Friday, December 23, 2005

What a long, strange trip...

For me, it all started in October 1996, when I took a part-time job with Shockley Communications-owned WDSM, then on the verge of becoming an all-sports radio station. They needed people to come in and "run the board" (radio jargon for operating the control board) during sports games and other programming that couldn't be set up for computer autopilot. Along the way, you had a chance to record sports and weather updates, giving you a chance to be on the air every now and then.

Sometime before I got a chance to actually do a talk show, I started to get the itch. I felt like it was something I could do. Like many people, I thought it was easy until I learned differently. But even that didn't change my desire to be a talk-show host. I got my chance in the fall of 1998, hosting a Saturday morning show centered around local sports. My co-host was Chris Long, then getting his start as a weekend sports anchor at one of the local TV stations. Long and I got along very well, and the show lasted for nearly five years before they went in a different direction with it.

I was able to parlay our success into my own daily talk show, which premiered on April 12, 1999. At the time, I didn't know that I was going to end up doing this for a living, and I didn't know that I would end up on the air for almost seven years.

We had a lot of fun. I had a chance to cover some great moments in sports and allow people to talk about them. Phone calls were always a vital part of what I did. Without the occasional troll to rile me up, or the occasional disagreement that turned into a great debate, the show would never have been as good. And I never would have had as much fun.

I'll never forget the day Walter Payton died. Grown men calling in and expressing their admiration for a man they never met, and some of them having trouble getting the words out.

I'll never forget the Friday before the Vikings-Giants NFC Championship Game. Hordes of Viking fans expressing gloom and doom, while I, a freaking Packer fan, tried to calm them down and convince them that the Vikes were going to get it done.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Moss Moon. Bonds chasing history. The Twins' AL Central three-peat. The Brewers sucking. Mike Randolph getting fired. Mike Randolph getting hired back. Countless great high school games...players...teams. State tournaments. NCAA tournaments. Junior's Hobey. UMD in the Frozen Four.


9/11 was different for me. Here I am, Mr. Hardcore Sports Fan. It's what we talk about on the air. I don't do one of these dopey sports shows where we talk about the war, the Patriot Act, Medicare, traffic, and everything else that isn't sports. We talk about sports. So when 9/11 happened, I didn't know what we were going to do. I stayed off the air that day, choosing to let the national news radio coverage handle things. The next three days were the longest nine hours of my life. But they were among the best shows I ever had. We just shared our emotions. Our feelings. And we had some good discussion about the role of sports in all of this. As you may recall, we only had high school games that Friday night. Everything nationally was cancelled. And what an unbelieveable experience it was to be a part of. It was a great emotional boost for everyone who attended games that night.

It's today that I look back. It's been 2,448 days since I made my debut on a daily sports talk show. It's been close to 2,700 days since I first co-hosted a talk show. A rough calculation estimates that I have done in the area of 2,000 talk shows lasting a total of 5,750 on-air hours.

That's a lot of talking. I think I've gotten halfways-decent at it over the years.

But the talking will, at least temporarily, be coming to an end.

I have decided to take a hiatus from hosting a daily talk show so I can concentrate on other duties within our company. It's not a reflection on anything or anyone, other than me and my desire to succeed in management, and I don't feel I can properly focus on my duties while also juggling three hours of daily sports talk.

There will come a day, probably in 2006, when I get sick of not being able to vent every day. More specifically, there will probably come a day where my wife tells me to get back on the air. And it will happen. You have my word. But for now, tonight on KDAL marks my last talk show for some time. I'll still be around, doing sports reports and the occasional fill-in appearance, along with UMD hockey on KDAL.

I want to take this chance to thank everyone who has helped me professionally, especially John Munson and Mark Fleischer, who gave me my first jobs in radio. Muns might not remember, but he was the first to give me a chance to do play-by-play. And he kept reminding me that you can never say the score too often. Chris Long was my first, and best, co-host. And there are too many others to thank without forgetting someone who was vitally important.

Most of all, I want to thank all of you. Thanks for listening, and thanks for reading the blog, however often you have done either. Without your support, I'd be doing something less desirable for a living, instead of continuing to steal paychecks doing something I love to do.

Thanks, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all of you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fire Sherman, Take Two

I know it's been said before, but I'm here to say it again.


