Ohio University D-2 Hockey: From Natty Ice to the Ice at the National Tournament

“Are you drunk?”

“…Kind of.”

“Damn it, Darrow. Well, just go stand in front and don’t do anything stupid.”

To be fair, it was my roommates 21st birthday the night before, and even though we had practice at 6 a.m. the next morning, I wasn’t going to not go out. I got back to the dorm at 3 a.m. and knew if I fell asleep there wasn’t a chance I was going to wake up, so I just decided to watch some Netflix then head to practice reeking of the Junction.

It was what it was, it was the culture we created at the time. Showing up to practice or games hungover was the norm.

For those of you who don’t know the short version of my story, it goes like this:

I showed up on Ohio University’s campus in 2009 with every intention of playing division one club hockey. I turned down D3 NCAA offers to be there. The school was perfect and I wanted to contend for a national title. I got to campus, bragged for a week to everyone about how I was going to play hockey (like during those ice breakers on the first day of class), got cut, then had to seemingly live the next four years of my life with my tail tucked between my legs.

When news got out to the other programs that had recruited me, a few of them tried to get me to transfer, and I almost did. But, I was determined to work all year on my game and redeem myself sophomore year.

Tryouts sophomore year came about and I had, in my mind, the perfect week. I scored goals, played physical, and even grew my hair out so that I could add a little flavor to match my atrocious red equipment from juniors. But it was the same story.

I was told that I hadn’t made the top five centers and that I was being cut… again.

“Coach, I play wing.”

At the time, I felt like my life was over and that the last 16 or so years of work on the ice was worthless, but looking back it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

Lucky for me, two former division one guys had decided they were going to start up a division two program. And my first thought was “perfect, now I can prove myself.”

I thought that the D2 team was going to be used as a farm system for the D1 team. If someone gets hurt, which happens all the time, they would call one of us up to fill the void. Turns out, that wasn’t the case at all, and it honestly makes sense looking back.

The D1 team had their identity. They had been on campus for decades and they were damn good every year. They were fast, tough, dominant, and albeit being a club sport, one of the most supported organizations on campus.

We, as the new D2 team, had to find our own identity. We decided we were going to be the most fun team on campus.

For the first two years, we were a bunch of borderline alcoholics who just happened to play hockey on weekends. For me, the earliest days of the program were embarrassing at times.

Our original roster was put together by attending a meeting. No joke, that was the original tryout. You walked into the conference room upstairs at Bird Arena and signed a few sheets of paper, obliged to pay the amount for the year, then showed up at practice the next day.

I will never forget the first day of practice. There I was, a former two-time first team All-State selection in high school, captain of my Junior A Tier-III team, now skating with kids who couldn’t make prep JV.

“What the hell are we even doing?”

Don’t get me wrong, there was still talent sprinkled throughout our lineup. But the first year, it was really thin.

Nick Frasse and Sean Roach started the team, and I wonder what was going through their minds as we practiced for those first few weeks. I wonder if they saw the potential of the program, or if they thought they bit off more than they could chew. Both had played D1 before, and now they were stuck with this.

We actually had a pretty good inaugural season. We went 13-8-2, and the core members of our team all became really tight. Frasse and Roach installed a lot of traditions that I believe are still in place today, we had 128 N Congress – the hockey house – and by years end, it really felt like a team.

As I mentioned, we had to create our own identity as a program, and that first year we did so many ridiculous things. Over the top celebrations were a staple. In the last game of the year against West Virginia, we scored on the power play, and four of the guys all huddled by the net while Jarrod Carley put his glove on the end of his stick and pretended to take a group photo. Classic.

After another PP goal, Frasse grabbed me by the back of the pants and threw me down the ice like a curling stone while K.C. Fraize used his stick as a sweeper.

We were, by no stretch, over the top ridiculous. And it was the most fun I had ever had playing hockey.

My entire life, hockey was a top priority, and I always loved the game, but there was always a serious stipulation behind every game. Playing D2, I realized I could finally relax and actually enjoy playing the game I loved.

But at times, we got a little too relaxed.

