Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Talking Hockey - Round Two

Some of my most enjoyable times over the past fifteen years as a broadcast journalist have been when I've interviewed someone who is really passionate about the work they do.

That is especially true when it comes to interviewing someone from the world of sports. Athletes, coaches, team officials, sports administrators and even the odd sports reporter (aren't we all a little odd?) invariable love their particular sport. Some even love to talk about it.

Oh sure, there are some who liken talking to the media with a trip to the dentist, and in many cases I can't blame them. I've been in enough media scrums and listened to enough dumb questions (and asked a few myself) to realize that it's not a perfect relationship between scribe and subject.

We have the passion in spades with Penn State hockey, from JoeBa to Guy Gadowsky, Josh Brandwene and Mo Stroemel. Their enthusiasm have and will make it easy for me to do my job, both here and on the webcasts.

In May, I had the pleasure of talking hockey with TSN Hockey Insider and fellow Agincourt Lions Hockey alum Bob McKenzie about his experiences as a college hockey dad.

My list of fun interviews has grown today after speaking at length with Paul Kelly, the Executive Director of College Hockey Inc. Mr. Kelly is a Boston College alumni and studied law at the University of Toledo College of Law.

Paul Kelly

Needless to say, hockey is in his blood. In addition to careers as a Federal Prosecutor and defense lawyer, Paul served for two years as the Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association before moving into his current position.

As a prosecutor he convicted Alan Eagleson for committing fraud and embezzlement against the membership of the NHLPA. As a defense attorney he represented several NHL players, including Marty McSorley who was charged for his infamous stick attack on Donald Brashear during a game between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks in February 2000.

Last but not least, Paul coached youth and high school hockey for more than a decade and still tries to find time in his busy schedule to play in a weekly men’s hockey league. He's welcome to join us for a Tuesday night "Wheezers and Geezers" shinny session at the Greenberg the next time he's in Hockey Valley.

I've split our chat into three parts. In Part 1, we talk about the 2011 NHL Draft and the pitfalls of college players leaving school early to begin their pro careers.

In Part 2, we continue looking at the pros and cons of playing four years in college, as well as the outreach by College Hockey Inc. to parents and young players in Canada.

In the final segment, Paul talks about Guy Gadowsky and impact of both Penn State joining the big boys in Div. 1 and the impact of the Big Ten Conference on the college hockey world.

Oh, and I must apologize - I recorded our chat using Skype and forgot to mute my headset while Paul was talking, so you'll hear me wheezing away in the background from time to time. That gives you an idea of how long it's been since I've done a phone interview.

Oh well, hope you enjoy it anyway. Next time, I hope to talk hockey with a certain former player and coach who I can't mention right now. (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Women's Coaching Staff Named

Penn State women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene has added a pair of assistant coaches - one no surprise and the second with NCAA experience.

Long-time Icers assistant coach and Lady Icers head coach Mo Stroemel joins Norwood, PA native and former Boston University forward Gina Kearns on Brandwene's staff.

Mo coached the Lady Icers for the past four seasons, taking the team from a handful of players to a National Tournament team, finishing in fifth place at the 2009-10 tournament.

This past season, Mo was the head coach of the first-ever USA women's team at the World University Games in Turkey.

Gina Kearns comes to Penn State after serving for two seasons as an assistant coach of the Neumann University Knights. Kearns played in every game in her four seasons with the Terriers.

Gina is the career leading scorer for the fledgling BU women's program and the school's only three-year captain - EVER!

Oh, in addition leading the Terriers, Gina was a senior captain of the boy's team at Interboro High School, scoring 81 goals and 40 assists in 51 games.

The full press release is here, with Josh Brandwene's thoughts on his new assistants:
"I have known Mo for 15 years as a colleague and friend, and I am grateful to have him on board," said Brandwene. "He has been a consistently positive influence on Penn State Hockey for almost two decades, and his passion for and commitment to Penn State Hockey will be instrumental in our success."

"I am incredibly excited to welcome Gina to the Penn State Hockey family. Gina's experience as a player in the first four years of a brand new college program, her outstanding leadership ability and coaching experience make her a terrific addition. She will be a fantastic role model for the women in our program."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Billy's Back

I caught up with Director of Hockey Operations Bill Downey Friday afternoon at, where else, the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

Bill was named to the post on Friday, joining Josh Brandwene in returning to Hockey Valley.

