An Overreaction to the Game 1 Loss

Tigstwinsgame1

(Photo courtesy of Julian H. Gonzalez/DFP)

This morning at the gym I couldn’t help but be captivated by the sight of the jubilant Los Angeles Orange County Angels of Anaheim and Surrounding Neighborhoods and Communities celebrate their AL West championship last night. The champagne, the beer, the jumping around. It looked like alot of fun.

Of course, the next clip just HAD to be a preview for the Tigers-Twins series that got cranked up this morning following a rain delay last night. My excitement quickly turned to nervousness and then to jealousy, as I wanted to watch MY team jump around and pour booze all over each other and watch as Leyland smokes 16 packs of Marbs in celebration.

That’s when the sinking feeling started crawling in. That’s where this blog gets its name. It’s that feeling that keeps you awake at night and you spend the rest of the day trying to shake it off and pretend like it’s not there. It gets in your ear and tells you to stop pretending, you won’t be good enough to win this series. You try to flick it away with a shrug, but it’s always right there. Telling you that those pinstriped jackasses from Minneapolis are about to swipe another division from right under your nose. Now you’re getting frustrated, and you just want the game to start so you can prove that feeling wrong. So you yell and cheer and get pumped up for your team and the belief starts to get stronger and that nagging in your ear gets quieter.

And then you jump out to an early lead and now you are ready to start telling that whisper in your ear to “shove it” because we came to play today and we are taking this division tomorrow night. And the feeling is quiet. And the innings drag on. And you are still confident because, guess what, you are playing just as good (if not better) than the other guys, and it’s YOUR team’s time to win a division, and nothing will stop them.

Then the game is tied. But that’s OK, we’ll get through it. And we do. On defense.

The offense is a nightmare though, and you can swear that you hear the entire Twins nation laughing at how incompetent your team’s batters are, as their pitcher sits down hitter after hitter. Meanwhile, your team is dodging bullets just to stay alive and it feels like they are losing control of the situation. but just when it looks like it’s all going to come crashing down, Nick Punto “puntos” a sac bunt and the DP is turned and now, NOW it’s time for us to step up and fulfill our season of destiny.

We get a runner on. now the excitement builds. That voice of negativity is awful quiet at this point.

And then, of course, the rest of the lineup lets you down. From cloud nine back to earth, but that’s OK, because we are still in this and wrestling control back.

And then Brandon Lyon happens.

BRANDON F**KING LYON HAPPENS.

Two, not one, TWO wild pitches that put the go-ahead run on third and a single later put the Twinkies up 2-1. A sac fly later and it’s now 3-1 and all of a sudden that feeling is back, telling you that it’s your team’s destiny to fail down the stretch, just like they did in 2006 and just like they will do this year. And you IM your friend and say how much this sucks and “watch, Grandy will probably homer just to give me a sense of false hope here” and sure enough, Grandy pops one out of the park, but all you can do is curse under your breath because you know that it was just a flash in the pan and nothing more.

One.

Two.

Three.

And just like that it’s now ONE with SIX to go.

Get it together Tigers. We’ve already done this once with you in the last five years, so why don’t you just man up and win the damn division already? Because I’m sick of hearing about the “CHOKE” and the “CHOKE” that’s about to happen this year. Prove ‘em all wrong, eh? Whaddya say boys? How bad do you want it?

************

Game 2 is in 3 hours and 10 minutes. Let’s hope the post following the game is a little “happier” than this one.

LET’S GO TIGERS!!!

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Filed under Argh!, This is a rant

The Good Stuff.

denardrobinsoneasterntd rodneypump helmer-again1

Yes, I get it. I’ve been a little quiet over the past couple of weeks. I didn’t get on here and tell you how excited I was that we beat Notre Dame. I didn’t get on here to complain about the Tigers looking like they might have run out of gas on their playoff run. I didn’t get on here and go crazy because the Red Wings are in the middle of preseason hockey.

But just because I didn’t write about it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it.

Folks, let me tell you something: right now is the most exciting time in the world to be a fan of Detroit/Michigan sports. There is so much going on that it’s almost unreasonable to expect to keep up with it on a regular basis. But this is our reward, this is our prize at the end of the rainbow. It’s funny that the summer, a time of relaxation, enjoyment and just general “feeling good” is for the most part a blank slate of sports. Summer, one of the most popular times of the year, doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for sports as the rest of us fanatics. Summer is our Sahara Desert. Summer is our barren landscape.