When my junior year rolled around we had finally organized a real, on-ice tryout for the second season of our program. We had a new coach, former D1 captain Phil Oberlin, and he inherited a bunch of guys who he was used to seeing trash the bar he managed.

Little by little, we were doing things that began legitimizing us as a program. We joined the TSCHL, which has since grown into a hell of a league, and finally began to develop a few rivals.

However, we also continued our ridiculous ways and refused to set boundaries on going out before games and practices. Our homecoming game against Eastern Kentucky my junior year was one of the most ridiculous hockey games I’ve ever been a part of.

After winning 17-1 on Friday night, I drank until about 4 a.m., with some of the guys (only the ones 21 and older of course) keeping it going until 7 or 8 in the morning. I went back to sleep, knowing we had a game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, but was woken by my roommate and his older sister who was visiting to go to Broney’s at 6 a.m. for champagne slushies.

Running off about 90 minutes of sleep from a six-hour bender, we stayed and drank there for three hours before I told them I had to go the rink. As I stumbled down Court St., I was dragged into The Crystal by one of the bartenders and we took a lunch box, before I finally made it to Bird Arena. I could barely stand, yet alone skate.

I looked around the room and realized I wasn’t alone. I took one shift, tried to take a slap shot from the point, got too dizzy when I raised my stick back, fell over, and then benched myself for the rest of the game. Only our freshman and sophomores played that game, and we still won 9-1.

Now, this article isn’t about my alcoholic tendencies and the cancer I probably was to our program by encouraging this type of behavior. It’s the fact that it was acceptable. We had made it and deemed it okay. And this was only five years ago.

Deep down, we knew we were never going to be a legitimate contender for a national title behaving this way, but we were having the time of our lives.

I just want to keep saying, this was the most fun I ever had playing hockey.

Heading into my senior year, and the third year of our program, we were really starting to make strides. We had talented players from top to bottom, and were one of the best teams in our league.

I, being the idiot that I was, showed up to the first two tryouts a mess. I was one of the leading scorers the two years prior and took that for granted.

I was probably the worst player on the ice for those first two days.

Jordan Frasse, Nick Frasse’s younger brother, told me the story about how he was a freshman and he saw how terrible I was those first two sessions and he looked at his brother on the bench and asked him, “This guy… scores goals? He’s awful.”

Before the third tryout, Coach Phil pulled me aside and told me that I wasn’t invincible, and that if I didn’t start taking this seriously, he was going to cut me.

It was later this year that the guys and Coach Phil started to try implementing the idea that maybe going out every night before games wasn’t the best idea, but we broke that rule weekly. We were there to have fun first and contend second – that was the atmosphere we created.

I remember trying out for the D1 team and the tryouts extend into the first weekend of the school year. The purpose is to have the players not go out and remain focused on the task at hand. It’s a test of will. It was hard to watch all your roommates go out and have a great time while you stayed in the dorm, but it was worth it if you made the team.

We tried adding Saturday and Sunday to our tryout schedule senior year and it was hilarious. The vets all went out the night before, and I remember walking into the locker room and half of us being keeled over and lying on the floor.

But the new guys abided. They stayed in. They showed up wanting to make the team. I remember thinking that morning that maybe this was the start of something. Maybe one day this would be the norm.

Senior year came and went, and so did our first full graduating class. We lost Frasse and Roach, and I was somehow voted the second captain of the program.

My final year playing D2 started disastrous. We began the year something like 0-7-2 and I had two game misconducts in the first nine games. Pretty solid leadership on my end.

This was really the year that there was tension on whether or not we should go out before games. The three years prior, we were still winning. We’d go out on Friday night, then win on Saturday afternoon.

Now that we had created a legitimate schedule, and were playing teams like Miami (OH) and Bowling Green, as opposed to the EKU’s and Wright State’s, our bad habits began to show. We just couldn’t get away with it anymore.

I remember all the seniors sat down and we went over a new policy. I’m pretty sure I was the only one of the six seniors who wanted to allow us to still go out before games. We came to a compromise – you can go out, but no getting over the top drunk.

It was clear that I may have been the one holding us back from getting over a particular hump, but I was selfish, and wanted to keep doing things the way we had in years prior.

