Inside the CCHA, Dec. 15, Erik Drygas Interview
It’s been more 14 years since, then Alaska defenseman, Erik Drygas was paralyzed just days before the start of his sophomore season, when he went head first into the boards in practice after catching a rut in the ice. Since that time, Erik has earned his degree, gotten married, became a father, been named the state’s High School Coach of the Year and is on the university’s Board of Regents in Fairbanks while continuing as the radio analyst for Nanook hockey at the Carlson Center.
Drygas recently took the time to speak with the CCHA for its latest alumni interview.
CCHA: How cold is it in Fairbanks today?
Drygas: It’s about 15 below, which is warm compared to the last three or four days which we were around 30 or 35 below. It’s just a normal Fairbanks winter day.
CCHA: If you could take us back to that day in practice in 1996, did you know something was seriously wrong as soon as you hit the boards?
Drygas: Yeah, it’s hard to believe it’s been over 14 years since I was injured. It was just a normal practice a week before our first game of the season against UAA. We were practicing the power play and, as I went to get the puck at the side boards, I just caught my edge in the ice and went head first into the boards. Immediately I knew something was wrong because I couldn’t move, and I saw my arm on my side and one of my teammates got to my side and I had to ask him if it was my arm just because all feeling was gone. It was instantaneous and I knew that my life had changed forever.
CCHA: You spent eight months in the hospital in Denver in 1996, when Denver was home to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Did you cross paths with any members of the Avalanche while you were there?
Drygas: Yeah, I was pretty fortunate while I was in Denver. I was in rehab for about four months there at Craig Hospital in Denver. You could say the Avalanche adopted me. It was amazing what they were able to do for myself and my family. I was able to go to 20-plus games and got to know the players very well and even when I’m back in town for my yearly check-up, I visit with mainly the management now because the players have all moved on. I do keep in touch with a couple of the players; Mike Ricci and Adam Deadmarsh are back there working for the Avalanche now. It made my recovery that much easier being around a team since I had been separated from my team here in Fairbanks.
CCHA: You scored one [goal] for the Nanooks in your first game as a freshman, so describe that one for us.
Drygas: Surreal. I was a kid from Fairbanks and I’ve grown up rooting for the Nanooks my entire life. I guess my career for the Nanooks started when I was eight or nine years old. I was the team stick boy for three or four seasons and then went on to play for them. Of course, it was even more memorable because it was against the UAA Seawolves, our instate rivalry. [It was just] a quick wrist shot that caught the goalie off guard and I still remember it to the day, and it’s been fifteen-plus years.
CCHA: We listed some of your accomplishments off the top. Is there anything on that very impressive list of accomplishments that you are most proud of?
Drygas: You know the most important things for me are marriage to my wife Emily, been married now eight-plus years, and of course our daughter, Annika, who is now 14-months-old. Throw everything else out the window. Those are two things that are most important to me.
CCHA: You’ve watched the Nanooks become a team that is reckoned with nationally now. It started with Guy Gadowsky, Tavis MacMillan and now Dallas Ferguson. They’ve each brought something unique to the Nanook party, haven’t those three coaches?
Drygas: They have. Guy was the one that laid the foundation for the program becoming what it is today and Tavis really continued to build on that, but I think Dallas has taken that to a whole new level. I have the most respect in the world for Dallas. I was fortunate enough to be a teammate of his for two seasons and my freshman year he was our senior captain. I would say I was the most fortunate player in the world because he was my D partner for the whole season. He made me look a lot better and I probably didn’t help out his play. Dallas, as a coach, has the utmost respect from his players. He’s done a phenomenal job taking the team to national recognition. I think we had the recognition in the CCHA, but now our berth in the NCAA tournament last year has taken it to a whole new level.
CCHA: Tell us who you think the next Nanook is most likely to play in the NHL, big Joe Sova the D-Man or the forward Andy Taranto?
Drygas: [It’s] tough to pick between the two. If I had to say one player, it would be Andy Taranto with Joe Sova a close second. I think both have the skill to play in the NHL, but I think Andy Taranto has that next level in his game. You saw it when he was out of the lineup for two games with an injury. The Nanooks really struggled to find the net and this weekend with him back in the lineup they were able to get on the board a couple times and really help the Nanook hockey team. Both players are good players. I think they both have excellent pro prospects, but I think Andy Taranto is the guy that I would not be surprised to see in the NHL.