I said it before Monday night's loss to Baltimore (then again, it was only 48-3). I'm saying it now. Mike Sherman is a complete, absolute, historic failure as a head coach. With Dick Jauron now collecting a fatter paycheck than earlier in the season, it's worth mentioning that Sherman isn't the worst head coach in his division anymore. Congrats, Mike. Maybe you can have someone in your family get you a shirt that says "I'M SMARTUR THAN DICK JARUON" so you have something to wear at the game on Sunday.

Clearly, you're not interested in actually coaching this team, so we might as well have some fun in these last two games, right?

This isn't to absolve the players of their responsibility in this. After all, if they had done a better job of mailing it in, the Ravens would have been convinced that their offense was practicing against traffic cones instead of playing a game against a real opponent. While I'd love to blame the team's "Who gives a crap?" mindset from last night on the head coach, I'm a firm believer in that a coach can only do so much. At some point, the onus is on the players, highly-paid and mainly finely-tuned professional athletes (and adults, too), to prepare and be ready to play when the lights go on. The Green Bay Packers didn't do that last night, choosing instead to stand around and watch.

Stand around, like Robert Ferguson did while Donald Driver tried to shake free from three Baltimore defenders and make a play when it was 31-3 in the third quarter. Don't bother blocking anyone, Robert. Just stand there and look like you'd rather be filing your fingernails. What a great example to set for the young kids watching. When the game gets out of hand, stop trying. Stop competing.

Don't worry. The coach won't do anything drastic, like, say, benching someone who doesn't want to play. He'll just leave you out there so you can continue to not give a crap.

In the end, there weren't nearly enough guys, Brett Favre included, who looked like last night mattered too much. For the first time this season, Favre looked like a guy who would rather be mowing the lawn at home than playing football. Hopefully, that's not a sign of anything. Meanwhile, the sight of players standing around and moping around the field was more prevalent than anything else for the Green and Gold. Sad, really, because the Packers looked like a team that was hardly interested in draft picks during the last few weeks. They fought hard and played hard, even if they didn't play well (and that was usually the case, as their record would indicate). Last night was the first time all season that the team was completely noncompetitive.

And Sherman just stood there. Don't bother benching anyone, Mike. Don't bother chewing anyone out for not giving any kind of meaningful effort. Just stand there with the tip of your stupid Sharpie in your mouth. Make some faces in the general direction of the field. What a great coach. Teaching and coaching to the buzzer.

Mike, you're a failure. Examples:

Your team is woefully unprepared for games. In each of the last two games, your opponent has taken a double-digit lead in the first quarter. The opponents? Detroit and Baltimore. If you combine those offenses, you still have a horrible unit that shouldn't score many points against any NFL defense. Nice preparation. And I'll say nothing about the offense making Detroit's defense look like the 1985 2005 Bears. Twice in one season. That same defense, by the way, yielded 41 points at home against Cincinnati this week.

Your team is woefully undisciplined. The stupid penalties continue. I work until 8pm and have to drive about 15 minutes to get home. In that span, along with the time it took me to take my jacket off, tuck my son into bed, and get settled in, the Packers fell behind 14-0 and took about a half-dozen penalties. The penalties have been a problem all season, but nothing has been done. Ahmad Carroll commits a dumb penalty practically every game, yet the Packers' idea of punishment was benching him for a half and then cutting his main competition for a starting job.

You have failed, miserably, to rein in Brett Favre. I know his reputation is that of the "old gunslinger". But Favre is at his best when his coaches are keeping him somewhat under control. The Packers are losing right now, in large part, because Favre has made a bad habit out of throwing uncatchable deep balls that get intercepted. He's back to 1993 form, where he constantly made bad decisions and was often bailed out by butter-fingered defensive backs. It's something he can work himself out of, but he won't do it under this coaching staff. This coaching staff has made it clear that they're not going to try to get Favre under more control. At least, they haven't yet. And it's Week 16. You'd think they would have done it by now.

The playcalling sucks. Nothing like facing a superb pass rush and throwing the ball 61 times while running less than half that. Brilliant. Sherman tried to excuse it as the team being in the two-minute offense a lot. Nope. The playcalling sucked. The team was in the two-minute offense when they didn't need to be, and they had chances to run the ball that they wasted trying to get Favre to throw short passes against a quick defense that eats those kinds of things alive.