We rattled off like 10 or 11 straight wins after our 0-7-2 start, and really began to show that we had the talent to belong. The culture of the team was also changing.

Coach Phil was recruiting players, and not just getting bodies, he was getting us legitimate talent. We had freshman who were quickly becoming our best players. They came into the program wanting to win first, and party second, a complete opposite philosophy of what we had been using.

It was clear to me that the program was headed in the right direction. I knew that I was probably negatively affecting the locker room in terms of wanting to enjoy my last year of college, and putting that above winning hockey games.

But this was the most fun I had ever had playing hockey in my life. Our team was so tight knit, and I wasn’t ready to give up race poker.

I knew that once all of the founding players were gone, it would be a completely different program. I knew that Coach Phil needed to get our booze-filled habits away from the new players.

I just never thought it would happen so fast, and I’ve never been so happy it did.

Two weeks ago, I sat on my couch with my six-month-old son and watched as my former team defeated Toledo (who we were I believe 0-8-1 against when I was in school) to advance to the National Tournament for the first time in our program’s history.

All I could do was sit there and mumble “unbelievable.” I must have said it a dozen times.

Only three years removed from my captaincy, Coach Phil and the leaders in the locker room completely transformed this team and made them an absolute force in the D2 club hockey world.

Looking at the roster, there are ten guys left who were freshman or sophomores when I was in my final year with the team. A lot of them know what it used to be like. And I can’t imagine what it was like to be a part of the transformation.

As far as I know, Coach Phil and his younger brother Patrick have this team as tight as ever. I can see on Snapchat the ways they spend their time together on the nights before games, and it’s not taking frozen fours at 1:30 a.m.

The D1 program at OU is one of the best, if not the best, programs in the country. They cast a huge shadow over the D2 program. We would joke about it, but it was tough watching the 1,000+ person crowd for the D1 game dissipate into the street as we took the ice. A few people would stand around and look at us and be like “wait, who are these guys?”

We would stand in the tunnel and pretend to be commentators to help ease the pain of watching every single fan leave.

“And the D2 Bobkittens take the ice to a sold-out Bird Arena crowd!”

But now the D2 team has earned, at the very least, a top-16 finish in the nation.

As an alum, the entire reason for this article is to just say how proud I am of all of you. And while I know the crowds aren’t large, and the recognition is hardly there, your alumni is so damn proud of you guys.

You guys have all made a sacrifice that I wasn’t willing to make when I had the opportunity, and I’m so damn proud that it’s paying off for everyone in that locker room.

I don’t regret any part of my four years playing D2, and I think I speak for every one of my former teammates when I say that, but I also know that there were guys in the locker room who would have given everything to play in the national tournament.

Watching you guys defeat Toledo was one of the greatest moments I have ever witnessed. I felt a part of it, even though I was hundreds of miles away.

What the players and coaches have done to transform our program into a contender for the national title in such a short amount of time is nothing short of unbelievable.

I went to OU wanting to contend for a national title. It’s why I went there. Sure, my path strayed off the straight and narrow, but watching the program I was a part of for four years actually have a shot at doing so is unreal.

Soak this weekend in boys, we will all be watching. And win or lose, we will always be proud.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

John Scott’s NHL All-Star Game MVP Performance a Victory for Enforcers Everywhere

We were on the power play against a garbage team, what could go wrong?

After being named the captain of my junior team shortly after I turned 18, one of our first games was against Metro. Metro was known for rostering a handful of goons who were about to age out. They were all size, no skill.

We ran a simple umbrella, and as I took the puck on the right outside hash in the offensive zone and shuffled backward up to the middle of the blue line, I was trucked from behind. One of Metro’s many 6’4″ idiots who could barely skate tagged me right in the numbers. After watching the game film, he left his feet and drove both forearms into the back of my head, which drove my face right into the ice.

My visor flew up, and the results were a broken nose, two teeth knocked out, and blood everywhere. Needless to say, I was pissed. The trainer shoved two tampons in my nose to handle the bleeding, and put the two teeth that were in my mouthguard in a ziploc bag full of milk until I got to the dentist. After it all happened, I remember looking up to see what had happened to the guy who had hit me.

Nothing.