Inside the CCHA, Nov. 16: Ian Cole
Although he only spent three seasons at Notre Dame, defenseman Ian Cole left the Fighting Irish as one of the more decorated players in program history. As a junior, Cole finished with a 3-16-19 scoring line despite missing significant time due to injury. During his sophomore season in 2008-09, Cole was a First-Team All-American, as well as a First-Team All-Conference selection, collecting six goals and 20 assists to go along with a +15 rating for a team that captured the CCHA regular-season and Tournament titles. In his freshman season, Cole was an honorable-mention CCHA All-Rookie Team selection and two-time CCHA Rookie of the Month for the Notre Dame squad that advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in program history.
A product of the US National Development Team Program, Cole was drafted in 2007 by the St. Louis Blues in the first round at No. 18 overall. He signed a professional contract with the Blues this past offseason and made his NHL debut on Nov. 6 at Boston. He is currently with the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League.
Cole recently took the time to speak with the CCHA for its latest Alumni Interview.
CCHA: What have your five former classmates still on the Fighting Irish been telling you about the reasons for their success so far this season?
Cole: I’ve been talking with those guys, some of the other guys on the team and the coaches. Obviously, Coach (Jeff) Jackson is very big on continuing to improve and continuing to be a better team as the season goes on. At the same time, with the way the freshmen have been producing and playing as well as they have, they’re very excited about where this season could go.
CCHA: You made your NHL debut on Nov. 6 in Boston, and the next night you got to play in Madison Square Garden. What were you thinking before your first game and was there any kind of "Welcome to the NHL" moment in either of those games?
Cole: Before the first game, it was pretty amazing. You dream of playing in your first NHL game; that and scoring the game-winning goal in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Playing in your first game is everything you can think of and more. I was completely through the roof so I had to keep telling myself, "It’s just another game, relax, you can play here, just make simple plays." It worked out pretty well for me. We ended up beating Boston, who was really on a roll at that point in the year, and then we went to Madison Square Garden and beat (the New York Rangers). It was pretty awesome.
CCHA: Did you expect to get called up to the St. Louis Blues so soon and where were you when you heard the news?
Cole: I had a real good training camp, but I ended up getting sent down right before their first game. I was hoping that if guys got injured I would be able to step up. Obviously you never want guys to get hurt and you are nothing but pleasant and supportive.
We were actually in Milwaukee when I found out. We were just going to go play up there and drive back to Peoria; we weren’t even going to be there for 24 hours. I just brought my suit, my backpack, a toothbrush and that was about it. They called me late on that Thursday night at about 11 p.m. and said that I was going to meet the Blues in Boston and that I had a 7 a.m. flight the next morning. It was a pretty quick turnaround, so I ended up spending pretty much the whole day there by myself before the team got there at 7 p.m. Luckily, I had some time to go pick out some more clothes.
CCHA: A lot of former CCHA players that left school early for professional hockey have plans to come back and finish their degrees. We’re told you have plans to return to Notre Dame and finish your degree in psychology.
Cole: Absolutely. Coach Jackson has been nothing but supportive of me, as had the entire athletic department. They’ve been able to work out a plan for me to come back in the summer and finish my degree. Luckily, I don’t have too many credits left; I’ve only got 14 to go so it should take two summers at the most. I’m lucky in that when I left I was actually 15 credits ahead of schedule.
CCHA: Right now you’re back with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL. It appears there are quite a few former college players on the St. Louis Blues, 11, to be exact, not counting you. That includes a couple of CCHA alums in Nathan Oystrick (Northern Michigan) and Tyson Strachan (Ohio State). It really shows the impact of the college game at the NHL level.
Cole: Absolutely. Those guys have been extremely good at mentoring me and teaching me what it takes to be a professional. They’ve taught me how to prepare for games, what to do after games and really showed me what it means to be a professional hockey player.
Inside the CCHA Dec. 15: Mike Johnson Interview
Former Bowling Green forward Mike Johnson was a recent guest on Inside the CCHA.