This team has been embarrassed multiple times under Sherman. The first home playoff loss happened. Many chalked it up to some tough late-season injuries and the fact that the streak was eventually going to end. It didn't have to be Sherman's fault. But what's happened since has to be blamed, at least in large part, on Sherman. The Packers are 12-12 at Lambeau Field since that night, including an embarrassing playoff loss to a completely disjointed Minnesota team last year. The Packers have lost home games in which they blew huge leads (Kansas City in 2003), blew late leads (Philadelphia in 2003), were basically not at all competitive (Chicago and Tennessee in 2004), and where they played clearly inferior teams (Cleveland in 2005, the Giants in 2004). They lost a December home game to the FREAKING JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS.

And to top it off, they just lost on national television to a four-win team by 45 points, and it wasn't even that close.

Fire Sherman. Please. We deserve better. Don't make us march on Lambeau Field in Bears colors on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Randomization - 12/18/05

BREAKING NEWS!! More troubles in the Gopher hockey program. Word is that a Gopher player went to the bathroom this morning and didn't wash his hands afterward, choosing to only rinse them in cold water. KMSP is investigating with hidden cameras, and they may have something for us in time for February sweeps.

It needs to stop snowing now. 12.5 inches earlier in the week. At least six more Friday morning. Then we got dustings each of the last two nights. That's enough for now. I get it. I should be excited about going to Florida in seven days. And we'll have a white Christmas. And all the snowmobilers are happy. And my back hurts now because I had to shovel in the middle of a freak blizzard Friday morning. Thanks for that.

Herb Bergson is sorry. I commend him for his contrition. It had to be difficult to stand there in front of all those reporters and talk about a rather embarrassing situation. Sounds like he's dead-set on not drinking again. From someone who is greatly experienced in not drinking, it's not a bad thing. Time now for Duluthians to move on, as there are many important issues to deal with.

The Senate has rejected a renewal of the Patriot Act. Good. Thank you. While I'm at it, stop sniping at the BCS and baseball. It's none of your business.

Speaking of baseball...Cuba cannot field a team in the World Baseball Classic, thanks to our federal government. George Steinbrenner is mad, as he was planning on getting at least two starting pitchers off the Cuban team. In all seriousness, this is a silly ruling. Cuba's players are no threat to this country, and while I understand that we are trying to protect the spirit of our trade embargo with that country, there's really not a whole lot of harm to be done in allowing them to play here.

Could the Bucks and Wolves both be good? Probably not, but they're both off to good starts this season. The Bucks have been shooting well, and they have overcome some woes on the home floor to stay in contention so far in the East. The Timberwolves lost three straight heartbreakers, but they look like a team that will make noise in the West, especially if they can figure out who is going to make some offense happen on this team to take pressure off of Kevin Garnett.

The Colts lost. Good for the Chargers, and for the 1972 Dolphins. I don't think I can figure out the media's fascination with the Dolphins' players. While I acknowledge that they look silly popping the corks every year when the last NFL unbeaten finally loses, I also don't have a problem with the tradition. If I had a "record" like that, I'd probably use this event as an excuse to throw a little party every year. Not only that, but most of those former players have said that it's not that they don't want other teams to have success and match their achievement. It's that they are proud of what they did and that the "record" has stood for so long. I didn't see any of them donning the colors of the Colts' opponents every week. Now that would be a bit overboard.

Reggie Bush turning pro? Holy crap. I can't believe it! Now I suppose you'll tell me that he's going to be the top pick in the draft, aren't you?

The bowl season starts Tuesday. Not that you should care about it, but the New Orleans Bowl kicks us off. As long as the powers-that-be (read: elitist pigs) in college football don't want a playoff in Division I-A, we'll have to live with the system we have. Luckily, the system we have did give us highly entertaining championship games in Divisions I-AA, II, and III. And the system will give us at least a dozen or so entertaining and compelling bowl games. The first one isn't one of them, though it should be interesting to see if Arkansas State can stay in the game long enough to allow their best player, RB Antonio Warren, to be any kind of major factor in his last game for ASU. The Indians have an okay offense, but Southern Mississippi has way too much bulk and talent on offense and speed on defense for ASU to be a major threat.