But now we have hit the tropical oasis. We have found the magical spring to quench our sports thirst. Drink up friends. The water is cool and refreshing.

The sweetest taste (for me) is obviously the rebound of Michigan football from last year’s mess of a season. With the right pieces in place, the Wolverines have already matched last season’s win total, scored as many points in three games as they did in six last year and have knocked off major foe Notre Dame. Now, the Maize and Blue head into the real deal: the Big Ten season. Every week will be a battle and there will be NO gimmie games. Have the Wolverines truly bounced back from the depths of despair, or is it just a mirage in a desert of uncertainty? I can’t wait to find out.

The Tigers, one season after finishing last in the division, are back in the thick of a division and playoff race. What a roller coaster ride they have been. Sometimes they offer the sweet taste of victory and the next night the bitter taste of defeat. But again, the ride is amazing. There’s nothing like the chase for the playoffs to stir the deepest echoes of fandom, and that’s exactly what the Motown kitties are doing for us right now. Can they deliver? Will they falter? I’m caught up in the anticipation and I’m letting it sweep me away.

And then there are our beloved Red Wings. Yes, they are only at the beginning of a journey that will hopefully last until June, but this campaign brings with it the need to justify their elite status to all those who have so quickly dismissed them. There’s nothing more fun than proving the doubters wrong and then laughing in their face afterwards, which is exactly what we have planned for this season. I can’t wait.

So sit back and enjoy my friends. This is an exciting time for all of us. One that is sure to be filled with ups and downs, trials and tribulations. But it’s not the destination, it’s the journey and I’m just happy to be walking down that road again.

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Filed under Hooray!, Random Thoughts, State of the State

All In.

crable

Remember that summer day three years ago when Notre Dame was supposed to be invincible and Michigan wasn’t supposed to win? Remember when we went down to Notre Dame as underdogs, having struggled through so many road-opening losses over the years that we were already forgetting how it felt to start 2-0 or 3-0? But what you may not remember is that feeling that we took for granted back then and which, someday, we will probably take for granted again.

I was sitting at an Ale House in Orlando, FL. Yes, I was drinking heavily. Yes, I was nervous. But why wouldn’t I be nervous? This was a rivalry game between two titans of college football,  both ranked, both undefeated and both ready to stake their early season claim to supremacy over the young 2006 season. It was everything that Michigan vs. Notre Dame was supposed to be.

The outcome of that game went in our favor. In a big, big way. But I know that nowhere during my euphoric high of beating the Irish did I ever think that our next two matchups would lack that one thing that most every game before them had contained: meaning.

You could argue that the 2007 game had lots of meaning for both teams. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Those two storied programs were the laughingstock of the college football world. Notre Dame rolling into the Big House with a highly touted freshman QB that had engineered two losses. Michigan coming off of THE HORROR and the ass kicking from the Oregon Ducks, both in our house. A combined record of 0-4. A national broadcast. It was pure humiliation and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. All that blowout win did for Michigan was get a win in the Big House and put another win between us and the #2 team in all-time victories. But it wasn’t the same.

Ask any Ohio State fan about last year’s drubbing of Michigan. It wasn’t as much fun as beating a good Michigan team. The luster wasn’t there. After 11 weeks of ridiculing the Wolverines and ripping them, finally getting the turn in the whipping line just didn’t feel right. Just like going down to ND with one of the worst teams in school history didn’t really do much for the Irish in the long run either. Did it even the score from the year before? Sure. Was it a game for the ages (or even the year, for that matter)? Absolutely not. It was a joke. A sham. A ghost of what it used to be.

Which is why today’s game is that much more important. After two years of mediocre matchups between these two giants, we finally get what we have been waiting for. Both teams undefeated again. Both teams with their own agendas. Both teams out to prove why they belong. It’s all the drama that was missing during the previous two matchups and all we can hope is that these teams know how to live up to the expectation that has been set in the previous 36 matchups.

