That's right, baby. It's back. Sort of. For the first The Gauntlet of the season, RWD interviewed sometime Bulldog photographer, copy-editor, and mixmaster Larry R.
RWD: So, usually I am better prepared, with planned lines of questioning, but since I'm not out to trap you into admitting something or trying to make you look crazy, I'm not as organized.
Larry: Considering most of the tens [of people reading RWD…] already think I'm nuts, feel free to fire away.
RWD: Tens of people may be exaggerating.
Larry: Well I know I read it, not with any dedication, but I've been there multiple times. [Oooh! That means elevens of readers!]
RWD: Superb! That makes me very happy. Perhaps you could start out by informing my readers who don't know you exactly how you are involved with the UMD hockey program.
Larry: Now my involvement is as a volunteer. I'm available to them as needed for whatever type [of] help they need: stats, photography and operations director for game nights. Back in 1997, I was involved in setting up their music system, and brought full time planned music to games. I did that for 5 years, and now it’s more of a support role. [Isn't Larry the genius behind "Don't Stop Believin'," which has been ripped off by everyone from other sports teams to tSopranos?]
RWD: How long have you been a Bulldogs fan?
Larry: I'm really aging myself, but I've been a fan since 1983. I became a Dogs fan when Mom said I couldn't go to Madison to go to college because it was too big, so I traded Cardinal Red and White in for Maroon and Gold.
RWD: The best choice you've ever made.
Larry: Without a doubt, the friends I've made with my involvement at UMD are priceless. [For buying additional friends, there's MasterCard.]
RWD: Were you a college hockey fan in college?
Larry: I was a freshman in 1985. I waited outside (it was a true camp out back then) the Thursday night before the Monday tickets went on sale. I failed my first collegiate exam because I was out drinking when I should have been studying for a [microeconomics] exam. I was a season ticket holder for four years, and my last year, I worked for the Sports Info Office, so I didn't need a ticket.
RWD: So that's a yes.
Larry: Definitely. I think I missed a total of 6 home games in 5 years.
RWD: 5 years is a bit accelerated compared to some current tUMD fans. [RWD included!]
Larry: I was ready to go. 1987-1990 weren't the best hockey years. Seriously, I love Dale Jago, but top scorer?
RWD: I'll just note that here... *man-love for Dale Jago*
Larry: I'm sure his wife will appreciate that.
RWD: Are the college years a bit of a blur for you, or do you have some outstanding memories of Great Moments in Bulldog History?
Larry: I don't have my media guide within reach to cheat, so I'm all on my own. It started so strong with Hull. Just to watch him skate was amazing. I remember a shot that he took from the blue line that hit behind the top rows at the top of the DECC and bounced back to where the Zamboni comes out. It might have broken the safety net; it was that hard. After that, you know the team trended down, so it wasn't a great set of years to be there. We had some fun, I traveled a lot to the away games, but there were certainly more nights drinking over losses than partying over winning… It was different back then, the team had house parties and they lived at the Warehouse, so it was never a boring time.
RWD: Team house parties! Sounds exciting! [It must have been much easier to be a stalker back then.] Where was this "Warehouse" located?
Larry: One of the many Park Point Hotels is now occupying its place. It was right next to the Burger King that used to be on Park Point. It was "THE" college bar during the time I was in school. Grandma's was for the upscale kids and where girls went because they didn't want to get spilled on. Everyone else was at the Warehouse.
RWD: I would definitely be at the Warehouse. [Getting Old Milwaukee dumped on me and getting confused for a guy, obvs.]
Larry: You would have been right at home there. It was definitely a tPB type of place.
RWD: Would you say there was more interest in Bulldog hockey back then (both in the community and among students), or less?
Larry: I think it has followed the same course it does today. 1984-86 there would be people scalping tickets outside, much like the end of 2004 and to some extent 2005. But when the team isn't winning, the interest goes down. My first senior year, nobody waited in line for student season tickets.
RWD: It goes in cycles, I suppose. It would be nice if those winning cycles were longer.
Larry: I think that everyone wishes that. I'd be happy to finish in the top 5 every year. In this league that is all you can ask for.
RWD: So after college, did you stay in Duluth or double-cross it back to Wisconsin?
Larry: I left for 6 years, moved a lot working for a company in Wisconsin, but they opened an office in Duluth and I moved back [for awhile].
RWD: Do you still cheer for Bucky, or have you seen the light?
Larry: I [currently] live about 90 minutes from Madison, and so I still cheer for them when they don't play the Dogs, but you won't see me in any Wisconsin hockey gear anytime soon. I'm a huge Badger Football and Basketball fan. But part of that comes from the fact there is absolutely no way you will every see me with an M on shirt.
RWD: So you save your real hatred for UMTC.
Larry: I have absolutely no love for their program at all.
RWD: Back when you were in college, who were some of your favorites (other than your bf Dale)?
Larry: Hull, of course, but I was more a fan of the working class guys. Joe DeLisle will probably be one of my all time favorite players.
RWD: When did you start doing photography for the games?
Larry: I traveled with the team in 2004 to Boston, and I had my camera there. In 2005, I got a call from Jess Myers (who was working for Inside College Hockey) asking if I could shoot a game, and I've been covering for them ever since.
RWD: Who do/did you enjoy photographing the most?
Larry: I like shooting goaltenders [I agree, I sometimes feel like shooting goaltenders, too.]; they provide the best action shots. Alex is a lot of fun to shoot because he is so mobile. Elliott from Wisconsin always seemed to come up big, and Lamoureux from North Dakota provided a great shot that ended up being a save that was ESPN's play of the day during the Frozen Four. I have that as a poster that I'm waiting to get signed. [Larry = the ultimate Fan Boy.]
