01 July 2011

I Don't Live Here Anymore

If you need me, I'm blogging at http://runninwiththedogs.com/. Update your links, fools!

06 May 2011

Silent Spring

Huh, how about that? Nearly a month has gone by since our lives were made complete.

Let's wrap up a few things.

First, College Hockey Armageddon appears to have passed us by. Scary Princeton Coach is going to go to Nouveau Riche University instead of our coach, who somehow still does not have a contract. Dear Bob, get it done or I am not sending you ANY MONIES. Michigan Tech has a new coach, too. Some Michigan person. Clearly he's trading up by going to the WCHA.

RWD awards for the season:

My Guy of the year is Jack Connolly, for the second year in a row.

Freshman of the year is JT Brown, though Justin Faulk was breathing down his neck.

Jacky is also the Connolly Champion, though with Mike gone he will not be able to defend his title.

Drew Olson wins the penalty title over Dan DeLisle, which was uninteresting as neither took a boatload of penalties.

Seniors Trent Palm, Kyle Schmidt, Mike Montgomery, Chad Huttel and Justin Fontaine leave us. Thank you for your fierce and unwavering commitment to the program, for making it better than when you arrived, and for giving us your very best no matter what was asked of you. Palm played on one leg. Schmidt had hand surgery days before scoring the game winning goal against Michigan. Montgomery and Fontaine gave up pro opportunities to return to school. Huttel stuck with the program despite limited playing time.

Thanks to your families as well; all five of you have families who were vocal and visible in their support for you and for the program. I didn't go to a single road game without seeing at least one Palm, Schmidt, Montgomery, Huttel or Fontaine in the crowd. Sometimes even wearing a gorilla suit or a blonde wig, making candy for fellow fans, or buying beers for rowdy road-trippers.

I'm contemplating a site re-design but haven't seen anything I liked yet. Don't worry, it won't become busy or overloaded with ads or scripts that crash your browsers, it will still be as spartan as ever. At the very least I will be doing a new banner for the off-season.

Posting will be sporadic throughout the summer, as always. I might have some other stuff to say about the season, and of course there's the All-Hottie team, and I'm trying to get tickets to the draft. I'll tweet if I update and try to keep you informed of any exciting and fun news going on in the world of Bulldog hockey.

Thanks again for reading, for your comments and your emails and tweets. Thank you for the sense of community you all provide, as Bulldog fans or as hockey fans in general. In the seven seasons I've been writing this site, I've never once wanted to shut the site down; it is always fun and the connections I've made as a result of writing are priceless. What you folks say makes me laugh, makes me think and humbles me. Victories are sweeter and losses are easier to bear when we celebrate and suffer together.

21 April 2011

Spring Awakening

Well then.

A week ago we were still floating on air. The weather was gorgeous and sunny and I zipped up to Duluth for the little celebration thingy they had at AMSoil Arena. (Every time I type AMSoil on this site I get a bunch of spammy emails asking about AMSoil as a product. Dude, it's got mad viscosity. Anyway, their $25 million was well spent on all the mentions they get on RWD.) Yes, I used a whole tank of precious gasoline to drive up for a nice, sweet, touching little speechytime and then THREE AND A HALF HOURS OF LINE-WAITING.

I'm very dedicated.

I did have a little kissy-kissy session with the trophy. Wheeee!! With my horrible hair.

Yikes. Scariness. Good thing it's a little blurry.

So things went well in the line, once we FINALLY got to the team. I had a nice conversation with Montgomery where we talked about graduating and how excited he was to get his degree and then he complimented me on my sartorial selections. As you can see above, I had on a Nirvana t-shirt that I bought at Target in the men's department for like $10. Monty is like one of the only guys on the team old enough to actually know who Nirvana is, possibly. They were my favourite band in junior high. I love grunge.

So, I felt really great about how things went. My horrible fear of making a giant ass of myself was assuaged. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, yo. Then I had totally normal conversations with MCON, Fonz, Basaraba, Oleksuk (ok maybe that was a little geeky but well within my tolerance level) and possibly others, and then some of the guys just sort of said hi and signed. I asked Grun for some pizza. He told me Flaherty got pizza sauce on some posters.

Then I started talking to Ginger Goalie Gaffy about his hair and somehow that ended up as a discussion of my horrible hear and how it was breaking off. Which it is, I really ruined it, whatever, that's not the point, who the heck wants to actually hear about that? It's like talking about picking scabs or foot fungus or something.