Here is the transcript of the interview:
Q: How did you wind up at Bowling Green in the fall of 1993 from the Aurora Tigers?
A: Well, it’s been so long that it’s hard to remember. I made the All-Star game when I was playing Tier Two Junior A in Toronto with Aurora. My team got absolutely blown out in the All-Star game, I think it was 9-1. I was in on the one goal and a lot of scouts were at that game and they came to my next game with Aurora. There were about four or five scouts in the stands and I had my lone hat trick of the season. After that one game there was quite a bit of interest the next week and a couple of offers came forward. I did my recruiting trips and I enjoyed the guys and the coaching staff at Bowling Green so I opted to go there.
Q: I look at your college numbers and say how could this guy not be all-conference at some point? You had 16 goals and 45 points as a sophomore and 30 goals and 62 points as a senior? Did that ever bother you?
A: It did a little bit. I guess I was fortunate and unfortunate to be playing at a time when there were a lot of great players and great teams. That Michigan program, when I was at Bowling Green, was producing players that were putting up numbers that were much better than mine, so it was hard to argue. Certainly, my last year I thought I probably warranted at least second-team all conference, probably not first because of Brendan Morrison, Jason Botterill, Randy Robitaille and a lot of other great players that were in college, but I wasn’t too upset about it.
Q: Those two good seasons I talked about, the Falcons made it to the Joe (Joe Louis Arena) both years, but like many teams in your day, lost to Michigan State, 4-3 in overtime in 1995 and 7-2 to Michigan in 1997. What do you recall about getting to the Joe, especially the OT loss?
A: I remember it was exciting, especially the 1995 season because our team was fairly highly ranked. We had Brian Holzinger who was on his way to winning the Hobey Baker at that point and I think we were in the Top 10 in the country. We were excited because we thought we had a good chance of doing something and advancing to the NCAA tournament back when only 12 teams made the tournament. We lost, 4-3, Steve Guollla I think it was, a friend of mine from Scarborough, Ont., got the overtime-winner, so obviously we were disappointed. We kind of thought we would live to fight another day because we were going to get into the NCAA Tournament. I remember very vividly watching the playoffs go on that weekend and we needed one of ten higher seeds to beat a lower seeded team to make sure that no lower-seeded teams would get an automatic bid. I remember watching in disbelief with my teammates as the scores rolled in. There was one upset after another and we ended up being on the outside looking in which was very, very disappointing because I thought we had a good enough team to play that year and that was the only year that we probably would have qualified, so that I remember that being very disappointing. In my last year, we played Michigan and they were a powerhouse team. The 7-2 score was flattering to us and we weren’t at that level. Certainly my second year it seemed like we were good enough to go on to the tournament and maybe be successful there.
Q: There must’ve been a whirlwind when your senior season was over. Were you subject to a bit of a free-agent frenzy? Walk us through that time in your life. A Toronto-area kid comes back to suit up for the Maple Leafs, who were still playing at Maple Leaf Gardens back then.
A: Obviously, throughout my senior season I became aware that I would likely be able to sign a contract when I was finished. I met with agents, or family advisors as they are called when you’re in college, and I picked my guy and we talked occasionally throughout the year and he made it clear that when my season was over I needed to be prepared to make some decisions and be faced with some different options. We lost on a Friday night in Detroit against Michigan. We went back to Bowling Green and I had a long night of celebrating our college careers with my teammates. I woke up early Saturday morning with a call from my agent, Pat Morris, and he said here is what we have available to you and we talked about it. He said that Toronto wanted me to go right away so it was 10 in the morning and I was ready to go sign a contract, get my equipment, and fly to Florida to play the next night. It was an absolute whirlwind. That span from 10 in the morning until two in the afternoon when I was evaluating contracts and conference calling with my parents, my agent, and the teams and everyone else was a crazy time. My roommates were all sitting around listening in and it was very exciting. It was a great opportunity to play in Toronto, my hometown, for a team that I grew up watching and in a town that I was familiar with. I was happy to leave school and get on with it.
Q: So a player never drafted, never all-conference in the CCHA makes the NHL All-Rookie team in 1998 on the strength of 15 goals and 47 points. What’s that say about the type of maturity that can take place over four years in a Division 1 college program?