Who’s going to win? Don’t really know. I can sure as hell tell you who I WANT to win, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. And quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter which team wins tomorrow*, as long as they both step up to the plate and embrace the rivalry by playing their hearts out and giving us an entertaining, physical and 100% competitive game.

You can bet that the Michigan Wolverines will be “All In” tomorrow. I encourage every fan of the maize and blue to do the same. Wear your maize shirt to the bar. Refuse to get “down in front” at the big house. Pace nervously in your friend’s living room. Just do whatever it takes.

All In. F**K the Irish. GO BLUE!!!

*Of course it matters who wins! It better damn well be Michigan!!!

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Filed under If you didn't know now you know, Random Thoughts

Allegations, Violations and Misrepresentations. And some Henne.

In case you’ve been under a rock, the University of Michigan football program has found themselves in some hot water this weekend. According to Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder of The Detroit Free Press, the Wolverines are guilty of some major NCAA violations in terms of “mandatory” and “voluntary” practice time. If you don’t know all of the details by now and you need to get up to speed, read the article.

Quite frankly, this sucks. It sucks because the season starts on Saturday. It sucks because I GUARANTEE you that Michigan isn’t the only program doing this, but we are the one being investigated. It sucks because, in the grand scheme of things, what did Rosenberg and Snyder really accomplish in all of this? It’s incredibly unlikely that any major sanctions will be handed to Michigan, so now all these two journalists have managed to do is drive another wedge between the players, fans and coaches. In a week that should be focused on optimism, the Freep has forced pessimism down our throat.

But nothing sucks as much as the fact that Michigan’s own players are the ones doing the talking and don’t have the CAJONES to stand up and say who they are. If you can do the “right thing” and the “big thing” by whistle-blowing against your teammates, then step up and claim your prize. We know Toney Clemons had something to contribute to the conversation. That’s more than we can say about his efforts on the field while at Michigan. Terrence Taylor? Those extra “mandatory” workouts are one of the reasons your ass is in the NFL. The only other guys that we know have said something about the workout program are a pair of freshman who were bragging about the work they put in and whose comments forced the authors of the article to caveat the piece by saying that neither freshman was complaining about the workouts.

Does that make them right? No. But it shows that there are guys buying into the system, and those are the guys that want to work hard and win. My guess is that the guys who are doing the talking are guys that are either tired of the rigorous demands of the Rodriguez regime or freshman that were preyed upon by Rosenberg and Snyder, knowing full well that they could get the kids to provide soundbites that could eventually be turned back on the staff.

In the end, we get to be the face of a problem that is obviously spread throughout the entire college football world, despite what the Freep wants you to think.

  Courtesy of MSU’s Andrew Maxwell:

{Ed. Note: Brian at MGoBlog pointed out that, despite sounding similar to the Freep allegations, this statement doesn’t fly:

17.1.6.3.5 Preseason Practice. Daily and weekly hour limitations do not apply to countable athletically related activities occurring during preseason practice prior to the first day of classes or the first scheduled contest, whichever is earlier.

Aw, hamburgers. Practice limits don’t count during fall camp. You can stop bringing this up now.

Not that this prevented Michigan State from deleting that article in its entirety from its website.

{Ed. cont. They still suck. Anyway, statement is below for your reference.}

We’re almost a full week into it and preseason camp is everything all of us freshmen expected it to be: learning a completely new style of football, working hard every day to try and move our way up the depth chart, meeting new people and trying to fit in with the flow of things, and trying to get used to this totally foreign schedule. A typical day consists of showing up for meetings as early as 7:30 a.m. and being dismissed after our final meeting at 9:30 p.m. In those 14 hours, we have meetings, practice, lunch, more meetings, film sessions, dinner and meetings.

Sound familiar?

Somebody call Rosenberg and Snyder and let them know that it’s time to break another story.

In the meantime, I offer up this bit of wisdom from former UM quarterback Chad Henne:

Henne 

"That’s the players. They have to know, 20 hours, you’re never going to be 20 hours limited. You think about it, you get done with class, you start practice around 2:30 for meetings or whatever, then you go through practice, you get done at 7. So that’s four-and-a-half hours. There’s no way – you’re going to use up 20 hours easily in practice.”