Why nothing? Because our team didn’t have a John Scott.

Never did look the same.
Never did look the same.

When we played teams like Metro, you were always a little nervous. Nervous that someone was going to cheap shot you, or your career was going to be ended on some embarrassing series of events because we had no one who they would have to answer to. That is, until Langer arrived.

Who’s Langer? This is Langer – the guy in white who landed about 15 clean punches and broke that kid’s orbital in that fight. When we got wind that we acquired him, I was the happiest guy in the room. Finally, someone who could fight. But, Langer would end up being one of our biggest offensive threats as well.

With him, we were actually a respectable team. We swept the CSHL showcase, and even beat Peoria 3-2, who was one of the best teams in our league. I scored twice, and Langer fought the coach’s son. He even taught me how to trash talk the opposing goalie from the bench in that game.

Point of the story is, most people don’t understand what having a John Scott on their team does for the confidence of the skill players. Having Langer on the bench allowed me to go out there and do me, and I knew I was protected if something happened. After we acquired him, opposing players laid off me, and my stats shot way up. They knew that cross checking the captain or taking a run at me from behind was not worth having to answer the door with Langer knocking.

Watching John Scott do what he did in the 2016 All-Star Game made me so happy for numerous reasons. It really is always better when what happens in real life is better than any script. It’s ridiculous what the NHL tried to do to him. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that an NHL official asked him if he thought that his kids would be proud of him for playing in the All-Star game. Please.

There’s a reason why the players embraced him as much as they did – they understand how important the role of enforcer is in the game of hockey. John Scott was representing all of the enforcers who stepped on the ice before him and allowed the skill players to go out and be magical.

Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have been Wayne Gretzky without Marty McSorley or Dave Semenko there to be his bodyguards. The reason why the Great One didn’t ever get hit wasn’t because he was that good at evading checks, it was because no one wanted to risk touching him because they knew that one of the two aforementioned guys would clean their clock if they did.

John Scott has been a journeyman in the NHL. He’s been in seven different organizations since 2009, yet still continues to have an incredible attitude toward his role.

Scott may never play another game in the NHL. It’s likely that he’ll be an AHL warrior until he decides to hang up his skates. But, last night he proved he belonged, and that’s likely all he wanted to do. He deserves to look back on this past weekend for the rest of his life and smile.

While driving his four kids around in the new car he just won for being named the All-Star Game’s MVP, I hope he remembers what guys like him did for the skill players like me who needed him. To some, this whole fiasco may have been a publicity stunt to increase viewership or create storylines.

But for a washed up kid like me, it brought me back. And words can’t describe how great it felt to see one of the many guys who play the enforcer role get some retribution to a league that never wanted him to step foot on the ice in the first place.

Thank you, John, for letting us set up the umbrella and know that we are now invincible.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

 

You can follow Shane Darrow on Twitter @ShaneDarrow.

Thank You for Everything: An Ode to Pascal Dupuis

Dupuis-Lung-PullR-copy

I remember exactly where I was when Marian Hossa was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year was 2008, and I was a senior in high school. It was late February, and I remember walking into hockey practice like I did every other school day at 5 a.m., only to look up at the TV in our locker room and read “Penguins trade for Marian Hossa” on SportsCenter. Now, growing up in Traverse City, Michigan, Penguins fans were far and few between. Pretty much all of my teammates were Red Wings fans, and I remember a lot of them being salty that Sidney Crosby, who was only in his third NHL season, would be getting to play alongside Hossa.

I, however, was ecstatic.

Any hockey fan knows how the story goes for Hossa. The Penguins get beat by the Red Wings in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, so the next offseason Hossa signs with Detroit. Then, the Penguins earn their redemption against Detroit the very next year, and Hossa is once again left on the short end of a game 7 Stanley Cup Finals loss; however, he eventually finds a home with Chicago, and I’d say – after three rings in six seasons with the Hawks – that he’s doing okay.

Not for a second did I actually believe that the other player we received from the Atlanta Thrashers in that now infamous 2008 trade would end up becoming a staple to the Penguins franchise for the next seven years.