A: It says a lot. That is exactly what it was. It gave me time to mature physically and emotionally and my game on the ice matured as well. When I got to school I was a tall, skinny little kid. I wasn’t upset about not getting drafted because if I was a team I wouldn’t have drafted me either. Over the course of the four years, when you have time to practice, work on your game, and work out you change quite a bit. In the end, I was actually quite fortunate not to have been drafted because it allowed me to have more opportunities and probably sign for more money than I otherwise would have. It obviously worked out well in the end. The amount of time you get to practice in college is very different from a junior league in Canada so it gives you a chance to work on your game and improve things that need to be improved and that is what it did for me.
Q: What would be the highlight of your pro career from a team standpoint? The 1999 run to the Eastern Conference Finals with Mats Sundin and Curtis Joseph?
A: No question that was the most team success that I achieved. Not only that, but it was the group of guys thatwere on that team and the way that we kind of overachieved. We weren’t supposed to be very good and we ended up having a great year. We closed Maple Leaf Gardens that year and opened the Air Canada Center and there was a lot of attention. It was a great year to be a Maple Leaf. The city was really rallying behind a team of overachievers. Looking back on it, you realize how passionate the fans of Toronto react when the team starts doing well. Every time we won a playoff round they were shutting down Yonge Street for cars honking their horns and screaming out their windows. There are great memories and that was a great group of guys, some of which I still keep in touch with. Whenever we hook up or connect with any teammates we always have fond memories from that season.
Q: A shoulder injury ended your season and NHL career in St. Louis early in 2007, and you played in Germany last season. How tough was the retirement decision and was that decision any easier with a finance degree to fall back on?
A: It wasn’t a very tough decision retiring from Germany. I had hurt myself in St. Louis and I spent the whole summer having surgery and rehabbing to get healthy again. I knew it wasn’t likely that I would be able to make an NHL roster. To show up on a tryout for the second year in a row, I didn’t like my chances. I saw the opportunity to play again in a not quite as stressful environment in Germany with some friends that I had playing over there. I thought it would be a fun opportunity and a chance to see the world a little bit. I took that opportunity and it didn’t quite work out and I didn’t last the whole year in Germany. When I came home I knew hockey was out of my system and I wasn’t going to be lingering around the training room or the ice rink trying to get ready to play again. I was ready to stop and I did. I was preparing to put that finance degree to work. When I went to Bowling Green, many years ago, my intention was to get a job in that industry and not to play professional hockey. I just figured I was going to reset by about 15 years and do what I intended to do in the 90s.
Q: How unexpected is this new career, Mike Johnson hockey analyst on NHL Home-Ice and the NHL Network show On The Fly?
A: It is a little unexpected. I did some commentating stuff when I was playing and did some playoff work when I was finishing my season wherever I was playing, but it really is about opportunity. It is a tricky position to get because a lot of guys who live around Toronto, a lot of ex-players, want to try their hand at it. It is a nice way to stay in touch with the game and be able to use the knowledge that you’ve acquired by playing and it still keeps you close to the game. In that sense, it is difficult and I kind of fell into it a little bit. Somebody canceled on a radio show and I was recommended to fill in and I did and the producers liked what they heard. I was offered another opportunity and then the television people liked what they saw and heard and it went from there. Now I have a semi-regular job almost. It’s exciting, it’s something new, it’s a challenge, and it’s a learning process. That is all the fun part about starting something new.
College Hockey All-Access Nov. 15: Brett Lebda Interview
Former Notre Dame defenseman Brett Lebda of the Detroit Red Wings was a recent guest on College Hockey All-Access. Here is the transcipt of the interview:
Q: The experience on and off the ice during your four years at Notre Dame really helped you mature, didn’t it?
A: Definitely, I think being on your own for four years and having the responsibility of taking care of yourself and learning how to not only manage your body, but your mind as well. That, I think, has helped me more than anything.
Q: What did you enjoy most about your stay at Notre Dame with playing hockey and the skills that you learned not only on the ice, but off the ice, as a student-athlete?
A: The people you meet at Notre Dame are great. It’s a big networking family, and when you go to Notre Dame you become a part of that family. You have a lot of contacts and you meet a lot of people that have gone there whether they’re older people or younger people. That was the best part. It’s just one big tightly knit group that you’ll have for the rest of your life.
