Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trophy Chasing Still Alive and Well

The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament started Wednesday, but many of the reporters and almost all of the fans who converge on the XCel Energy Center aren't showing up until Thursday.

That's when the Class AA teams take over, playing in front of a full building and getting much more attention than their Class A counterparts got Wednesday.

There better be some better competition in these games, because the first day of the tournament was a total bust, thanks in large part to a perennial Minnesota power and a trophy-chaser.

It's hard to have a lot of issues with Warroad. They're a small school, and Class A was designed for the small schools in the small towns. It's not their fault that Roseau got tired of losing to them and bolted to AA, where they compete with Moorhead and little else for a state tournament slot.

Breck, on the other hand, has about as much business in Class A hockey as Eden Prairie would.

It's ridiculous, frankly, that the Minnesota State High School League continues to let private schools use their inherent advantages to abuse legitimate small-school operations and destroy any chance they may have of winning the state tournament.

Let's face it. The two-class system in hockey wasn't put in place so St. Thomas Academy and Breck could chase trophies. It was put in place so Mahtomedi and Hermantown could enjoy their special teams that probably wouldn't be good enough to beat the big-school teams they would have to face in a one-class section.

Somewhere along the way, the MSHSL lost the message, and they've refused to take anything remotely resembling a tough stance on the private school issue.

On one hand, you have schools like Benilde-St. Margaret's, Hill-Murray, and Holy Angels, private schools who know they can compete at the highest level, and they choose to play Class AA when their enrollment doesn't dictate they do so.

On the other, you see the likes of St. Thomas Academy, Blake, and Breck, none of whom really have any business in Class A, but insist on staying there so they can more easily compile section and state trophies against lesser competition.

What fun was there in watching Breck and New Ulm Wednesday night? Why would you want anything to do with that kind of game? It's embarrassing, frankly, and it's not just because New Ulm came out of a ridiculously bad section.

The MSHSL has no honor, and they bear all the responsibility for this. The Class A quarterfinals were a joke, and it's time to address the many issues facing the state's high school hockey product. From this chair, it's clear there are few options.

Force all private schools to play Class AA. This would have multiple effects. First off, it more or less levels the playing field in Class A. Secondly, it puts the private schools all in the same class, and it puts them against programs that might be able to compete with their ability to load up with elite players.

Lower the enrollment limit to play Class A. This will hurt the number of teams in Class A, but it will take the bigger private schools like Breck and St. Thomas Academy out of the running for a championship they probably don't have any right claiming.

Frankly, a smaller Class A that better serves the purpose of Class A might be a really good thing in the end.

Put all Twin Cities Class A private schools in the same section. This screams as a totally unfair idea.

But what's more unfair? Sticking the likes of Breck, Blake, and STA in one section, allowing them no more than one Class A tournament spot, or letting them dominate more watered-down sections in order to chase trophies they should already consider out of their league?

Perhaps, the State High School League continues to do nothing on this issue because they enjoy the attention. After all, there's no such thing as bad publicity. However, it's time for a change in how this sport is run, preferably so we can avoid the kind of embarrassing "state tournament" display we saw Wednesday night.


Fire Helmet Guy #26 said...

Good read, Bruce. Couldn't agree with you more!

Ryan said...

There is a reason the fans don't flock to St. Paul on Wednesday, and it's not because the hockey is so much better on Thursday. On Thursday, they know they are going to see games that have the best of the best. On Wednesday, we also know that due to the MSHSL's soft stance on private schools that we will likely see a lobsided contest like we did last night.

And that's just not fun.

Anonymous said...

all true about Breck. However Hermantown throughly beat them in every way except the one that counts.