RWD: Are most of the photos from the Bulldogs' site your own?
Larry: The school has an official photographer, so most are his. I try to schedule my trips home when he isn't there so I can get something up on the web.
RWD: Do you ever do photos for the DNT?
Larry: I do some freelance for them; I do some work when they don't have coverage and I'm in town or if they are on the road, I'll send pictures up.
RWD: You would think they would have a staff photographer just for the Bulldogs.
Larry: Their sports department is pretty small and they have a huge area to cover. Budgets just don't allow them to keep someone like that on staff.
RWD: I just laughed. What exactly are they covering that's more important than the Bulldogs? Smelt fishing? [No offense, DA and Gramps.]
Larry: I'm sure they spend a great deal of time covering things like the DHW [Drunk Hockey Walk] [Brilliant! I couldn't think of a better use of resources. Except that nothing I do on the DHW is anything I'd want documented for the public domain]. That goes in cycles too. When they win, they get more coverage. When I was in Boston, they had 3 people out there, so keep winning is the rule to better coverage. That’s why the women’s team gets its fair share.
RWD: Oh man, you touched on the hot button issue. [Bracing for impact.]
Larry: I am usually on the wrong side of that issue.
RWD: I don't have an issue with women's hockey, other than no checking. Who would you say are some of your current favorite Bulldogs? Or are you going to Ciskie-out and say all of them?
Larry: Nah. I don't have to deal with them on a daily basis or need them to keep a talk show running. Do I get bonus points for Mr. Curry? Jason Garrison is one of them, I was a big Bryan McGregor fan (they'll miss him) and I like Alex because he is so unpredictable.
RWD: Well, don't lie. If you don't like Curry, don't say you do to suck up to me. Not that anyone could NOT like him.
Larry: Not knowing what you like about him aside, he is a great presence on the ice, and I like how he works. And if he ever gets paired up in the penalty box, you can learn a lot why he gets under peoples skin.
RWD: I'm a fan of that. Everything he does it seems is designed to irritate someone.
Larry: He’s a lot like Stauffacher, except bigger. [Um, like a whole freaking foot bigger.]
RWD: I'm surprised you would find "unpredictability" in a goaltender "likeable." [I'm sure Scott Sandelin thinks it's a laugh riot.]
Larry: That’s the photographer talking. My dad would like him to be more predictable.
RWD: How about your all-time Bulldog favorites?
Larry: Hull, Podein, DeLisle, Plante, Lessard (love the accent).
RWD: What do you think about Junior's professional situation?
Larry: He has enough talent to play in the league. I'm not an expert on NHL clubs and their needs, but he could be an every day player for someone.
RWD: Evidently no one felt that way, as he cleared waivers and will be in the AHL. [With the extremely sexy Chris Conner.]
Larry: Hopefully he'll end up in Milwaukee and I can go see him play. I'll drop $12 a night to go watch him skate.
RWD: If you were the coach of the Bulldogs, what would you do differently?
Larry: Not that Scott needs my help, but I'd really like to see two things: get someone who isn't afraid to crash the offensive zone with the puck, and I'd really like to see them try something different with the power play. [NO FREAKING KIDDING. Maybe they need to try a little more cowbell.]
RWD: That was a nice roundabout way of seeing where you stand on the coaching issue.
Larry: He has a tough job, and I imagine there is some real pressure on him to win. I think losing Nisky is the big loss, my understanding that while UMD may miss the scoring touch, they'll be better off as a team without Raymond.
RWD: Wow, can I print that without being sued for libel?
RWD: Most Bulldogs fans have two outlooks to the season: what they hope will happen, and what they believe will happen. The two rarely align. What are your predictions and hopes?
Larry: As a lifelong Packer fan, I know how that goes. I think they finish 5th, and end up making it to the WCHAs. I always hope they make a run, because it makes the post season more fun when you have somebody to cheer for at the rink.
RWD: So you think, realistically, they are going to be 5th in tWCHA? [As you can probably tell, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this.]
Larry: I think they have a shot at it. Alex is going to have to carry the team, and he does have the talent. If the team gets off to a good start, they have the ability to catch people. If the team comes out as a team, they'll be able to string some wins together, and that will give them the confidence they need to be successful. But then, I was always the [delusional] optimistic guy.
RWD: To wrap things up, as this could go on all night, I'll open it up to any comments you want to make about Bulldog hockey.
Larry: I think the Dogs will surprise some people this year. I'm excited for the year, The Superior Cup with some teams that used to be good rivals, and a league that is always stacked with talent. If they get some league wins early they can position themselves for a playoff run. Unfortunately, the schedule at the end of the year is a big test. But that’s when you'll see what character they have.
RWD: Any bold predictions, or "calls" as Bert Blyleven says?
Larry: Wisconsin wins the league in a runaway. The three first round picks that they have make them a force to be dealt with right away. That being said, they probably finish 4th.
RWD: Whoa, it's not a call unless you believe it's going to happen. No qualifiers. No reneging.
Larry: I believe they have the ability to run away with the league. But, if reality sets in...
RWD: Who's your breakout player of the year for tDogs?
Larry: Put your money on Michael Gergen. [I have none, thanks for reminding me.] I think he has the most to gain from Raymond leaving early. If he steps up and takes the offensive role that they brought him in with, watch out.
RWD: Ooh, he is My Guy, other than Curry. Most Impactful Freshman?
Larry: Evan Oberg. He'll step up and replace Nisky right away. Close second for Cody Danberg if he stays healthy.
RWD: Larry's Personal Player of the Year?
Larry: Andrew Carroll. He provides the leadership and will lead the team in points.
RWD: Well, that's the good word.
I can't believe I friggin' forgot to ask him who the hottest Bulldog was!