Q: There are a lot of things for you to be proud of when you played collegiate hockey and, of course, now in the pros. To be part of that 2004 team, the first team to reach the NCAA tournament for Notre Dame, was huge.
A: Yes, I like to think of that as a stepping stone to where they are now. We were part of that growing process and that was a big year for us. Being able to be a part of that was something special. To end your senior season on a note like that, looking back at it, is an accomplishment that I am pretty proud of.
Q: How much pride do you take in the fact that Notre Dame is a perennial power now under Jeff Jackson?
A: I love it. I follow them and check up on them on the internet after every weekend. It is good to see that they are finally going to get a rink now. Jeff Jackson has taken over there and done a great job the last few years. They are just moving in the right direction every year.
Q: Of course, you played for Dave Poulin who is now with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Vice-President of Hockey Operations). He’s a good man, and a good hockey man who deserves to be employed somewhere in hockey, doesn’t he?
A: Absolutely, I loved having him as a coach. He’s a great guy and a very big reason why I am here today. He taught me a lot about how to be a professional and I owe a lot to him.
Q: How difficult is it, as a student-athlete, to balance athletics and the studies, especially at a high academic school like Notre Dame? I think a lot of the time we forget that you guys are gone a lot and have to study on the road and it’s tough to prioritize sometimes.
A: It takes some work and some learning. That first year you try to balance everything. You try to balance your education with the sports and with social life and trying to meet people because you still want to have that college experience. I think there has to be a balance there where you see when it is time to study, or it is time to train, or go out and have fun with friends. I think you have to find that balance for sure.
Q: We tend to see more guys jumping to the NHL from collegiate hockey and more guys choosing to go into collegiate hockey. Do you get the same sense?
A: Yes, I think more people are coming out of collegiate hockey into the pros because more people are choosing to play college hockey in the first place. You used to have your good players in Canada that had been going with major juniors for their whole life, but many of them are now choosing to take the opportunity to get their education and play college hockey. They are seeing that you can play college hockey and still make it to the NHL.
Q: I know you have a wide network of friends, especially in the NHL, but I would guess you still keep in touch with some guys from your Notre Dame playing days, don’t you?
A: I do. I try to touch base with pretty much our whole senior class frequently. I talk to some more than others, but I try to keep tabs on everyone and make sure they are doing well. We had a good class and it was a tightly knit group.
Q: One of the guys, T.J. Mathieson, is working for NASA. What is he doing?
A: I don’t know, I think it is classified. He is doing that and, last I heard, he was training for the U.S. Indoor Cycling team so he could be in the Olympics. It’s kind of neat to keep tabs on the guys that you played with and see what they are up to.
Dan Ellis Inside the CCHA Interview Nov. 3
Former Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Dan Ellis, currently with the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League, was recently interviewed on Inside the CCHA. Here is the transcript of the interview:
Q: Three goals were often all the Mavs needed when our next guest, Dan Ellis, tended goal in Omaha between 2000 and 2003. Dan, playing for former NHL’er Wes Jarvis in Newmarket, Ontario in 1998-99, tell us how you got to Omaha in the first place…not with the Mavericks but with the Lancers of the USHL.
A: When I went on to play with the Lancers it was more of a last kick at the can type of deal. I was drafted by the Owen Sound Platers in the 13th round and went to a couple of training camps and I was pretty much just an early cut so I knew the major junior route was not in my deck of cards. I also knew that I had no college scholarship offers at all. I looked at the opportunity to go to Omaha as a chance to travel the U.S. for free for a year and then figure out what I was going to do with my life after that. It was just a last-ditch effort to play some hockey and enjoy some traveling. Things really seamed to blossom that year from the very start of the season.
Q: A 21-14-3 record in your rookie season. That earned you a spot on the CCHA All-Rookie team. What does it say about the CCHA when your all-rookie teammates are Dave Steckel, R.J. Umberger, Mike Komisarek and Brett Lebda? You would play with those guys any day wouldn’t you?
A: Absolutely, they’re all really strong players in the NHL now. I think there are a lot of great players that come through the CCHA. When people look at college hockey players they tend to think they are late bloomers, but it’s better to bloom at some time than never. There are some strong players out of that bunch playing in the NHL now.