Hope you like the page redesign. We changed the look of the main blog page, and we added a few different links. Hopefully, you'll stop here daily to check for updates, and you can use this page to link to other sports sites, newspapers, and cool fan sites and blogs from around the internet that I like to check out regularly. If you have a suggestion for a site to add to my link list, or if you want me to add your site to the link list, feel free to drop me an e-mail. Also, if you want to add me to your link list on your site, go right ahead. Let me know if you would like to reciprocate (assuming I'm not already).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Gophers Gone Wild

As many of you may recall, it was in November that KMSP-TV, the Fox affiliate in the Twin Cities, aired an "investigative report" showing underage members of the Minnesota Gopher men's hockey team drinking at a bar near campus. Blarney's Pub and Grill in Dinkytown has been the subject of conversation in the hockey world ever since, as folks were left to wonder what, if anything, the Gopher coaches would do about the situation. Head coach Don Lucia and athletic director Joel Maturi issued joint statements condemning the behavior, and at the time they said the situation would be handled internally. Word was that no suspensions were handed out to any of the players, which included Kris Chucko, Jeff Frazee, Evan Kaufman, and others, many of whom were underage at the time of KMSP catching them on camera in the bar.

Still, at the time, I made it clear on my radio show that the coaches and university should be allowed to do what they feel is right. While you and I might have felt that suspensions were warranted, we didn't have all the information. We don't know what was talked about behind closed doors, and we don't know what the players were told about what would happen in the event of future transgressions.

In the meantime, Gopher fans were outraged. They felt that KMSP used this story as nothing but a pure ratings grab. Their stance was given credibility by a few factors:

1. November is a key month in TV news. It's "sweeps month". And in November, the numbers can have a great impact on the ad rates for early 2006. It's traditionally considered one of the most pivotal months in television.

2. KMSP spent much of the first day of the story's run promoting the fact that they had video evidence of Gopher hockey players violating team rules. Their promotional announcements were prevalent during the Vikings game that afternoon in the Twin Cities.

3. KMSP took a story that was worthy of about three minutes of airtime and made it into a three-day series, with each day receiving a lot of promotion on their station, as well as through radio advertising.

While I defend the right of a TV station to participate in a blatant ratings grab, using college hockey players in that ratings grab is near the line of good taste in journalism.

Now comes more information from KMSP. This time around, it's information that might make for a compelling story, and it's information that might leave Lucia no choice but to levy suspensions on at least some players.

Now KMSP is alleging that Gopher players brought recruits into the same bar. And those recruits, under 18 in some cases, were allowed into the bar without even a discouraging word from the bar's bouncer.

Among the interesting points made in the KMSP story:

What does the University of Minnesota policy say about this ? Drinking alcohol during recruiting visits, regardless of age, is against U rules. Before a visiting athlete comes to campus, he or she has to sign a form saying he/she won't drink. Each visiting athlete is assigned an official host. A current team member who must sign a form saying he'll use appropriate judgment in entertaining the recruit.

Some might remember a similar situation developing recently with Gopher football recruiting visits, as it was uncovered that current players were taking football recruits out to strip clubs and bars. The U tightened and reaffirmed its policy after that happened, and now, as KMSP points out, recruits and their hosts have to agree to behave themselves during campus visits. This seems petty, but it's the U's way of covering their own tails. After all, it's impossible for the coach and the AD to track these recruits through their entire campus visit. At some point, the onus is on the players, all of whom are adults, to be responsible and handle themselves respectably.

KMSP's report also mentions that the bar owner has been accused of giving free drinks to players, and he has been on the list to receive free tickets to hockey games and other events. This stuff is difficult to prove, and the bar's owner, Mike Mulrooney, has denied this practice. He acknowledged that underage people may be getting into his bar, but he denies giving special treatment to athletes. The report also states that it isn't just athletes who get in underage at the bar:

The FOX 9 Investigators spoke with 8 former bar workers. The picture we come away with is a bar where underage drinkers are loose like kids in a candy store. A bar owner more concerned with making money than following the law and more concerned about packing customers in than about the customers themselves. And sources say that applied to all customers, not just athletes.

Gopher haters are now outraged. First, it was players drinking underage in the bar. It's hard to talk negatively about that, since most people accept that this goes on everywhere that there is a college campus. Now, it's recruits getting into the bar. Gopher haters think this is the sign of a program spiraling out of control, a program on the verge of NCAA trouble.

In reading the stories posted on KMSP's website, I get a different impression. I don't see a program spiraling out of control, though I fully acknowledge that there may be a need to discipline some of the players over this. That's still up to Lucia and Maturi. What I'm seeing is a bar owner who is out of control. A bar owner who doesn't care about the rules. Doesn't care about the law - at least when it comes to underage drinking. Doesn't care that his bar has developed a reputation for serving underage patrons until they are passed out.

