Tag Archives: womenshockey

“Pink at the Rink” Auctions

The ECAC has sponsored a new Coaches vs Cancer and American Cancer Society benefit called Pink at the Rink. Game-worn jerseys from all women’s ECAC teams in action this weekend and next are up for auction on eBay, and each coach has put up a game-worn tie, scarf or other piece of clothing.

You can find the “Pink at the Rink” jerseys through an eBay search (the link takes you there), or click on a team’s logo on the ECAC CvsC landing page and you can see the whole ensemble (now there’s a word you don’t see much in hockey rinks).

$150 for a game-worn jersey, with proceeds going to the appropriate cancer-related charities directly through MissionFish, is a good deal. MissionFish is eBay’s charitable giving and processing partner, and I’ve used them for the work we did last year in raising money for autism awareness through Assist From Bubba. It’s very low overhead, very fast, and a very good cause.

Whether you’re a fan of Pat Burns, Saku Koivu, or Phil Kessel or anyone else affected by cancer, you know that cancer is unerring in its bad sportsmanship and even play — anyone, anytime, any age, and any where, it leashes out. Give it a strong check — in any interpretation — right back.

Good Luck, Laura Halldorson

As widely reported about five weeks ago, Laura Halldorson resigned as head women’s hockey coach at the University of Minnesota. She was their first coach and had a decade-long tenure which included three national championships and five consecutive Frozen Four bids (the only coach to ever do so). Her bid for the hat trick in titles was spoiled by the University of Wisconsin (head coach Mark Johnson of 1980 Olympic fame). The problem with creating excellence in women’s hockey is that Laura’s work created competition, and as the women’s sport grew so did demand for players and the demand on coaches. I’ve suggested here and to The Hockey News that a career like Laura’s deserves respect as one of “power and influence.” Sadly, I think that window of recognition has closed. She leaves some big skates to fill. Laura coached five Olympians and 2005 Patty Kazmaier award winner Krissy Wendell. I can’t imagine a greater thrill than to have one of your own players win an award named in honor of a former teammate (Patty and Laura played together at Princeton).

If this entry sounds as if it’s written with first-hand knowledge of Laura Halldorson as a coach, it is.

I’m probably one of the only men she ever coached, and “coach” is used with great literary liberties. Laura and I were members of Princeton’s Colonial Club, and while I hacked away on our intramural hockey team, she offered insights, instruction, and basic clues about life on skates. She introduced me to her teammates that she brought over for lunch; she gave a stick wave during the few games I managed to catch at Hobey Baker Rink. If you can imagine a Heismann Trophy winner sitting down to talk about short pass routes with some nerdy guy who played tag football to get out of Phys Ed, you’ll appreciate the dichotomy in skills and perspective. But never once did Laura bring it up; she only offered her fun laugh, some gentle encouragement, and an occasional hint that my lack of stopping ability might not be due to a skate sharpening but rather to the lack of pressure on those sharp edges. Some things never change.

I, like so many players in the First State of Hockey, am most proud to have called her “coach.” Good luck with whatever comes next, coach.

Top Ten Hockey Books

I love books. I buy many more than I read, and lately I’ve been buying out of print or gently used editions from amazon.com to add to my collection. Typically the used tomes fill in from days when spending $15 on a book would have put a serious dent in my spending money. Now that I can dabble in books and have somewhere to put them other than a cardboard mover’s box, I’m able to build up small libraries in obtuse topics such as Lake Placid, New York, hold’em poker, cryptography, and 70s art rock group Yes.

Without any further introduction, here’s my current top ten favorite hockey books:

Last Season, Roy MacGregor. The only fictional book in the list, and one of the few sports-related books that’s ever made me profoundly sad. Perhaps it’s “Bats” discovering his limitations as a man and player; perhaps it’s the surprise ending.
Ice Time, Jay Atkinson. A book for hockey dads by a hockey dad himself, who also happens to be an outstanding sports writer. Atkinson follows the trials, travails and training of the Methuen, Massachusetts high school team, but this book truly digs into what it means to be a good youth sports parent.
Boys of Winter, Wayne Coffey. Of all of the content scribbled about the Miracle on Ice, this is far and away my favorite collection of insights and stories. Coffey takes a look at each player, and how their lives were shaped before and after the famous 4-3 game in Lake Placid. I quote from the introduction frequently as our youth hockey season winds down, as Jim Craig’s few pages alone are worth the cover price.
Blades of Glory, John Rosengren. Sort of the foil to Ice Time, Rosengren follows big-time high school hockey in the first state of hockey (Minnesota). Another great look at a season from deep inside the locker room. Casual references to players from rival high schools read like a who’s who of young NHL players, with the New Jersey Devils’ own Zach Parise and Paul Martin making cameo appearances as themselves.
Home Team, Roy MacGregor. He’s so good he gets two slots. Non-fiction and closer to home (literally). Blend Last Season with Ice Time and you get this book, a look at fathers and sons in and around NHL draft events. Expectations, met, exceeded, undershot or crushed, and how hockey families sometimes are more about family than hockey.
They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven, Ken Baker. You’ve probably never heard of Ken Baker, as he was a goalie for Colgate but never “made it”. I only discovered this book after reading Kathyrn Bertine’s All The Sundays Yet To Come (figure skating and anorexia in South America, but quite funny), as she and Baker were friendly at Colgate. As an adult league player, and someone who has met many guys who always wondered if they could have made it in the ECHL, this is a great read: Baker tells a story of fulfilling his dream of playing professional hockey well after he had hung up his skates, and the result has the poignancy of a Disney movie blended with the rough edges of “Slap Shot.”
The Game, Ken Dryden. Stanley Cup, Montreal Canadiens, Cornell University, and now big-time Canadian politician. Awesome read, and in a newly released reprint.
Beyond The Crease, Martin Brodeur (and Damien Cox). Not at all what I was expecting. Rather than the usual “I was taped to the goal by my older brother who fired pucks at me from a carbon-dioxide powered air gun” story of his life from 3 years old to 3 Stanley Cups, Brodeur’s book focuses on much more recent events, including his relationship to the Devils management and the league, how he sees the sport evolving, and what it was like to represent his country in the Olympics. His reflections on playing in Torino, and echoing his father’s footsteps on Italian Olympic ground, are alone worth the purchase price.
Breaking the Ice, Angela Ruggiero. So this one is about brother-baiting and boy-badgering, but it’s about the only book I can find that addresses women’s hockey.
The Hockey I Love, Vladislav Tretiak. Yes, the Russian goaltender, who was pulled from the Miracle on Ice game. The book ends in the late 70s, a few years before the Lake Placid Olympics, so you don’t get Tretiak’s views on the game for which he’s probably best known in the States. What you do find is a discourse on playing in some of the most famous international hockey series of the 70s.

What’s missing? A book about Jeff Halpern . Something focused on hockey diversity, featuring Scott Gomez and Jarome Iginla, perhaps. The hagiography of Saint Patrik (Elias), with a whole chapter on how he can consume dumplings and kolachi and still be pure muscle.

98 Men Of Power and Influence

The annual “100 People of Power and Influence” fills the current double-wide issue of The Hockey News, as it does to start every new calendar season. Once again, it reads like an alumni listing of the Old Boys’ School; while last year the list was 99 men and one woman, this year THN added Hayley Wickenheiser at slot 95 to make it 98 Men Of Power and Influence and oh yeah, two women too. If this list is supposed to be about influence on hockey, in hockey, and through hockey, then it had better reflect the demographics of the sport and the fan base. Rows of GMs, mainstream media broadcasters, league executives and some NHL players is a microcosm of what is wrong with the NHL Nation today: it’s not expanding.

Women’s hockey remains missing in (fun) action. I had a lot more fun watching the USA women play in Torino than the men. Women’s hockey is alive and well around the world, but you’d never know it from the Hockey News list. It’s supposed to be about “hockey” not “men’s professional hockey”, right? Angela Ruggiero is a glaring omission. Olympic athlete, youth athletics advocate, community service leader for the NY Islanders, and autobiographical author. Influence grows communities. Second on the missing list is Laura Halldorson, women’s ice hockey coach at the University of Minnesota. Her bid for a hat trick of national championships was spoiled by Wisconson, coached by Miracle on Ice alum Mark Johnson. Halldorson was instrumental in the growth of ECAC women’s hockey and Laura’s work helped ensure that the efforts of the top college women’s player would be recognized in the Patty Kazmeier award, named after her late Tiger teammate.

College hockey is not represented. Not every NHL player gets drafted right out of high school or juniors. For many hockey players, NCAA-sanctioned hockey is the top of their career, and they’ll go on to play ECHL or European hockey for a year or two before putting the college degree to work. Those players remain fans of the game, and if THN’s list is supposed to be about power and influence in the game, it has to include the programs that can build life-long fans. Boston Bruins tickets pale in comparison to Bean Pot ducats in the city that knows more than beans about hockey.

Hockey may be for everyone, unless you’re on the list. Jarome Iginla is “the face of hockey in Canada”, and he’s the sole minority on the list. The NHL has a variety of diversity programs, again intended to expand the reach, scope and fan base for the game, but none of that work shows up in this list. How about Ice Hockey in Harlem, or the Newark Devils Renaissance effort underway to make hockey accessible in and around the Devils’ new building? Broadcasters on the west coast are making a big deal of Georges Laraque’s transformation from enforcer to play-maker — isn’t that what the new rules were supposed to highlight? This year’s list isn’t only a huge majority of white men, it’s North American white men. Europeans? Russians and Baltic states? Diversity comes in many flavors, and it generally drives expansion of your talent arena, fan base, and power pool.