Q: As a sophomore, you’re the busiest goalie in the nation with 1,098 saves in 40 games. You lost a classic playoff series at home against Dave Poulin’s Fighting Irish. You had a double overtime win, an overtime loss and a 2-1 loss. Anything in particular stick out in your mind from that three-game set?
A: I remember we played Ohio State the year before and it was just a team that really took it to us. I think when we were playing against Notre Dame we were going in with a lot of confidence. We had played Notre Dame strong throughout the course of that year. I remember a few busy games there. Things just didn’t really pan out for us. We came out strong, but Notre Dame maybe had some stronger players and they really took it to us so we weren’t able to get through that series.
Q: Drafted in the second round by Dallas following your MVP season in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers, what factors went into you turning pro with Dallas after your junior season in 2003?
A: I was looking at what Dallas had in their lineup with their goaltenders. I knew that they had Mike Smith and Jason Bacashihua, two early signings straight out of juniors. I wanted to get in the mix before they got too committed to either one of those two goaltenders. I think I was still maybe a year late in getting into that mix. I went right down to the East Coast League right out of signing, but I realized that the lockout was just around the corner and that I would have a short time to make an impression on the team right away. So I decided to forgo my senior year and I was eager to get to playing pro.
Q: Who do you stay in touch with? For example, your one-time backup at UNO, Brian Haaland, was working on a NASCAR pit crew, wasn’t he?
A: Yes, he is still doing the pit crew stuff and we get in contact with him any time we go to Carolina. There are just tons of guys that have stuck around. All of the guys that you like to hang around with seem to stay there and the guys that you maybe you weren’t as partial to kind of drift away, which isn’t always a bad thing.
Q: I would imagine you are still pretty close with Greg Zanon who was a teammate of yours in Nashville and is now with the Minnesota Wild.
A: Absolutely, Zanon and I still stay in touch. I spoke to him just last week when we played the Wild. Minnesota is a great spot for him, he’s logging a lot of minutes. I got the pleasure of playing with him for a few years in Omaha and also playing pro with him. He’s one of those vocal defenseman that does a lot that doesn’t get noticed. He blocks a lot of shots, plays a lot of defense, and is a great communicator and a great leader. I do stay in touch with Zanon quite often still.
Q: A lot of players say that their years in college were the four best years, or the three best years of their life. Does that hold true for you?
A: Yes. I’ve enjoyed every year anywhere that I’ve played whether it’s junior hockey, college hockey or pro hockey. You have great experiences all the time as long as you love the game. You’re always around your teammates who are generally fun loving guys that love the same stuff that you do. I’ve never really had a bad year. I think anytime that you win those years are much better than others. We had some ups and downs at Nebraska-Omaha but I have created more friendships in those three years with that team than I probably ever will for the rest of my life. Those relationships are all holding on strong and that is one of the main reasons that I have moved to Omaha. Not only does my wife live there, but having those great friends and people to hang out with during the summer is what keeps me there.
Steve Cady Inside the CCHA Interview Oct. 27, 2009
Steve Cady was one of six RedHawks inducted into the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame during the month of October. Cady was inducted during Miami’s home hockey game against Michigan State on the 24th. He is considered to be one of the main people responsible for the growth of hockey at Miami University. Cady is in his 34th year with Miami and has held many different positions during his tenure. Currently Cady is the senior associate athletic director and the assistant vice president for finance and business services. He has held both positions since 1998. Cady served as the head coach of the hockey team from 1978-85, during which time hockey became a varsity program at Miami. He finished his RedHawk coaching career with a 157-147-12 record, including a 121-126-11 mark during the program’s first seven varsity seasons. Cady has also served as the chairman of the Athletic Facilities Master Plan Committee since 1995. The $34 million Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center is just one of the many state-of-the-art facilities that Cady has helped bring to Miami Athletics. Cady has also served on many NCAA Ice Hockey committees throughout his career, including a just completed stint as chairman. Here is the transcript of the interview:
Q: It sounded like a perfect day for you, going into the Miami Athletic Hall of Fame, although I trust you would have traded it all in a minute for W’s for both the hockey team who lost to Michigan State, 3-2 in overtime and football team who lost to Northern Illinois, 27-22.