And I don't think that Mulrooney cares about what happens to these hockey players...whatever that would end up being. That's evidenced by this paragraph from KMSP's report:

In a written statement to the Fox 9 Investigators last month, he said "the issue of identifying individuals with false identification is one all liquor establishments are faced with." Mulrooney sent a second statement to us yesterday (Tuesday, Dec 13) saying our sources "aren't credible, adding, "it is difficult to ensure that our efforts to prevent underage drinking are 100 percent effective."

In other words, even though the KMSP cameras caught Mulrooney's bouncers letting players in without ID checks, it's the fault of the players for using those dag-nabbin' fake IDs to get in.


To me, Lucia and Maturi have few options. While I'm not going to tell them how to run their program, I do think that it's time to ban players from setting foot in Blarney's. You might not be able to stop Mulrooney from buying tickets and attending hockey games, but you can tell your players to stay away. There is precedent for this in higher levels of sport. In October, after defensive back Ken Hamlin was seriously injured in a bar fight, Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren banned his players from going into the area of Seattle where Hamlin was injured. If a pro coach can get through to his players with such an ultimatum, a college coach as reputable as Lucia should have no problem.

While this step may have been taken in light of the November reports, the program now needs to make a public example out of the establishment and the owner. Mulrooney's statement to KMSP where he tries to absolve himself of reponsibility is ludicrous, and the U shouldn't allow him to publicly throw his buddies under the bus to save his own hide.

Suspensions, in this case, are probably excessive. After all, we don't know how long this has been going on, and we don't know how many players have gotten away with it in the past. If the staff makes clear to the players that even setting foot in Blarney's will result in a suspension in the future, they have to trust that the players will get the point.

Monday, December 12, 2005

UMD hockey midseason report

Well, it's close enough to midseason. Chris Dilks, a St. Michikato Mancloudgan State fan who also runs a fine blog on college hockey on the left side of the country, has asked some of us who write blogs (and those of us who take a month off from ours) to opine about the team(s) we cover at the near-halfway mark of the season.

As you may recall, Chris helped us out with analysis of Minnesota State. I feel that, as the radio voice of UMD hockey, I should at least try to break down where the Bulldogs are as they turn the calendar to 2006 (only four games left in 2005).

Chris' questions are in bold, followed by my best attempt at an answer. Enjoy.

1. In 50 words or less, give a quick overview of your team's season so far.

I keep seeing UMD listed with eight losses. Strangely, I don't remember four of them. Weird.

Rough start, as 11 freshmen tried to figure it out. They have been improving, and now have given themselves a chance to steal home-ice from a higher-regarded WCHA team with a strong second half.

(Ha! Exactly 50 words. Someone give me a cookie!)

2. What is the general consensus among fans about your team?

Generally, I think the fans are understanding. Howie Hanson, who opined about a "poorly-prepared" team getting embarrassed in the opening weekend against BSU, has strangely not said one word about UMD since. Nor would he appear with me on the radio when I challenged him over his stupid remarks. And that was before I got the play-by-play job. Imagine how he would have reacted if I'd have called him out after getting the job.

Anyway, outside of Howie's run-and-hide mentality, most people around here have been quite understanding of the early struggles. You don't have to remind most Duluth hockey zealots that the team has all these freshmen and has had to deal with the Meyers injury on the backline. They get it. And they're thrilled with what they've seen lately from freshmen like Mason Raymond and Michael Gergen, among others.

3. What does your team need to do better in the second half to improve?

It starts on defense. I really like what I have seen lately from freshmen Jason Garrison, Matt Niskanen, and Adam Davis, all of whom have played well as of late (Davis had, in my opinion, his best game as a Bulldog in the Saturday effort in Mankato, and he was pretty good in Colorado, too). Garrison and Niskanen are going to be stars. Niskanen, selected to the U.S. Junior National Team roster last week, is smooth as silk on both ends of the ice. Garrison's slapshot is going to kill somebody if he isn't careful (that poor Yale goalie still has a headache). And he's getting better on defense, too.

