why this isn’t the death knell for college hockey.

It’s a chance for the schools in Minnesota and upper Michigan to build new rivalries that will excite the fans. It’s a chance for all of them to get into a situation where they are battling peer schools for recruits, as opposed to trying to recruit against North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan.

We could end up not losing programs, giving more teams a real chance of making the NCAA Tournament, and we are setting up a league structure that allows for future expansion if it becomes feasible for someone to add the sport. If this scenario plays out, tell me how this isn’t a good thing for college hockey, a sport that simply needs to find ways to expand.

The possibilities are there for this pan out well and pay off for college hockey, but by creating groups of “haves” and “have nots” which is what this new set up will do is dangerous for a sport that’s both expensive for schools to budget and one without a definitive television presence to help pay the bills. With these conferences all breaking off and doing their own thing, doing so and seemingly having it happen without regard to the schools struggling to stay afloat isn’t wise.

College hockey is the ultimate niche in what’s a niche sport as it is. With the NHL being fourth among the professional sports and college hockey being on very few radars, potentially losing programs to send players to reeks of cutting off the nose to spite the face. You can argue about the merits of the schools that might fail and disappear (Bowling Green and Alabama-Huntsville top the short list) but in a world that sees the number of FBS football programs slowly increasing and the number of D-I college basketball programs on the rise as well, having programs fail and reduce the playing field is brutally unwise.

Perhaps things will work out the way Ciskie sees it and things will work for the betterment of the game and see a rise in the number of programs and a rise in attention for the sport, but with so many things up in the air right now it’s hard to believe that smaller schools can withstand the blow of losing all of their big money conference rivals. Creating a second class in a sport that needs all the help it can get is a dicey proposition. For college hockey fans and supporters, they’ll have to wait to find out who’s right in the end. Here’s to hoping those in charge have their act together and aren’t looking for the neck-saving cash grab.

Panthers to honor, support victims of Florida school shooting

NHL
Leave a comment

The Florida Panthers are planning to help and honor the victims and their families of last week’s shooting that claimed the lives of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

The Panthers will hold a moment of silence for the victims prior to puck drop at BB&T Center, just minutes from where the tragedy took place.

The organization is also partnering with OneBlood and JetBlue as they host a blood drive outside of the arena from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and through the second intermission. The blood collected from the drive will help replenish nearby blood banks. Donations will also be taken from through the second intermission.

Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers Foundation (FPF) will collect donations from fans during the blood drive and during the game. Both the FPF and the NHL will match every donation dollar-for-dollar and donate the money raised to the Stoneman Douglas Victims fund through the Broward Education Foundation (BEF).

Proceeds from the game’s 50/50 raffle will also be donated, with the NHL and the FPF contributing $50,000 to the raffle.

The Panthers will also be selling a limited number of MSD patches for $10. All of the proceeds from the patch sales will go to the BEF.

Finally, all proceeds from Fanatics Game Used Auction items will also benefit the BEF.

Those not able to attend Thursday’s game can also donate through the Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund on GoFundMe. A text-to-donate option is also available by texting PARKLAND to 20222, which will donate $10 to the fund.

Several Panthers spoke after their morning skate on Thursday, including Roberto Luongo and Derek MacKenzie, who live in Parkland.

“What happened last week, when it hits close to home like that, it’s hard. You just want to help as much as you can,” Luongo told the assembled media on Thursday.

MacKenzie added: “As a member of the Parkland community, I’m very proud of how everyone has come together.”

#ParklandStrong

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: 20 years in the making, American women finally golden

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• U.S. women end drought, beat Canada for Olympic gold in a shootout (NBC Olympics)

• Wanna see hockey in the summer Olympics? So does Jack O’Callahan. (Chicago Tribune)

• The Near-Miracle on Ice: An Oral History of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. (Puck Junk)

• Germans, Czechs in unfamiliar territory, improbably reach Olympic semifinals. (NBC Olympics)

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

• Olympic gold medalist AJ Mleczko to serve as an analyst for NHL game on NBCSN in March. (NBC Sports)

• It seem’s unthinkable, but the Ottawa Senators are exploring trade options for Erik Karlsson. (TSN)

• What is Erik Karlsson worth in the trade market? (SenShot)

Jeff Carter, who has been out since Oct. 18, set to resume practice. (L.A. Kings Insider)

Chris Kreider could return in a few games after blood clot scare. (NY Daily News)

• Why the Taylor Hall-John Hynes bond is so good for the Devils, and Hall. (North Jersey)

Cam Ward: Wine man. (Sports Illustrated)