Then I had my final chance to talk to Faulk and get him to sign the WJC jersey I got. So I tried to tell him the story of how I had to bid on the white jersey while Hoffman bid on the blue jersey and I got the story all twisted round and somehow in the middle of it he was saying that he didn't think one of the jerseys he got was game worn because he got one and then I said "Well, you can smell it."

I should not be let out in public.

I also tried to make a mockery of the actuarial joke made by the chancellor during the speeches and instead my story of another awkward actuarial joke (or rather a series of them) by someone called Uncle Pete ended up being such a bad story that I looked even more like an ass to Kyle Schmidt than I did with Justin Faulk. Maybe. I'm not sure. I would take a poll but there were few witnesses.

In short, I should really not be let out in public.

Justin Fontaine has finally signed with the Wild. Just as I implored back in July or whenever, because I'm brilliant.

And we are potentially facing college hockey Armageddon. Though I really don't think it will be as bad as the word doomsdayers think. We'll talk more later, but it is incredibly depressing to follow up the national championship with the imminent loss of a coach and the far-fetched but still pesky rumour we may lose our conference as well.

15 April 2011

Take Good Care of My Babies

So, we bid farewell to Justin Faulk and Mike Connolly.

Here's Justin's press release and apparently the Sharks are too busy to have one for Mike's signing.

Sure, we'd have love to have both of them for another year. But Justin is the most outstanding freshman defenceman I've ever seen (he blows EJ out of the water) and there's no way that he was staying. We were lucky to have a player of that caliber who also had a lifelong dream of being a Bulldog. I have no doubt he gave us his very best and while I'm sad to see him go, I wish him nothing but the best.

And Mike. It's been a treat watching him over the past three years. A few years ago, a Camrose fan posted on tPB and told us he was even better than Mason Raymond, and we thought it was impossible. Well, Alice, there's some use in believing in impossible things, because in the college game, Mike was better.

The two most memorable goals of Mike Connolly's career are his goal against Yale where he scored short-handed and then plowed over a Yale player, and his overtime game-winner against Princeton that caused absolute pandemonium among the toga-ers. I will never, ever forget those goals. Mike is leaving at the pinnacle of his career: national champion, All-American, WCHA superstar and Bulldog legend.

Thank you both for your hard work and your legacy. Make us proud in the NHL.

14 April 2011

The Game That Was

tUMD 3, Ugly Helmets 2

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Saturday started as a day like any other day. I fell asleep watching Miracle, as I had done before the Union game, the Yale game and the Notre Dame game. The sky was gray but it was warm out, and for a moment as I got out of bed it seemed no different from a normal weekend morning.

Then I remembered that tUMD was playing for a national championship in just a few hours and it was like being hit by a bus. The impact of the realization was so powerful it was almost physically jolting.

And so I did what any smart hockey fan would do: I laced up my skates and played hockey for two hours. Every year a cabal of USCHO posters organizes a hockey game at the Frozen Four. It's supposed to be just for fun, a good time and a way for people who hurl insults at each other in the anonymity of the internet to face up to their behaviours. (This is no problem for me because I am truly a horrible person.)

For me it was two blissful hours where I didn't have to quiver in fear at the implications of the upcoming game. Two hours where I was the one playing and attempting to make things happen on the ice. I mostly failed at making anything happen, but here is a picture of me looking awesome.

As you can tell, I (second from the left) am getting burned by Yager (far left) for the 700th time. But that's ok because in the rest of the pictures I'm standing around like a fatty. You can tell it's me because of the horrible bright yellow ponytail. Also something quite strange happened in the locker room afterward but you'll have to ask me about that on your own time.

It was fantastic to focus solely on the game at hand and just to step out on the ice and skate and have a good time. I left feeling a Zenlike equanimity I hadn't had since the season started.

Of course, once we were in the car heading to the Xcel, the PANIC! PANIC! PANIC! alarm was going off inside my head. It was like 7 fire alarms, 3 tornado sirens, the horrible monthly test of the emergency broadcasting system noise and an air raid siren ALL AT ONCE. Plus a panic attack, brain aneurysm, freefall from 10,000 feet and ADHD. Oh my.