But, as a team, the 'Dogs aren't good enough defensively. The goalies have played pretty well, but they're not good enough to win games on their own. Josh Johnson's Friday effort at CC is one that stands out as a cry for defensive help. He made a number of saves early to keep the team in the game, but there were too many defensive breakdowns to count, and he couldn't keep all his team's mistakes out of the back of the net.

I would also submit that the team has to start games stronger. They were badly outshot early in both games in Mankato, and they got off to a terrifyingly bad start against CC on Friday night. The team started better on Saturday, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. They can't afford to keep with the trend of poor starts, because the margin for error isn't at a point where they can be falling behind all the time.

Also, discipline must improve. Too many dumb penalties. Too many unnecessary penalties. As much as I liked the idea of getting physical with Sterling on Saturday night in Colorado, you have to be careful and be smarter about the timing of said physicality.

4. Who is your team's star player and how has his season been going?

Before the season, I would have said Tim Stapleton was the star player. Buster is still doing well, but he hasn't yet carried this team offensively. For the most part, he hasn't had to. Gergen and Raymond have both been playing well, and Raymond's recent surge (including a five-point weekend at CC) has him leading all WCHA freshmen in point scoring during conference games. His ice vision is incredible, and his scoring touch isn't exactly something to sneeze at. Stapleton has stepped up since the WCHA schedule started up, but right now, Raymond appears to be the best player on the team right now. As he improves throughout the season, the sky is the limit for the youngster, and the Vancouver Canucks will eventually be thrilled with their 2005 second-round pick.

5. Who on your team doesn't receive the credit he deserves?

I'd go for Andrew Carroll, the freshman who has a nose for everything and always seems to be giving a better effort than anyone else on the ice, but I think he's been getting love.

The forgotten man for UMD so far has been Matt McKnight.

McKnight has been centering UMD's top line for much of the league schedule, and he's done well. He's been pretty solid on faceoffs, and his point production has improved by leaps and bounds from his freshman campaign. He plays hard on both ends, and he has shown deft passing ability along with some scoring touch. Not only that, but he's growing into a leader.

6. Who is your favorite player to watch?

Raymond. He's Mr. Excitement. Not to discredit anyone else on the team (as I already said, Carroll is always playing hard and forechecks like a crazy person, Niskanen is fun to watch because of his poise, and Garrison is going to be a great offensive defenseman before he's done), but you know when Raymond is on the ice. And lately, you get the feeling that you're merely seconds away from something good happening when you see #11 out there.

Is it wrong to hope for another NHL lockout so this kid doesn't go anywhere?

(Actually, it is, because the lockout probably wouldn't stop anyone from jumping if the time was right.)

7. Who or what has been the biggest surprise for your team this season?

I would have to say that I'm surprised by how quickly UMD's freshmen have grown up. It's baptism by fire, because there are so many youngsters and so little depth, especially at forward. But it's been fun watching everyone get better, and the improvement has been pretty consistent from week-to-week as of late.

It only makes the team's prospects for the second half of the season more exciting.

8. What is going on with your team's goalie situation?

After a rough start and a lot of uncertainty, both junior Josh Johnson and senior Issac Reichmuth have settled down and played well. To me, it all started with Issac killing off a five-minute power play in the Friday night game at Michigan Tech. The Techies got nine shots on goal during the five minutes, many of them from close range. Reichmuth got on a roll after that, and with the exception of a weekend-long hiccup against North Dakota, he has played very well since that tough start. Johnson sat after a struggle in the Saturday Bemidji game. He got a chance to play against Yale when Reichmuth was among five UMDers suspended for a team rules violation. Johnson played so well in the Friday game against Yale that he started Saturday's game, too. He carried that over to a strong effort in the Friday MSU game in Mankato. Despite allowing seven goals Friday in Colorado Springs, the consensus seemed to be that Johnson played okay, and that the score could have been much worse had Johnson not played well, especially early in the game.

9. Where do you see your team in three months?

Playing the Saturday game in the first round of the WCHA playoffs (March 12 is three months from now).

Seriously, I think UMD has a chance to gain home ice. Before the season started, most "experts" felt that the top five contained Minnesota-Twin Cities, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College, in some order. But I think the overwhelming sentiment around the league was that this group was the top five, and the other teams would be jockeying for position in the second division.

Of the teams in the "bottom half" of the league, I think UMD has established themselves as "Most Likely to Crack the Top 5", which is, of course, significant in that it would earn the Bulldogs home ice in the first round.