I remember when I figured out the exact details of the trade, my first thought was “who the hell is Pascal Doo… Doo… Doopwess?” I didn’t even know how to pronounce his last name. He played for the Thrashers – the irrelevant try-hards of the NHL, there was no reason to know his name. He had been in the NHL since 2001, even recording a then career-high 48-point season in 2002-03 with the Minnesota Wild, but I had never heard of him, and I don’t think I was in the minority there.

I remember being more upset that we lost Colby Armstrong than happy about what Dupuis brought to the table.

After seeing him in black and gold for the first time during the 2008 season, I remember thinking that he would be a good filler. Third and fourth line guy who will be easily replaceable – nothing more.

Man, was I wrong.

In 2008, he helped lead the Pens to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since the early 1990s, and while they ended up on the short end of that series, it was what happened in the offseason that really bothered a lot of us.

Like I mentioned earlier, Hossa left us.

Now we were left with some undrafted 30-year-old winger coming off a 27-point regular season. This was going to be a disaster.

It would take a few years for Dupuis to really get moving in Pittsburgh, but once he found a home playing alongside Crosby and Chris Kunitz, it all started to click. When they were all healthy, there might not have been a line in the NHL with more chemistry. Sure, there were combinations around the league that showed off more pure talent then these three, but watching the three of them click was like watching poetry in motion.

The 2011-12 season, in which he accumulated 25 goals and 34 assists without missing a single regular season game, would be the best season of Dupuis’ career. Had it not been for a lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he probably would have had an even bigger year than the one prior. In that 48-game span, Dupuis notched 38 points, and established himself as one of the most dangerous wingers in the NHL.

One of the things that made Dupuis so incredible was his longevity and his resilience. Every player battles injuries throughout the season, whether they’re reported or not, and the fact that Dupuis only missed two regular season games from 2009-2012 is absurd. Four seasons, two games missed. That’s the kind of thing that you rarely see in today’s game.

It was clear that Dupuis was a catalyst to the Pens’ success on the ice, but when HBO did their 24/7 special leading up to the Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and the Penguins, fans got to see what kind of person he was as well.

After talking about how difficult being a professional athlete can be because it forces you to take extended time periods away from your family, you could see that Dupuis was not just a hell of a hockey player, but also a very loving father and husband. In today’s society, there has been so much focus on athletes who don’t really fit the mold of a role model, but Dupuis stood out in the 24/7 HBO special because you could see how genuine of a person he really was around his family, coaches, and teammates.

He also delivered, in my mind, the funniest one liner in the show’s history:

All was right in Pittsburgh. Even after two breakout seasons, Dupuis had the option to shop the market for a big contract in the 2013 offseason, but he decided to stay at home and sign a four-year deal with the Penguins, pretty much guaranteeing that he would be with Pittsburgh until he retired.

I just don’t think any of us thought that day would come so soon.

Right as Dupuis was emerging as a star, his health started to go, and the guy who seemingly could not get hurt, all of a sudden could not stay healthy.

The downward spiral began two days before Christmas in 2013. Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot would lay a hip check on Crosby, which sent him into Dupuis, who was crashing the net. Crosby’s skate would miss Dupuis’ face by only a couple of inches, but also made his knee buckle under him, which caused Dupuis to tear his right anterior cruciate ligament. Seven weeks later, Dupuis underwent surgery to repair his ACL.

Later in 2013, Dupuis would be taken off the ice on a stretcher after being struck with a puck in the back of the neck, which was fired from teammate Kris Letang. He would return just days later, but it was a scary moment for sure.

November 2014, Dupuis was diagnosed with the blood clot that would eventually end his career – the clot had started in his leg and travelled up to his lung. Dupuis had been taking blood thinners for six months while rehabilitating his knee, but when the clot returned, his diagnosis turned more serious.

This season, Dupuis has done his best. He’s played in 18 games, added four points, but has missed action on two separate occasions due to complications dealing with his blood clots. Yesterday, December 8th, 2015, Dupuis called it a career.

It was a difficult pill for us to swallow. Dupuis has been one of the key components to the Penguins’ success since being acquired from Atlanta, and while he almost always seemed to be lurking in the shadows, his contributions were endless. It was only fitting that a guy would be overlooked in the trade that brought him to Pittsburgh, spent the majority of his career being overlooked by his superstar teammates. But that never mattered to him. He just wanted to contribute. He was one of the few guys who showed up to play every shift.