We sat at McGovern's for awhile, everyone but me acting totally normal and watching golf. Why, I don't know, because who freaking cares? It's not even interesting. Eric Stromgren from the Bemidji Pioneer stopped by to say hello. Randomly he happens to be friends with this person who bought a bee jersey last year and was standing in line with me when we were buying them.

FINALLY I convinced everyone to go over to the UMD event at the River Center. We sat there for awhile until I couldn't stand it anymore and ditched the rest of my group to go to my seat (which is good because they didn't arrive until puck drop, and the also stole a UMD flag from somewhere) and I sat there alone until Dirty showed up.

When Michigan scored, it was like Thursday all over again, and I thought I was going to vomit. Rather than vomiting, Travis Oleksuk scored a goal. Michigan started taking all these penalties and then Max Tardy banged home his own rebound and made a believer out of me. Then something weird happened and My Jacky was lying on the ice and the puck was in the net behind Kenny and I thought "Oh my god we're not going to win" even though it was tied. My gal Britt came up during the intermission and helped me pass the time without having a nervous breakdown.

In the 3rd period Michigan was given a power play for... running into Brady Lamb (who had an assist on all three goals, FYI), I guess. I mean, really, whatever. Then JT Brown made an incredible play to bring the puck up the ice for a shorthanded scoring chance and Merrill had no choice but to haul him down and we were at fours. JT drew about 3 penalties and could have drawn a few more. It was so funny to watch him frustrate Michigan. Well, it's funny now that I can relax and breathe.

When the game went to overtime I wanted to... I don't even know. I felt like I was going to pass out. I walked around the arena and found Biddco and we just sort of panicked together. I talked to a Sioux fan friend of mine and I also saw the Maroon Loon blogger who claims that I said "Don't worry, we'll be celebrating soon," as he walked away from me. That's so unlike me. I'm more likely to say "Don't worry, we'll be committing mass suicide soon."

I walked back to my seat in a daze, and to be honest I probably should have stayed in my seat. I felt like I was going to faint. Then I heard the crowd start to roar just as I rounded one of the pillars in the corner and I went RUNNING for the nearest stairway just in time to see Mike Connolly with a great scoring chance.

The only reason I can tell you how the winning goal went is because I've seen it so many times in replay. All I know is the puck was in the net and my brother practically pile-drived (pile-drove?) me and I was screaming and crying and the Aaaahj was screaming "We're #1! We're #1!" and I fell over on to the seats and someone kicked my soda and it spilled everywhere and I called Schmidt's mom and screamed nonsensically into her voicemail and I don't even know.

I am amazed that for nothing more than the price of admission I could feel so amazing. But it's not the price of that ticket. It's years, and dozens of admissions, and hundreds of miles and thousands of words. All for something that, for someone who doesn't get it, seems so meaningless and insignificant. And if I think too hard about what it means to be a sports fan, it is completely ridiculous and I'm totally overly obsessive and I don't really care. If I cared what other people thought I wouldn't be writing RWD, ya know.

And really, what else in life can give a person the high highs without the low lows. I could never feel the way about a sports team that I do about, like, a death. But yet I was screaming "THIS IS THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE!" as we celebrated, high atop the upper deck, the ultimate victory after fifty years of almosts, could have beens and not a prayers.

I feel like in a way the window of opportunity for writing this post has probably gone. I should have written it Saturday night, if I was really dedicated, but I chose to go out and party like a puck star with my friends. We watched the game again at Tom Reid's and cheered the game all over again and sang the Beer Song and sang Don't Stop Believin' even though I'm still having a hard time believing that the Bulldogs are National Champions. I could have written it a dozen times this week but I had to get it just right and now I think the moment and the feeling have slipped through my fingers.

But it really happened, and no one can take that feeling away from us. To see the first national championship by my team? I don't think there are many Gopher fans, or Michigan fans, or UND fans who can say that. But when I'm 800 million years old (next year) I can tell all the young Bulldog fans in the student section what it was like to watch Kyle Schmidt do snow angels on the ice and see the players come flying off the bench and watch the fans, young and old, absolutely lose their minds as tUMD won the national championship, in overtime, in our home state.

Thanks for the memories.

11 April 2011

Hail to the Victors

We heard that horrible song enough this weekend, but at the end of the night there was one song playing, and it was the UMD ROUSER!

Let's talk about our victors.