“I really think whoever’s saying it really doesn’t want to be there,” Henne said. “If they’re saying that then they’re not really worried about the team, they’re not worried about what they’re going to do during their season and they’re kind of just giving themselves up. That’s just negative talk right there. So whoever it is just really doesn’t care about the team, I would say.”

“If they’re complaining about that, then they don’t want to be the best they can be and that’s their own fault.”

Henne has always told it like it is, so I have no doubt that this comes as no surprise to anyone else in the college football community. All I want now is Mike Hart to come off the top rope and finish off this shitstorm that Rosenberg and Snyder created.

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Changes, they’re a comin’…

changes

I’ve had a few folks ask me about my slowdown in posting output this summer and if everything is OK on the home front. In short: yes, everything is cool. However, despite a slowdown in posting, I have been super busy putting together some new opportunities, which are far enough along now that I can finally tell you about them.

Changing Locations

As many of you know, I’ve been covering the Red Wings for Winging It In Motown for the past few months. WIM gave me an outlet to focus exclusively on the Wings, and the more I wrote for them, the more I enjoyed being able to cover one of my topic areas with such depth. Well, as we moved through the summer, the folks over at FanBall reached out to me, and told me that they had an opening for a Red Wings blogger on their team and would love for me to come on board. Naturally, I was torn because of my allegiance to WIM, but in the end, the ability to manage my own site while getting paid some cash to do it was enough to convince me to branch out and give it a go.

I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t thank Christy, Casey and Joe over at WIM for the opportunity to work with them. It’s a fantastic blog with a fantastic group of writers, and my support for what they continue to do is absolutely unwavering. Hopefully, I’ll still be invited to the Christmas party.

With that said, I’m proud/excited/insert whatever adjective you like to present my new home for Red Wings content, Motown Wings. The folks over at FanBall have been awesome to work with in getting this set up, and have given me the opportunity to contribute to a larger sports blogging network, which has been a goal of mine since I started writing. I encourage all of you to check out the new site and let me know what you think and how I can make it better. It’s going to be a work in progress for the first couple of months, so bear with me. However, there’s alot of potential to work with, and I’m excited to head down that road. I hope you will join.

A New Endeavor

As if moving to a new blog wasn’t enough, I’ve also been busy working with my buddy Brian (@pioneerhall on twitter) to get an idea of his up and running. Later this week, we will be launching MGoTalk, a new Michigan football podcast where Brian and I chat all things Wolverines with former U of M players Jeff Del Verne and Jeremy Miller. We are currently in the process of getting the final logistics up and running, and we should have the first show ready to hit your ears sometime soon. I’m REALLY excited about this, and can’t wait to get some different POV’s on the football team, especially from a couple of guys who have been privileged enough to wear the winged helmet. Be sure to bookmark the site, as well as follow @MGoTalk on twitter, so that you can stay up-to-date on when a new show goes up as well as offer up ideas for all of us to talk about each week.

So yea, I’m staying busy and am really looking forward to these new opportunities. As always, your feedback is appreciated, so let it rip.

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Filed under If you didn't know now you know

The Mailman Cometh!

mailman

Just like this fine postal worker, I too am committed to reading the mail and answering those oh-so pertinent questions, no matter how strong the flood is. (Get it? Flood. Like “flood of mail”. Never mind.)

Without further ado, let’s get it on!

Dude,

You’ve been surprisingly quiet about the whole Patrick Kane beat down incident. What’s up with that? And what do you think about the love affair with the Blackhawks this year? Can they get it done, or is this an organization that’s headed into disarray?

J.P.

Joliet, IL

First things first, let’s talk about the expectations in Chicago. On paper, this Blackhawks team should pretty much blow fools out of the water. They can score and they can D up. They have good balance. They have plenty of youth and boatloads of talent. But, quite frankly, does anybody (outside of Chicago) really feel THAT good about this team right now? Yes, this team is fresh off of the WC Finals last year. But let me make something very clear here: there is a HUGE difference in making it to the WC Finals with no pressure on you, as opposed to making it to the conference/Cup finals with the expectations of an entire city and most of the league media staring you right in the face. Talent-wise, Chicago has the ability to do it. But take those expectations and add to them a ridiculously loaded division with at least one other up-and-coming  team of young guys licking their lips, as well as the gold standard franchise who just happens to be the two time defending Western Conference champion and your biggest rival, and all of a sudden, that hill is looking a bit steeper than it did before. And let’s not forget about the ‘Hawks “proven” goaltending in Cristobal Huet. I’m telling you right now, the Blackhawks can win the division. But don’t be surprised if they don’t.

