Thursday, July 14, 2011

National Collegiate Hockey Conference Has Work Ahead

I didn't spring for a plane ticket to Colorado Springs for Wednesday's big event unveiling the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

In retrospect, I couldn't be happier about not spending that kind of coin.

Wednesday's press conference was nothing more than a waste of time in my eyes, and I was merely calling in to the event from my desk here in Duluth. I can only imagine how angry I would have been had I taken the time and money to fly to Colorado Springs for what should have been a historic moment for these six programs.

More time was spent explaining the history of Penrose House -- and the Broadmoor -- than was spent explaining exactly why the hell this was happening.

I'm not saying that the history isn't significant, and I'm not saying that the history isn't worth mentioning.

But they buried the lead, and it almost felt like they did it for a reason.

The NCHC announcement felt disorganized, somewhat contrived, and completely out of haste. It didn't ring as a well-organized event, and it didn't sound like the six schools had spent much time coming up with a good story about why they decided to break off and form a league together.

(And this is someone who was joking with an official from one of the schools involved over the weekend about sending in a bill for "all the PR work I have been doing." I wasn't expecting the world Wednesday, but I was still sorely disappointed. That should tell you something.)

The question-and-answer session at the initial press conference was completely void of anything newsworthy or notable. You can argue that the six athletic directors and coaches all made themselves available to the media afterward, and you'd be correct. However, the way those sessions were organized -- three at a time -- made it tough for those of us intent on asking actual questions of those involved in the NCHC decision. We were left to try to pick between Ken Ralph and Bob Nielson, and then pick between Brian Faison and Trev Alberts.

For those of us dialing in on the phone, it was a hit-or-miss proposition just trying to hear what the principle people were saying. That only rendered our job more difficult.

If you were working on site, you were lucky in one way. You were in Colorado Springs -- a great city. But you couldn't roll your eyes at everything without potentially being seen. That was an advantage I had, and my eyes almost got stuck in the back of my head, as I heard people generically talk about core values and take veiled shots at those programs they were leaving behind.

North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison made it abundantly clear that his program intends to "be a good member" of the WCHA until the 2012-13 season ends, and the move officially takes place.

While Faison was unwilling to identify a "breaking point" when asked what made him finally decide to break away from the WCHA, there were a couple references by others to the formation of the Big Ten Conference, which was officially announced in March.

There was a lot of talk about competition -- from what I heard, it came up with UMD coach Scott Sandelin, Colorado College coach Scott Owens, Denver coach George Gwozdecky, and North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. No one wanted to poke the remaining WCHA teams, but one couldn't help but look at the comments as being directed a bit in that direction.

Whether the NCHC feels it is breaking off the strength of a top-heavy league or not, that appears to be a potential reality. None of the coaches or athletic directors want to be part of a program going the way of the dodo bird, but none of them could guarantee that wouldn't happen.

Of course, it's out of their hands now.

This isn't meant as a rip. It's a reality. The NCHC didn't make a good first impression for itself. It reminded me of a scene in one of my favorite movies.

You might remember that after this impassioned, emotional, off-the-cuff speech, Jerry and Dorothy (and the fish) got in the elevator, and Dorothy asked Jerry if he would have a medical program (she is a single mom, for crying out loud!). Jerry had that flushed-out look that made us all understand that he didn't know what the hell he was doing, and that he would figure it out as they went along.

The NCHC has two years. Along with a medical program, they have to complete the process of incorporating, need a commissioner, a PR guy, a place to put their stuff, and a plan to move forward.

But you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For the most part, people weren't impressed Wednesday. It leaves the NCHC with plenty of work ahead.


Burly Beard Brew Blog said...

Why do I have a feeling this is all going to blow up in our faces?

Runninwiththedogs said...

Agreed, Bruce. Let's keep it in true perspective: Sandy's mother just died and he flew out for that... that... non-news conference.

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