We fans are never going to know what it's like to be out there, playing in the game, being on the team, actually doing what was necessary to put the puck in the net or keep it out of our own net.

But they got what we were feeling. They knew what we needed, they knew how much it would mean to us, and I'd like to think they did it for us as much as they did it for each other and for themselves. (And there is nothing wrong with winning for one's self, as long as it's for the good of the team.) Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. OH MY GOD, THANK YOU FOR WINNING.

So, a few words for each of you, though you all deserve epic poems. Right now, you're all My Guys.

Joe Basaraba
You're making things happen on the ice and I can see the playmaker you're going to be. You've got grit and size but I know scoring is going to come too once the trainer's gotten through with you. You're a hell of a player and no one would know you were a freshman.

Wade Bergman
You are the league's most underrated defenceman. You go out there night after night and do anything you can to keep the puck out of the net and away from the opponent, whether it's blocking shots, the hip check from hell, or good old fashioned hustle.

J.T. Brown
Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament. As a FRESHMAN. Looks like I might not have been so crazy back in October. YOU DROVE MICHIGAN CRAZY. I mean, OUT OF THEIR MINDS CRAZY. They HATED you. And I know you loved it. You probably drew three penalties and could have drawn a few more. They couldn't match your speed and your skill.

Jack Connolly
There were hundreds, possibly thousands of us crying along with you when you were holding your trophy. Come back next year and win the Hobey Baker, as you are the epitome of that award. Thank you for bringing the trophy home to Duluth where it belongs, and where one should have been 27 years ago.

Mike Connolly
You controlled the ice for prolonged periods every time you touched the puck. You easily stood out as the best player on the ice and you almost won it in overtime, which I almost missed. You're a true talent and a deserving All-American, and they'd better have a mural of you in the DECC next fall. A Camrose fan told us you were better than Raymond and we didn't know that was possible, but you showed us that it was.

Aaron Crandall
We would not be here without the ten wins you gave us, which included two shutouts. You outperformed what any of us could have imagined and you stepped into a void we were terrified we couldn't fill. Again, let me say, we could not be here without your play and it was totally awesome to see how you ate up Wisconsin.

Cody Danberg
A fluke injury kept you out of the lineup but that doesn't mean you didn't influence your teammates. You're a hard-nosed gritty guy who gets the ugliest goals I've ever seen and I can see that same work ethic in the guys with similar games. We're privileged to have you play next year.

Dan DeLisle
You are a physical force on the team and the wussy Eastern players and refs would not have been able to handle it. Your game has improved leaps and bounds over the past year and it's going to be exciting to see you light up your opponents next year. You did your uncle Joe proud this weekend, I am sure, and you looked absolutely pumped out of your mind during the celebration.

Justin Faulk
You're a freshman, and you totally got what this meant to the city of Duluth and to the tUMD fans. I suppose we have your cousin Marco to thank for that, and I'm sure he's unbelievably thrilled that you were able to finish his business for him. You wowed everyone watching this game with your talent, your poise and your composure, and the fans in Carolina are salivating at the prospect of your arrival. We are lucky to have you for this year and if that's all we get, it was one hell of a year.

Keegan Flaherty
Another hometown boy who will go down in history on the first team to bring a championship to Duluth. Every time you stepped on the ice I could see your determination, even from the very tippy top of the Xcel, and I hope you don't think your efforts have gone unnoticed. Our near-perfect PK is thanks to you and your merciless defence.

Justin Fontaine
I heard a funny joke on the broadcast: that you are overshadowed by your linemates. Hardly. If the MN Wild management have brains in their heads then we'll be seeing you in the Twin Cities for a long time. We are privileged to have watched you blossom over the last four years from a kid with a bright future into an elite player in the league. Thank you for staying this year to bring us this incredible gift.

Christian Gaffy
I can't even imagine what your hair is going to look like as it grows back. tUMD was in a bad spot looking for another goalie when you came along. With McNeely coming in this might be your only year on the team and what a year it's been. What a ride you've been part of, and though we never saw you in action I know that it's our loss and it would have been darn fun to cheer you on in at least a period or two of hockey.

David Grun
You swore on national TV! That in and of itself is awesome. You've played every possible role on this team except goalie, it seems. And you've done every role you've played justice. You're a total ass-kicker on the PK and you've got a scoring touch when it's needed.