Where are the fans?. Maybe I’m just having trouble with the preponderance of mainstream media on the 2007 list. But with the number of message boards and blogs that focus on hockey, sometimes exclusively on hockey, why not at least acknowledge the fans and their direct participation in the marketing of the sport? The NHL’s “invitation only” blog effort is a start, but it’s league-centric; check out Hockey’s Future boards for a taste of unedited hockey wisdom or Off Wing Opinion and its daily dose of random non-press clippings from the mouths of the lowly fan (that would be us bloggers). Please, acknowledge that the game needs fans, and in particular fans in seats, for the “new economic certainties” to be long-term positive for the players, the league and ultimately, those same fans.

It wouldn’t be a new year if I didn’t make some predictions for next year’s list, so here goes:

Mark Cuban. I’d love to see him get involved with the Penguins. And he’d help fix a lot of the fan outreach issues.

Patrik Elias. I was happy to see Marty Brodeur on this year’s list, but he’s rostered because of his work on the competition committee and his Olympic efforts. His book was a good read, and Marty truly understands using the players to market the game. Elias demonstrated many of the things that the league wanted out of the new labor agreement: he took a hometown discount in his unrestricted free agency year, he signed a deal with a no-trade clause, he’s wearing the captain’s “C” on his sweater a year after nearly dying from a hepatitis infection, and he remains a genuinely good guy playing good hockey and leading the first-place NJ Devils into the second half of the season. If the Devils have a good second half and second season, then Elias deserves some props.

Linda Cohn. Am I the only one who read’s Linda’s missives on the ESPN NHL pages?. She’s a dyed-in-the-blue hockey fan, former hockey player, great commentator, fan agitator, and story aggregator. At the risk of sounding like the bridge of Genesis’ “Dodo”, she definitely has power and influence. Or does The Hockey News ignore all other media (see point about blogs above)?

Angela, Protector

Just how cool is Angela Ruggiero? Talk about picking a good time to score a goal in the Olympics. What she did today — picking up the puck at the goal line, skating coast to coast, finding a seam in the defense and snapping a shot to put the US ahead of Finland, 4-3, was the kind of leadership about which books are written. She kept her head up and just executed. If you didn’t know there were a handful of Finns in front, desperate to not play Canada in their next game, you’d have sworn you were watching a practice drill courtesy of the smoothness with which she ran the play.

Reminds me of….Scott Stevens. Number 4. Blueliner. Leader. Big goal when needed most. And a regular person — before the Olympics I emailed Angela, and got back a prompt (but short) reply.

If anyone on the Canadian women’s team was smiling as the US went down 3-1, they should be equally terrified at the way our team fought back. Maybe this is worthy of making the Hockey News list of power players. In the words of a famous rabbi, if not now, when?

99 Men, 1 Woman: That’s A List?

The January 3rd edition of The Hockey News features the “100 People of Power and Influence” in hockey. Not the NHL, but hockey in generic terms.

Hello, editorial staff, there are no women players or coaches on this list. Last time I looked there was a “Hockey is for everyone” campaign around and diversity was celebrated. The only woman on this list is the NHL’s dope-detector doctor, and she places 94th.

How about we start with Angela Ruggiero, Olympic medalist (she is Marty Brodeur’s equal in Olympic golds) and outstanding spokesperson for the sport. If Marty can sit at sweet 16th, how about Angela in the top 20?

Then let’s add Golden Gopherette coach Laura Halldorson, who brought back to back national titles to the land of the buck-toothed mascot. She played with Patty Kazmaier (yes, that Patty) and then this past season developed three of her players to the point that they were Kazmaier award nominees. Halldorson was integral to the movement that popularized women’s ice hockey in the Ivy League and truly developed the women’s bracket in the ECAC. She is an icon in the Twin Cities and back at Old Nassau (where she offered the occasional pointer to yours truly over quite a few winter lunches). Laura deserves a spot in the top 50.

While we’re in the land of 10,000 hockey surfaces, let’s add Natalie Darwitz: Olympian, Gopher, role model. I’ll slot her at #73, ahead of Bob Naegele (owner of the Minnesota Wild). And if you thought “Who?” at least once during that last sentence you proved my point. Face it, more people are likely to see Darwitz do her hockey thing this year than Naegele.

And my vote for #100, as a sentimental placement based on history, superstition, and game experiences, goes to Arlette, the pre-game national anthem voice of the New Jersey Devils. She gets more cheers in the building than some of the players, and there is something about hearing her do justice to Francis Scott Key that lets you know you are in da house. If hockey’s mission this year is to thank the fans, regenerate interest and get butts in seats, Arlette gets the props.

The Hockey News top 100 list is a fine itemization of management, political players (in all interpretations) and media mouthpieces, but it ignores the other half of the world that plays, influences and promotes the game.