Anders Lee‘s Kancer Jam raises over $100,000 for pediatric cancer. (The Sports Daily)

• Bad luck, not bad play, to blame for Michael Frolik’s down season. (Flames Nation)

• Eugene Melnyk needs to go. (Silver Seven Sens)

• Scoring binge masks deeper issues for Sharks’ third line (NBC Sports Bay Area)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

U.S. women end drought, beat Canada for Olympic gold in a shootout

Getty Images
13 Comments

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The Americans’ gold medal drought in women’s hockey is finally over. They needed the first shootout in an Olympic women’s final to do it, too.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored a dazzling, triple-deke goal in the sixth round of a shootout thriller and Maddie Rooney stuffed the last two Canadians to wrap up a 3-2 victory over archrival Canada on Thursday.

The Americans piled over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice – 20 years after the women’s last gold medal in women’s hockey and 20 years to the day after he men’s famous ”Miracle on Ice” victory over the Russians in group play at Lake Placid.

”I can’t put it into words,” defenseman Kacey Bellamy said. ”This whole year is for everyone that came before us. This is for Julie Chu (former USA team captain) and for all our families at home, the schools that we went to, everyone supporting us.”

Lamoureux-Davidson’s shootout goal was the talk of the game. She feinted a wrist shot, then drew Szabados out of the net by faking a backhand and came back to slide the puck past Szabados’ outstretched leg into the open net for the clinching score.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout, another nail-biter ending four years after Canada won its fourth-straight gold medal in Sochi after rallying to stun the Americans in overtime.

Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation . Hilary Knight also had a goal, but Rooney was spectacular, making 29 saves for the win. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold away in Sochi. Not only did the Americans end the Canadians’ stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss in the tournament a week ago.

”It is everything for our country,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. ”I am just so thankful for the outcome. It was a thrilling final. It was unreal.”

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Canadians wept on the ice as they accepted their silver medals. Jocelyne Larocque took hers off immediately and held it in her hands as the Americans settled in to accept gold.

”It’s just hard,” she said. ”You work so hard. We wanted gold but didn’t get it.”

Added Canada coach Laura Schuler: ”There’s not a lot of words that can describe how you feel. It was a great game of hockey. It’s what we expected: back and forth hockey.”

The Americans had dominated the women’s game in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

It only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano in 1998. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with those four consecutive gold medals – a streak of success in a women’s team sport second only to the U.S. basketball team’s current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals had met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None of the previous seven was decided by more than two goals.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber went with Rooney in net for the biggest game of her career – the goalie for each of the three wins against Canada last fall during a pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

Canada had Shannon Szabados in goal for her third Olympic gold medal game, and her teammates made her job very easy by keeping the puck in front of Rooney for most of the first period by dictating play. The Americans couldn’t use their speed or get organized even with two power plays until Sarah Nurse went in the box for interference late in the period.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados’ pads to give the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a midair pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney’s left leg for Canada. And when Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The Buzzer: Miller steals one for Ducks, Vegas back in top spot

Getty
3 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Player of the Night: Ryan Miller, Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks picked up a huge win on Wednesday night in their quest for a playoff spot and they have veteran goalie Ryan Miller to thank for it.

They leaned on Miller to pretty much steal their 2-0 game against the Dallas Stars.

He ended up stopping all 41 shots he faced, including 24 in the third period.

It was during that third period where the Ducks were able to put the game away after killing a 5-on-3 power play that included a shorthanded goal from Ryan Getzlaf.

The Ducks have now won four games in a row and are just one point back of the San Jose Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division.

Vegas Back On Top

You just can not stop the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thanks to their dominant 7-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday the first-year team is back on top of the NHL standings with 84 points, moving one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It was another balanced effort from the Vegas lineup as they received goals from seven different players, including William Karlsson who scored his 31st goal of the season.

It is still amazing to think about the fact they only have 22 games remaining in the regular season and an expansion team is in a position to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

Their 84 points is now the most ever by an expansion team. That number will continue to rise.

Highlight of the Night

The aforementioned Ryan Getzlaf shorthanded goal was quite the effort!

Highlight of the Night Part 2

Ryan Carpenter scores this slick between-the-legs goal to get Vegas rolling.

Factoid of the Night

Reilly Smith scored his 20th goal of the season for Vegas on Wednesday night and gives Vegas five 20-goal scorers. Not many expansion teams have done that. Of course, not many expansion teams have been capable of doing a lot of the things Vegas has accomplished this season.

Scores

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Ottawa Senators 3

Anaheim Ducks 2, Dallas Stars 0

Vegas Golden Knights 7, Calgary Flames 3

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.