A: No question about that. Obviously the football team is struggling, but our new coach Mike Haywood is doing a great job, he’s doing the right things and they’ll get it turned around. As you well know, it’s a long time to get to March and April and you’re not going to win them all so you just keep playing and doing the things that you would normally do the right way and you’ll get your share in the long haul.
Tell us about seeing a lot of your former players that you hadn’t seen for a long time that came back for the ceremony.
A: There were forty some players that came back and some of them hadn’t been back to campus in thirty some years so that was pretty special. In addition to the Hall of Fame ceremonies, there was a separate dinner just for the team and all the former players and my family so that was a pretty special evening, but the whole set up, as far as I’m concerned was really about Miami hockey and not about me. This is just a reflection on hockey and everything that has been built by a lot of people that have worked hard for a long time. I just happen to be the person who is at the receiving end of the award, kind of like a team captain accepting the Mason Cup at the end of the year. They are really doing that on behalf of their teammates and that is pretty much how I look at this as well.
Q: How fitting was it that on the very same day you go into the Miami Hall of Fame that Ron Mason is enshrined into the Bowling Green Hall of Fame.
A: Coach Mason called me a few weeks back and told me that he was going into their Hall of Fame at Bowling Green and was hopeful that I could be a part of it. I said that I would love to and asked him when it was. He told me it was October 24th and I said "Well, coach we got a little bit of a problem here because ironically I’ve been selected to Miami’s Hall of Fame and they’re doing it on the exact same day." That was disappointing because I would have loved to have been there for him and he was trying to stop here at Miami as well, but it just didn’t come together that way.
Q: For those who don’t know, Ron Mason is responsible for giving you, as well as many others, your start in collegiate hockey. Tell us that story.
A: Absolutely. The interesting part is that it was actually a little bit by accident. Jacque Martin and I were both at St. Lawrence and we were seniors together and Ron brought his team out there to play and he was looking for a goalie coach to come in and take a graduate assistant position. At the time Jacque wanted to go back to Canada, so he turned him down, but being friends, he came to me and told me that coach Mason was looking for a graduate assistant for next year. Jacque said he knew coach Mason was looking for a goalie coach, but I may want to talk to him. So I talked to coach Mason. I wasn’t his first choice, but he allowed me to come along and I had an unbelievable experience with Ron there. I learned more about hockey in one year than I think I had in my whole life. He’s been instrumental since I came here to Miami. Really all we tried to do was model our program after all that he had done with his program and he was instrumental in Miami getting into the CCHA. He was really the one that orchestrated the whole thing. Miami hockey owes a great deal to Ron Mason, as do I.
Q: Miami is known as the cradle of coaches in football with Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, and Bo Schembechler, but hockey is rocking that cradle too a bit isn’t it? George Gwozdecky won his 500th game last weekend for Denver and your coach, Enrico Blasi, is on everyone’s list as being one of the bright young minds in the game too.
A: Certainly those two have done very, very well. As you may remember, Bob Daniels was a graduate assistant coach here before he went on to Chicago Circle and then to Ferris. There are a number of others who have gone through the ranks as graduate assistants or have been assistant coaches and have gone on to the junior ranks or college ranks across the country. Jeff Blashill went on to Indianapolis and won a championship last year as their head coach in the USHL and he is a former assistant here. Again, we have all tried to model what Ron Mason taught us 30 years ago.
Q: As the chairman of the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey committee you had to hand the National Championship trophy to Jack Parker after Boston University beat Miami in overtime in Washington last year. Was that just about the toughest thing you have ever had to do?
A: Well it certainly wasn’t how we had hoped it to be, but I have great respect for Jack Parker and the program at BU. Like you said, it wasn’t how one would hope it would play out, but Boston showed why they were the No. 1 team in the country pretty much all year long. Again, I have great regard for Jack Parker and his program. I guess it could have been a whole lot tougher than it was. Obviously I hoped I could’ve turned the trophy over to Rico. He had a great run and did a great job with our program. That certainly would have been something unique, but it wasn’t to be and we did the best we could making the presentation under those circumstances and hopefully it came off okay.