As for “20 Cent” Kane: Look, I made dumb mistakes as a kid too. But none of them involved beating on a cab driver over a matter of two dimes. And for those of you who are shouting “but he locked them in the CAB!!!!” right now, I offer you this: I can say with a solid amount of certainty that if I got locked in a cab by an overaggressive driver, my first move would be to my cell phone to call the cops. If the asshole takes my phone or something, then it’s time to pull out my best Brock Lesnar impression and whoop some ass. Unless it’s the cab driver from The Bone Collector, in which case I would probably just scream like a sissy.

In any case, Kane made a mistake, he’s sorry, and he’ll just have to deal with whatever punishment he gets for the crime. And the probability that he’s going likely to see quite a bit of loose change on the ice this year. As for his future transportation, might I recommend a chauffer by the name of Johan?

franzen-steals-kanes-mouthguard

Next.

Hollis,

Michigan Football. 6-6. Right, wrong, or none of the above? I’ll hang up and listen.

Keith

Livonia, MI

Let me put it to you like this, Keith. Every person that has stopped me and asked me what I think about the Wolverines this year has gotten the same response: 6-6. So in a way, I suppose that makes your assessment pretty accurate. But let me caveat that by saying that I am infinitesimally more excited about this season than I was last season. I guess that’s what happens when you actually get talented players playing the important positions on the field, as opposed to a QB who might be able to lead a UM-Dearborn squad to an intramural flag football championship.

To be completely frank, I have no idea what’s going to happen this year. I expect this team to be much better than last year’s version, but they will still be  young at the skill positions, and depth issues continue to plague the defensive line. Tate Forcier has been excellent in practice so far, which is encouraging, but at the same time, he’s young and inexperienced and hasn’t competed in an actual game situation yet.

LON HORWEDEL,THE ANN ARBOR NEWS 
Incoming freshman Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier throws on the run while doing quarterback passing drills during Saturday, March 21st's practice at UM's practice field outside of Schembechler Hall.

According to SI, Michigan will go 7-5, but only 3-5 in conference. Not really encouraging. However, that would mean a win over The Slob and Jimmah, which would give me great satisfaction. However, that 3-5 conference mark doesn’t really do it for me. In Big Ten play, we get Indiana, Penn State, Purdue and the Bucknuts at the Hoose, and go on the road against Sparty, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Hmmm. You’re telling me that we can’t win four of those Big Ten matchups? Let’s dissect.

For the sake of the argument, let’s call the PSU and OSU games a loss. That leaves six games on the conference schedule. We *should* beat Indiana. The Illini Juiced us last year, and we never seem to look all that impressive in Champaign, so mark us down for an L there. Iowa will be a huge test, and a probable L, but stranger things have happened. OK, so here we sit at a probable 1-4 in the conference, with games against Sparty, Wisconsin and Purdue left. We hung with Sparty and Purdue, and beat Bucky last year, so these games are pretty much toss-ups. Best guess? Coin toss in East Lansing, win over Purdue and a tough L in Badger Country, where we never seem to do well. Which gives us either 3-5 or 2-6 in the conference. Depending on how non-conference play goes – 3 wins, with a 4th over ND very possible – we are looking at a CHollis projection of anywhere between 5-7 and 7-5, with the most likely outcome…6-6.

All of that just to wind up at .500. Here’s the key for the Wolverines, though: take care of business in the non-conference games. If we can enter conference play with a 4-0 record, all of a sudden that eight win season is viable. Long shot? Probably. But who knows how well this team will come together by then. For now, 6-6 it is*.

*I’ll update this prediction after I get a look at the squad on opening day. It’ll be nice to get back to watching football properly: from the stands.

Hey there!

How do you think the Lions will do this season? And do you think Matt Stafford is the answer at QB? Thanks!

Daniel P.