This is a guy who once pulled out two of his own teeth on the bench and didn’t miss a minute of ice time. A guy who was overshadowed by stars like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but continued to be a leader behind closed doors. A guy who was loved by the media, and adored by his teammates. A guy who cut his career early because he wants to be there for his wife and be able to see his four children grow up. All in all, a selfless act by a guy who will likely never be forgotten in Pittsburgh.

For me personally, he went from a guy whose last name I couldn’t pronounce to one of my favorite players to ever wear the black and gold.

Thanks for everything, Pascal. Stay healthy and let’s go Pens.

Dupuis-Broken-PullR-copy

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs Fans are Already Throwing in the Towel

It may have only been the fifth game of the season, but on Friday night, a strange decoration was thrown onto the ice of the Air Canada Center. In Detroit, there are octopi, in Sunrise, there have been rats, but in Toronto, there are jerseys being tossed from the bleachers. It was the second time this season a disgruntled fan decided to donate his blue and white sweater to the ice surface.

It began in boxing – throwing a white towel in the ring in order to acknowledge defeat. Trainers would do it so they no longer had to watch their fighter take anymore punishment. Maybe after witnessing only one trip to the postseason since the 2004-05 lockout, Toronto fans are starting to feel the same way.

Let’s not forget that the one postseason appearance for the Leafs ended in one of the most prolific collapses in recent memory. Up 4-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins, the boys in blue gave up three goals in the final 11 minutes of the third period – including two in the final 90 seconds – before Patrice Bergeron’s overtime heroics sent Toronto packing.

I’m not saying it’s been an easy decade for Toronto fans – it’s been quite the opposite – but there are many other diehards who have had it much worse. Honestly, if you filter out the seven NHL franchises in Canada, the Leafs have had it much better than the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, or even the Edmonton Oilers. Of course, the latter two are on the rise thanks to a plethora of young talent, but that doesn’t mean the road to this point hasn’t been littered with potholes and speed bumps.

At least the Leafs have a legitimate MVP caliber talent in Phil Kessel, and – perhaps more intriguing to the fans – they get to be in the presence of Elisha Cuthbert every home game, who has been married to Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs’ captain, since 2013.

Not bad, Dion.
Not bad.

Anybody who says that the crowd doesn’t affect performance is off their rocker. Sure, professional athletes are programmed to tell the media that they ignore any recognition from the crowd – whether it be boos or cheers – but anyone who has ever been on the ice knows how much strain the fans can place on your mentality. As an away team, if you have turned the home fans against their own team, you have already locked up the momentum, which can be the difference between zero and two points.

Looking back again to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013 between the Leafs and Bruins, which was in Boston, the fans never turned on the B’s. This led to the Bruins buzzing the Leafs’ cage late in the game and eventually pushing them through to the next round. On Friday night, and down 3-0 entering the third period, the Leafs took the ice to a barrage of boos from the hometown crowd. Even after Mike Santorelli scored 21 seconds into the third period to bring the lead within two, the stagnant crowd subsided – if ever there was a time to try and rally the troops, it was then. Instead, the Air Canada Center stayed silent and the Leafs eventually lost 4-1.

Sure, the fifth game of the regular season is a far different atmosphere than Game 7 of a playoff series, but there’s never an excuse to toss your jersey on the ice. Anyone who has grown up around hockey will tell you that there is nothing more respected than the logo.

Phaneuf’s comments on the matter may put it into more perspective:

“To see a jersey on the ice like that and to see someone throw it, it’s too bad because obviously I get the message you’re trying to send, but it’s something we have a great respect for and we fight hard for that logo,”

In my opinion, the fan that threw his jersey on the ice is no better than Justin Beiber standing on the Chicago Blackhawks logo last year.

Yup, you're no better than this tool.
Yeah, you’re no better than this tool.

Whether you understand the meaning behind the logo or not, there is one thing we can all understand, it’s five games into an 82-game season – it’s not like the Leafs haven’t won a game all year, either. Starting the season 2-3-0 is far from magnificent, but first off, what did you expect? And second off, two days after the jersey throwing affair there are still four teams in the Eastern Conference who are yet to win two games – get over yourself.