Jake Hendrickson
You were ALL OVER the ice on Saturday. You have great hands; I'm pretty sure you'll be finding the back of the net a LOT next year. You helped ensure that Michigan had to worry every single second of the game, there were no shifts they could take off as our "energy" guys have a heck of a lot of skill in them.

Chad Huttel
You're crazy, kid. Straight up crazy and I love it, because that's just passion for the game. You're ready to step up for any of your teammates and you leave it all out there on the ice. I loved seeing you skate around like crazy on Saturday night during the celebration, and I am glad you gave us four years of mad intensity.

Scott Kishel
You stepped in when we needed you to play and looked like you hadn't missed a beat. We're ready for your steadiness and your puck moving skills next year in our back to back quest starting next October. It's great to see yet another Iron Ranger get a piece of a national championship.

Brady Lamb
You had a hand in every goal Saturday night. Incredible. THREE ASSISTS IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, that's unreal. With a couple great chances for a goal as well. We all know the penalties that were called on you were b.s.: apparently a guy running into you when you're going full speed and get tangled up is considered hitting after the whistle? Come back next year, Brady, we want four years from you!

Luke McManus
We still get four years out of you, and though there's no doubt you would rather have been playing, we are all looking forward to what you can bring to our blue line next year. When we raise the banner next year I hope you are suited up in your gear and in the lineup, but know you are every bit as much a part of this win as any other guy who will be receiving a ring.

Mike Montgomery
So you walked onto this team a forward and you are walking out of here as one of the league's top defencemen, and if you don't have an NHL contract then there are a few dozen general managers who all need to be fired. You are an amazing player and an example of how hard work and perseverance pays off. You've stood tall for the team through on and off ice adversity and you have shown true dedication by sticking it out for four years to honor your commitment even when the pros were calling.

Travis Oleksuk
You did what people were starting to think was impossible: score on Hunwick. You lit up the crowd and ignited the team. You are the first son of a Bulldog to come here and play and if every Bulldog had a kid like you we'd never lose another game. You were a beast on the face-offs, too.

Drew Olson
You only have one mode: beast. You're great defensively but you know when to turn on the jets and step up into the play to make things happen. You have stepped up your game for the team when they needed you the most and you're a brick freaking wall. Getting hit by you must feel like a freight train.

Trent Palm
Sometimes guys talk about dedication using hyperbole, saying "I'll play on one leg," and such things. But for a couple years you actually did play on one leg. Just to keep playing hockey for the Bulldogs. Your brothers are completely insane, I should mention. But we can all stand to learn a few lessons from your heart, grit and determination to be the player we knew you could be.

Kenny Reiter
YES YOU DID! We were chanting that at Tom Reid's after. Holy crap did you stand tall throughout this whole tournament. You are so calm and collected and on the uncommon occasion where the defense broke down you rose to the occasion and made some spectacular saves. You won the biggest of the big games for us. KENNY REITER! YES HE DID!

Kyle Schmidt
When tUMD won the Final Five in 2009, you weren't in the lineup. When tUMD opened AMSoil Arena, you weren't in the lineup. I hope those disappointments were somehow erased by scoring THE BIGGEST GOAL IN BULLDOG HISTORY. How fitting that it would be a local boy to seal the deal for us. How perfect that it would be our "Unsung Hero," a role model on and off the ice, and a senior leader ending his college career in the most amazing possible way.

Mike Seidel
You certainly impressed some people on the national stage. Barry Melrose absolutely loved you and your intensity. What a stacked team we have that a player of your caliber is on the third line. It took three Michigan players to hold you back and they took a penalty to do so.

Max Tardy
What a time to get your first goal. And what a beauty of a goal it was, too. The commentators noted you were executing exactly as your counterpart on the first PP unit were. I may have questioned why you were on the power play, but you proved me wrong, and you are just now getting to show off your talents. I should have known better as Sandy did the same thing two years ago with T.O.; we had a fresh guy with skill playing in the tourney.

10 April 2011

Lovely Day

This was the greatest day of my life.

I can't do it justice tonight. But please know that I am so happy that I did not bleach and subsequently ruin my hair for nothing. And I cried when we won. And I cried about 10 other times.

Max Tardy, I am sorry I doubted you. I am so, so, so excited that you scored your first career goal in the biggest game in program history.

This is unbelievable. And it's TRUE. It's REAL. And IT FINALLY HAPPENED.