Sterling Heights, MI

Hang on…I’m counting. Right. I had 27 almost identical e-mails hit my inbox over the past 3-4 weeks. So to you, Daniel, and to your 27 cohorts, friends, like-minded fans or whatever you want to be called, here’s my prediction:

45428_Lions_Stafford_Football

The Lions will finish with a record of somewhere between “Not really sure” and “I could give a flying f**k”. It’s nothing against you, Daniel, and nothing against the Lions really. I would just encourage all of you readers out there who are even thinking about sending me a Lions question to READ. THE. “ABOUT”. PAGE.

Thank you.

And finally (been saving this one)…

CHollis,

I know you’re a Tigers fan living out in Seattle, but man, what happened the last time Seattle came and played in Comerica?!?!? I hope your friends didn’t give you too much crap!

Anyways, with one more series against the M’s left this year, you have a chance at redemption. With the season series tied 3-3 and three games remaining, will the Tigers allow you to proudly walk the streets in your “D” apparel, or will you have to take crap from your Mariners buddies?

Pete

Lansing, MI

Well, I didn’t take much crap from anyone since I’m not sure THAT many people really noticed, but I was still embarrassed nonetheless.

Anyways, here’s how I think it goes down this week:

  • M’s take Game 1: Porcello has been good. Hernandez is better.
  • Tigers take Game 2: Uh, it’s Verlander vs. Snell. Think about it.
  • Tigers take Game 3: Washburn hits the bump vs. his old squad and collects his first win of the season. It’s close though, as Rowland-Smith pitches a good one for the M’s (I saw him do it in person against the Yanks last Friday.)

Tigers win the season series 5-4. I triumphantly parade through the streets of Seattle in my Old English D and piss of the eight or so fans the city has. All is right with the world.

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CCHA to Alabama-Huntsville: Denied

UAH

In what can be described as nothing short of a surprise, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association voted yesterday to deny Alabama-Huntsville’s application to become the 12th member of the CCHA in 2010, which would have made them the replacement for the WCHA bound Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.

Already, the college hockey world is up-in-arms about the CCHA’s decision, which, admittedly, doesn’t make any sense at all on the surface. With UNO heading to the WCHA after this season, the CCHA finds themselves staring at an 11 team conference with an unbalanced schedule and a spot to fill. UAH, who is a member of the soon-to-be defunct College Hockey America, is the only team from that league who has yet to find a home in a new conference. On the surface, this looked like an easy match. But something obviously didn’t work for the CCHA, and now we have an incredibly awkward situation in which a school could potentially lose it’s hockey program after this season, while one of the premier conferences in the nation has a spot to fill.

Unfortunately, the CCHA isn’t doing themselves any favors with the way they have handled this announcement. Officially, all the league has said on the matter has come from an official announcement on the conference website:

“The league completed its due diligence of the application for membership submitted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville with careful consideration and discussion of various issues,” stated CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos. “At this time we have chosen to maintain our membership at its current level.”

“The CCHA will remain focused on maintaining and strengthening our existing members to ensure the conference’s continued success and long-term viability,” Anastos added.

Not alot to go on from Anastos’ comments, which only serve to fuel the fire of college hockey fans who are upset at the prospect of watching another program disappear from the niche landscape that is the college game.

In discussing these developments with some friends, I took some heat for suggesting that (despite not making them public), the CCHA may have some legitimate concerns which led to the denial of UAH’s application. While many college hockey fans thought that UAH’s bid was a foregone conclusion to be accepted, there were issues at play for the league that obviously raised concerns about the viability of UAH to succeed in gaining entrance. Among those mentioned at various times:

