Sunday, September 16, 2007
Gopher Hockey Manifesto
This entry isn't going to make me many friends in the local hockey community, but I was recently asked why it was that I dislike the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities hockey program to the degree I do. In response to that question, I offer these reasons:
(1) BACKGROUND. I am an alumnus of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, home of an often-ignored Division 1 hockey program. It is ethically impossible to be a fan of both teams, ala the Red Sox and the Yankees. Of course you'd get the argument that the UMD-UMTC series really isn't a rivalry because the Bulldogs have not lived up to expectations recently, but to that I say hogwash. Just because a particular team sucks doesn't mean it can't be a rival. UMD hockey sucks because of the UMTC, and that leads me right into my next point.
(2) EXPOSURE. I lived in Duluth until I was 22 years old, and stunningly enough, I am sure I watched twice as much Gopher hockey than Bulldog hockey. Every single UMTC game is televised throughout the entire state. Every single bleeping game. Hockey fans in Northeastern Minnesota should grow up Bulldog fans based on geography alone, but on cold Winter nights they are forced to watch the only games on TV, which happen to originate from Minneapolis. It's now even gotten to the point where UMD hockey isn't even going to be televised locallly at all this season, save public access TV.
(3) RECRUITS. Everyone knows the Gophers are the Yankees of college hockey. They get all the best in-state recruits every year. Why is that? Well, let's see. Let's say I'm a 14 year old hockey phenom from Hibbing. Being a phenom you could probably assume I watch a lot of hockey. Who's on TV? Oh yeah, that's right, the Gophers, even though there are 3 other NCAA Division 1 schools in the state. Never mind that, they're the frickin' Gophers.
(4) THE WOOGER. TV analyst and former coach Doug Woog drives me crazy. Whenever the UMTC plays another team with a good Minnesotan on the roster he is sure to declare during the broadcast "why isn't he playing for the Gophers?" His arrogance alone is reason enough to turn the channel. For those of you not familiar with the Wooger, when he coached he wouldn't allow any non-Minnesotans on the team. None. What sense did that make? That's why it was completely ironic that once he left the team (and they started recruiting non-Minnesotans) that they won their national championships; a North Dakota native scored the title-winning goal.
Granted, some of the reasons I raised here are those of a beaten down, humiliated Bulldog fan, but I truly think there's some truth here.
Update 9/18: I've got some venom built up over the "better facilities" argument also. Mariucci may be the finest hockey rink I've ever seen a game in. It's a first class facility and does nothing but help recruit better players to the UMTC. Duluth needs a new rink, and when they asked the State for funding, they were told that if they wanted a new rink they should pass a referendum approving an increase in the local sales tax. The city's residents voted, approved an increase, but the State legislature didn't act. Everyone's trying their hardest to keep the program down.