Now I don’t want to throw an entire fan base under the bus because it was only a few people who have actually went to the level of throwing their jersey on the ice; however, if Toronto fans want to prove to their franchise that they’ll stick with them through thick and thin, put the poutine down and quit raining your stadium with boos whenever they take the ice.

It’s easy to cheer when your team is winning, but true fans shine the brightest when their team needs it the most.

With that being said, here is the MLIH must-see play of the week:

First off, why on earth is John Tavares shooting fifth in the shootout? I don’t care if the Islanders think they have multiple “shootout specialists” on their roster. When the game is on the line, you put No. 91 on the ice. Here’s why:

Rene Bourque’s Parents’ Front Lawn Littered with Hats After Game 5 Hat Trick

If you needed another reminder why hockey fans are awesome, here’s a story from Lac La Biche, Alberta, which is where Rene Bourque‘s parents reside.

Facing elimination, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 7-4 on Tuesday night thanks to three goals from Bourque, who now has eight goals in 16 playoff games. Bourque has been on a roller coaster this season and many Canadiens fans thought he should be dealt at this years trade line. But Bourque has been at his best when it’s mattered most. After only 16 points in 63 regular season games, Bourque has been a spark plug for the Habs and is a main reason why their Stanley Cup hopes are still alive.

Lac La Biche is 2,350 miles from the Bell Center, and while Bourque’s parents would have loved to partake in Tuesday night’s madness, they got a little taste of the fun on Wednesday when about a dozen hats were dumped on their lawn to celebrate their son’s hat trick.

Here’s the picture of the yard, courtesy of @opinionated_mom:

BoshB0xIcAAwpZx

Usually when you hear someone’s yard has been littered, it signifies something negative. For you Friday Night Lights fans out there, the ol’ “For Sale” sign in the coach’s yard is something I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve also heard of brooms being placed by the garage of a coach whose team got swept, but this shows that sometimes littering can be a good thing.

Paul “Biz-Nasty” Bissonette of the Phoenix Coyotes called the Canadiens fans at the Bell Center out for being stingy with their lids, but some residents of Lac La Biche tried to make up for it.

Shane Darrow is currently a graduate student at Ohio University studying journalism, you can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow. 

Dale Weise Broke the Players Code by Ratting Out Milan Lucic to the Media

Milan Lucic showing P.K. Subban the same respect he showed most of the Montreal Canadiens... None.
Milan Lucic showing P.K. Subban the same respect he showed most of the Montreal Canadiens… None.

Let me start off by saying that I am not condoning what Milan Lucic said, but as a player it’s clear to me that Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise crossed the line. What happens on the ice, stays on the ice; it has always been that way.

In case you missed it, after the Canadiens upset the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Lucic had some choice words for Weise as they went through the handshake line.

“I’m going to f***ing kill you next year,” Lucic said to Weise.

At first glance, this is a pretty serious offense. The ceremonial handshake at the end of the series is usually one of the more beautiful moments in the sport, but every so often, something like this happens.

It was later discovered that Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov told Lucic to look his players in the eye when shaking hands, which most likely rattled Lucic as he approached Weise.

Now, anyone that has watched Lucic play couldn’t have been too surprised at his comments, and anyone who has ever gone through a handshake line in hockey knows that it’s not always so friendly.

The ol’ “good game, good game, good game, f*** you, good game, good game…” is still alive and well. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, it’s just a part of hockey.

What bothered me the most is the media making such a big deal out of this “death threat.” Come on, I can guarantee that there were much worse things said on the ice during the series. Honestly, what Lucic told Weise was rated PG for most of the chirping that takes place during a game.

People need to understand what Lucic was trying to do, and that’s get inside Weise’s head, which I guarantee he did because Weise went crying to the media about it after the game.

The Bruins and Canadiens are one of the most historic rivalries in the NHL, which means that these two teams will meet often over the next few years. Every time Weise steps on the ice against the Bruins, he’s going to be looking for Lucic. It’s not like Lucic is a 5-foot-10, 200 pound finesse player, either.