  • Lack of competition – Since legendary coach Doug Ross departed after the ‘06-‘07 campaign, the Chargers have gone a dismal 11-41-9 under coach Danton Cole. With the pairwise rankings rewarding matchups against better teams, UAH doesn’t even come close to replacing the traditionally “middle-of-the-pack” Nebraska-Omaha squad. Additionally, there has been much concern centered around the fact that UAH sits in an area that isn’t known for developing and housing quality recruits, as UAH is the only D1 college hockey program south of the Mason-Dixon line.
  • Low attendance – Despite having a facility that holds 6,600 fans, the Chargers only averaged 2,688 butts in seats for 10 home games last season. Granted, this number is comparable to the amount of fans teams like Bowling Green, Ferris State and Western Michigan draw per game, but the argument will be made that those teams are more centrally located within the conference, making it more conducive for travel, therefore negating the low attendance argument (more on this below.)
  • Commitment questions – Currently, there is no firm agreement in place with the Von Braun Center, and there are many in the Huntsville area who would like to see city money go someplace else other than to support a small hockey program. That said, the soon to be re-named Propst Center just received funds to undergo a $15 million dollar renovation, which SHOULD have assuaged facility concerns with the CCHA.
  • Travel – This one really doesn’t hold any water as teams are required to fly to Fairbanks, Alaska every season for a weekend series, as well as the fact that the difference in distance travelled to get to Omaha and Huntsville is practically negligible. However, with UNO averaging over 6,200 fans a game last season (6th best in the NCAA), CCHA officials had an easier time sending their squads on such trips. Drop that number by over 3,000 fans, and all of a sudden the conference isn’t a huge proponent of the long trip. Like I said, I don’t see this argument holding any credence whatsoever, but the CCHA brought it up and now they have to deal with the backlash.
  • The BGSU Conundrum – While having NOTHING directly to do with UAH’s bid, the CCHA has been dealing with the ongoing saga that is the Bowling Green hockey program’s bid to stay alive after next season. BGSU is in the midst of trying to cut expenditure all across the athletic program, and one of the teams that has been on the chopping block since day 1 is the hockey program. Despite claiming the ONLY national championship in school history, men’s ice hockey had it’s head in the guillotine for quite some time. However, the school recently approved $4 million in funds to help renovate the aging arena, signaling that the program might still have some signs of life in it. That said, there is still much work to be done to ensure the long-term success of BGSU hockey.What does this mean for UAH/CCHA? Well, if the CCHA brass know something we don’t about the fate of BGSU, it could have helped sway their vote against the Chargers. Voting in one team while having to watch another team fall off the board would still keep the CCHA stuck at the 11 team mark. So rather than saying “yes” to UAH right now, the league may have decided to let the BGSU saga play itself out this year, and see where they net out after the ‘09-‘10 campaign. As far as I know, there is nothing barring UAH from re-applying for admission after this season, although it would be tough to imagine them being happy about doing it if they had to given the CCHA’s current stance.

So here’s the thing:  I’m not hating on UAH.  I was hoping they would make it into the conference. I, like most every other fan out there, was hoping to see this team avoid a potential death sentence as the lone D1 independent. My point is simply that there have been concerns from day 1 about UAH’s bid, and that everyone who had gone ahead and added the Chargers to the ‘10-‘11 conference roster should have been prepared for some pushback from the CCHA. Let’s not forget that the conference is in a perennial fight to maintain supremacy with the likes of Hockey East and the WCHA, and that the CCHA is probably looking for a “lateral” replacement for UNO. Sadly, UAH is not an equal replacement and is clearly a step down from the Mavericks, which to me is the biggest reason the CCHA wasn’t willing to accept the Charger program with open arms. But that logic is part of the bigger problem across the board right now: college hockey lacks exposure and therefore new teams.

The real tragedy here is the fact that college hockey is such a niche sport that there isn’t much room for expansion or growth of the game. Because of that, there seems to be an overwhelming perception that all existing programs need to be looked out for and preserved if at all possible. Frankly, I fall into that camp. I NEVER want to see any program on the verge of dying go down that long and lonely road. But the UAH situation has raised alot of questions for me about  how a decision like the CCHA’s affects my relationship with the conference and team that I associate the most closely with, in terms of continued league success and high-level competition.

I can see both sides of the coin here. But the problem still remains that the CCHA won’t explain their logic, which is just going to continue to leave a bad taste in the mouth of fans everywhere. At this point, the league is getting blasted for their actions, so what further harm could possibly be done if they come out and say “Well, we just didn’t want UAH.” They’ll get blasted just the same way they are right now, but at least everyone will know that the CCHA sees themselves in the elitist light and we can all move forward from that accordingly. But if there’s something bigger going on here, the league owes it to fans of the game, and to the UAH program to disclose their logic.

Here’s to hoping the league does the right thing and tells us what’s going on in their heads. They’ve  already dropped the ball once in keeping UAH out. Let’s hope they don’t do it again.

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