It's still going to be tough, with one series left against each of the five aforementioned teams. But UMD has chances to clean up at home against MSU and the Techies in January, and they have done a pretty good job so far against teams they "should be able to beat".

10. Who will you be saddest to see leave at the end of the season?

Not a lot of choices. And the answer is easy.

Tim Stapleton has tremendous speed and skill. He has a coolness about him, both on and off the ice. I like his personality, and I like his game.

With all due love to UMD's other seniors (Issac, Swanson, Williams, and Czech), Stapleton will be the one I miss the most.

11. Who are you most excited about joining your team next season?

Alex Stalock.

Simply to watch my wife's face turn red in anger every time he wanders out of the crease to play the puck. It's going to be worth the price of admission (which is now $0.00 for me, now that I think about it).

12. What has been the highlight of the season so far?

I really hate to pile on, but the three-point weekend against Minnesota-Twin Cities was fun. The way Nick Kemp reacted to his early goal on Saturday against the Gophs was special. You could tell it meant something to him to score against the Gophers. Andrew Carroll got his first goals of his UMD career, too. And he chased UMTC Saturday starter Jeff Frazee. That had to be fun. I know I enjoyed it. Rik did, too.

Really...I'm not dead! MUSINGS 12/12


No, I'm not kidding. I am.

With all the travel, combined with the hard work to do when I'm actually at work, the Blog has not been first and foremost among my thoughts. Nor should it be.

But that doesn't mean I should run and hide for three weeks or whatever it's been.

Alaska was fun. So was Colorado. I'm looking forward to a week in Florida. That will be cool. What's better is that UMD's men's hockey team is improving. The youngsters are really coming into form, especially Mason Raymond, who has been on a scoring tear as of late and is showing incredible skill and ice vision. The goaltending has been improved of late, too. It wasn't Josh Johnson's fault that Colorado College hung a touchdown on him on Friday night. He didn't have a lot of help in that disastrous third period.

In football, the right guy won the H*i*m*n. But don't go too far to pat the voters on the back. It's not like they had a choice. Even last year's winner voted for Reggie Bush, even though last year's winner could have voted for himself. It was that obvious.

While we're talking about people that don't deserve a pat on the back, how about the BCS apologists? "The BCS got it right this year."

Well I should hope it did! There were two unbeaten teams in Division I-A college football. Both of them were in "power" conferences, and both of them were at the top of the heap throughout the season. If the BCS screwed this up, the people responsible for this stupid system should be publicly flogged. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea, even though they did get it right.

While I'm randomly ranting, let's talk politics. The big story in Duluth today is the Friday night arrest of the city's mayor, Herb Bergson, for driving while, um, well, not sober. The story going around is that the mayor was on his way to a conference in Chicago (some environmental deal) on Friday. He told the Duluth News Tribune that he had hoped to make it to Eau Claire, WI, that night. He made it about halfway there. Bergson suffered minor injuries in a battle between his car and the guardrail along U.S. Highway 53 near Spooner, WI, in Washburn County. The battle was won decisively by the guardrail, as Bergson's car was totaled. After reportedly telling passersby not to call the police (gee, I wonder why), Bergson was eventually taken in when responding officers thought something wasn't right.

I have a few thoughts:

1. First, I want to say I'm glad Bergson is okay. His injuries were minor. The car can be replaced. And if this is a sign of any personal demons that we were otherwise not privy to, I think I share the sentiments of most in this area when I say that I hope Mayor Bergson can conquer those demons (I don't know the man and don't know if such demons exist, though this incident at least shows that it's possible they do).

2. Why is the mayor of a reasonably-sized city like Duluth driving to Chicago? Mapquest says that's 472 miles. I know they don't have a lot of money in Duluth (there's been talk of the city filing bankruptcy, after all), but are they really that poor that they can't afford to get the mayor a plane ticket for such a trip?

3. The accident occurred at 6:25pm on Friday, according to the DNT report (DNT website). The mayor was legally drunk (.161, or twice the legal limit) at the time of the crash (George Carlin: "If it's legal, what's the [expletive] problem?"). Let me be the first to say that I hope that his consumption started out of the office, which means I hope he didn't just leave work and start on his trip.

4. Combine this with the whole "Firing a guy by sticking a note on his office door and leaving town" thing. Seriously, is Bergson trying to throw the next mayoral election? If he doesn't want to win, why doesn't he just decide not to run?