Lucic is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and one of the toughest and most fearless guys in today’s game. Other players are scared of him and I have proof.

In 2011, Lucic ran over Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller as he came out to play the puck, which is a pretty serious infraction that usually leads to a fight or two. Watch how the Sabres players react:

The look on the Sabres’ players as they go after Lucic is priceless. Thomas Vanek, who you could tell wasn’t psyched about having to be the first one in, gets rag dolled by Lucic from a light shove. Then, it’s up to Andrej Sekera to go after Lucic, but his altercation doesn’t pan out too well either.

Point is, Lucic is a big, bad man and Weise will be looking for him in the future.

I’ll say it again, I’m not condoning what Lucic said in the handshake line, but I do know why he did it; however, the biggest problem I have with the situation is how Weise handled it.

After the game, Weise went crying to the media about how he was “threatened” by Lucic. Really? Many believe that hockey players are the toughest athletes in the world and you’re going to tell the media that you were threatened in the handshake line?

Busch league.

This wouldn’t even be a story had Weise kept what was said on the ice between him and Lucic.

I have no problem with players calling out other players for dirty hits or cheap shots that occur during a game. For example, it was interesting to hear how players felt about Todd Bertuzzi’s career-ending cheap shot on Steve Moore. In 1996, Dino Ciccarelli gave us one of the best sound bites in NHL history after telling the media how he felt about Claude Lemieux.

These were situations that deserved to be talked about because they involved plays that injured teammates. The saying isn’t “sticks and stones may break my bones, but when I hear bad words I tell the press.”

Be a man, Dale. Laugh it off and pour yourself a glass of champagne for upsetting the President Trophy winners, don’t cry to the cameras about how classless Lucic is.

Lucic was confronted about Weise’s comments and called him a “baby” for saying what he did. Well Milan, I agree.

What’s said on the ice, stays on the ice.

 

Describing the Feeling When Your Team is Eliminated from the Playoffs

PENS1

“Better luck next year.”

There aren’t four words that sting harder after you watch the final seconds tick away from their final game. The bar you’re in gets dimmer, the drink your sipping gets chugged, the potential excitement dies and it seems like there’s nothing more to look forward to.

Everything starts to bother you. The person in the screen printed T-shirt going ballistic when his team beats yours makes you want to whip a full glass toward them. How big of a fan can you be when you only have a damn T-shirt to watch game 7?

Everyone turns into an expert, yourself included. It was the coach, it was goaltending, it was the power play, it was the refs, it was a lack of execution, they weren’t focused, they didn’t play with emotion, the superstars didn’t show up, they took too many penalties, the rink wasn’t cold enough, their plane arrived late… It had to be something.

Every year feels like it’s supposed to be the year.

29 fan bases will feel the same way, but that never makes it any easier. You followed the team since the preseason and you know the ins and outs of the roster. Nothing can go wrong.

Every conversation over the next few days is about who should be fired, who should be resigned, who should be released, etc. But the thought that there are fans who are looking forward to the next series makes your teeth grind. Why can’t that be us? We deserved it, not them.

It took me a few days to calm down so I could write this. Had I written this on the night the Penguins were eliminated I don’t think there would have been too many words spelled correctly. You put yourself in an emotional coma and when you wake up you hope it was all just a nightmare. But it never is, it actually happened.

You’re out.

In the end, it’s the beauty of the game and it separates the real fans from the fake ones. Real fans struggle to go on with their every day lives when they know they have to keep their jersey stashed until the Fall. They’ve imagined the night when their captain hoists the Stanley Cup, but that night will have to wait at least one more year.

Reality will eventually sink in and people will tell you it’s just a game. It’s only hockey. There’s no reason to get upset over the things you can’t control. They were going to lose in the next series. You’re not personally affected.

But for most of us, hockey is all we are and all we will ever be. We eat, sleep, breathe and dream the game. It’s one of the worst days of the year for most of us, but it’s also what makes the game so great.

Better luck next year.

 

Shane Darrow is a graduate student at Ohio University studying journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow. Also, please check out Just Dangle Hockey for the best apparel in the business.