It's good to see Billy D. back home, and we can't wait to see Amy and Ellie as well!

Welcome Home!


Great news this Friday morning from the Hockey Bunker at the Bryce Jordan Center! Former Icers Captain and Assistant Coach Bill Downey is coming home, named today as the Director of Hockey Operations.

Bill spent the past season in the same position for the men's and women's hockey teams at Harvard. I chatted online with Bill's wife Amy, who tells me she and Ellie are thrilled to be coming back to Hockey Valley.

Here's the full press release, and here's the notable quotes from the release.

From the man himself:
"As all alumni can attest, returning to campus is already an indescribable feeling in and of itself," says Downey. "But to come back to work for a Division I hockey program at Penn State is truly a special opportunity, and one that I accept with great responsibility, humility and enthusiasm. I'm thrilled to help shape the program that ultimately shaped me -- as both a player and person."

From JoeBa:
"Bill Downey is the perfect link to the past, present, and future of Penn State Hockey," said Battista. "As an alum and former player he brings a passion for all things Penn State. I was blessed to have recruited and coach him and am thrilled to have him back on our staff."

Women's coach Josh Brandwene:
"I have known Bill Downey for over a decade. I had the pleasure of coaching him as an assistant coach during the 2003 World University Games and have worked many summer camps with him," said head women's ice hockey coach Josh Brandwene. "He is an outstanding choice for this role and it's great to welcome him back to the Penn State community."

And men's coach Guy Gadowsky:
"Billy Downey is a great hire for Penn State Hockey," said men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky. "I have received several emails from alumni who recommended Billy highly as both hockey mind and as a person. He represents himself extremely well, and immediately establishes intelligence and a genuine honesty with whomever he communicates with. I have great respect for Coach Donato and he could not have been more complimentary with what he said about the job Billy did as Director of Hockey Operations for two very successful men's and women's hockey programs at Harvard. I know Billy will be a huge asset to Penn State Hockey."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Uncanny Resemblance

I'm spending a quiet Wednesday working at the Penn State All Sports Museum (got to get the plug in), so I have the chance to catch up on some of the news from across the road at the Athletics Department.

The big news, at least outside of our hockey world, has been the hiring of Pat Chambers as the new men's basketball head coach. I want to join the rest of Nittany Nation in welcoming Coach Chambers to Happy Valley and wish him the best success with the team.

While scanning through the various reports I glanced at a photo that included the coach and Athletic Director Tim Curley, when all of a sudden I thought
Ya know - Tim looks like another relatively famous person.

I think I'll let you be the judge. First, here's a photo of Mr. Curley:

And now, his doppleganger:

Just in case you don't know the identity of contestant #2, he's the Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


As Joe Battista so eloquently put it earlier today:
This is going to be fun!

Joe's words indicating how much he's looking forward to working with men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky and newly-named women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene.
Guy was on hand this morning as Josh was introduced in a low key media event at the Bryce Jordan Center.

While the event may have been low key, there's nothing low key about Brandwene's enthusiasm and excitement. It is safe to say that the former Icer, who happened to be JoeBa's first recruit, has the same passion for hockey and coaching as does Gadowsky.

Josh talked at length about working closely with Guy and his staff to ensure that hockey is an all-encompassing sport at Penn State. Those of us on hand this morning could see that the synergy is already there.

I think it's also safe to say that Josh and his family epitomize the "Icers family", even though they have been away from Hockey Valley for a number of years.

Hey, c'mon - anyone that proposes to his future wife at center ice of the Greenberg Ice Pavilion is Icer to the core! And not only are Josh and Leona proud Penn Staters, Josh's dad Steve is also an alum.

I'm uploading video of Josh's opening remarks, as well as my interviews with the new coach and JoeBa. They'll be added here as soon as You Tube spits them out.

UPDATE 1: Here's Coach Brandwene's opening comments from his press conference. Clearly, family is first and foremost with Josh.

Steve, Sophie, Leona & Josh Brandwene.

UPDATE 2: Here's my interview with Josh Brandwene. JoeBa to follow (in about 4 hours according to You Tube).

UPDATE 3: Seven hours and forty-five minutes after it started to upload, my interview with JoeBa is "still processing" at You Tube. I'm posting anyway at exactly midnight. Hopefully, you'll be able to view it by morning.