Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Nod to Tradition

If any of you out there were concerned that the first coach of the Nittany Lions hockey team would not care a bit about the Icers program, fear not.

By now, you have probably heard what Guy Gadowsky had to say about the history and tradition of the Icers at his introductory press conference on Monday.

Now, just two days later, Coach Gadowsky has penned an open letter to all Icers alumni. For all intents and purposes, the letter could be for all members of the Icers family.
Penn State Hockey Alumni,

Just a quick note to say hello and introduce myself to you. I hope I get the chance to meet every one of you on campus in the near future.

I also want you to know how excited I am to join your Icer family. I've now spent a few full days with JoeBa so I just can't help but be jacked up about the program you have created and where it's going. I also want you to know I will do my very best to keep alive the traditions and championship standards that you created here.
(I just found out recently that you have traditionally had one of the highest GPA's of any team at Penn State; what a great accolade and standard to set). I am totally committed to retaining the championship spirit and work ethic that is so obviously evident, as well as to "win with honor" which you have all already accomplished.

The transition to Division 1 will be challenging, and I hope that you will be patient with us early on in terms of wins and losses. However, know that we will be accountable from day one to uphold the great traditions and culture that you built.

As we recruit for Division I players please let me know if there is a great hockey player in your area with the academic credentials and character that you feel would fit with our program. And please come back to take a look at the plans for your new Pegula Ice Arena, say hi to everyone new and old in the Icer Family, and get caught up in the Penn State hockey spirit!

We are... Penn State!

Sincerely,
Guy Gadowsky
Head Coach
Penn State Men's Ice Hockey

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Joe on Coach Gadowsky

It's midnight, I've been nodding off waiting for Joe's interview to upload.

Now it has, so here it is. He talks about the hiring of Guy Gadowski, the other candidates (Scott Sandelin and Mark Johnson) and what the hiring means for the upcoming Icers season.

Off to bed, then up for an 8am tee time (unless it's raining!)


Monday, April 25, 2011

Twins?

While I wait for my interview with Joe Battista to finish uploading to You Tube, I had a little fun with Photoshop.

Thanks to Kyle Rossi @TYTBlog for tweeting this old photo of Coach Guy.

Were Guy and our Rodman separated at birth? You decide!


Meet Coach Gadowsky

It's going to be hard for Penn State hockey fans to not like new head coach Guy Gadowsky and what he has planned for the fledgling varsity program.

His being Canadian aside, I was immediately struck at this afternoon's press conference by his passion for the sport that we love, his passion for academics, and his acknowledgement of the rich tradition of the Icers.

Joe Battista had T-shirts made up for the Gadowsky family that said "Guy is our Guy." Others are in full agreement.

Here's a sampling of some quotes and comments. First, Athletic Director Tim Curley:
Guy Gadowsky has enjoyed a very impressive coaching career to date. He's helped build programs at Alaska-Fairbanks and Princeton University to top national programs.

He has developed NHL players and won conference championships and has had teams participate in the NCAA Tournament. He's been recognized with both conference and national Coach of the Year honors. He's highly-respected among his peers. And every person we spoke to, spoke about his high integrity and his passion for the game and for the student athletes that are under his leadership.

His players have consistently excelled in the classroom and community as well. We believe he has the total package to reach the goals for our program and will be a fantastic addition to the Penn State community.
Toronto Maple Leafs President & General Manager Brian Burke:
“This is a big-time hire. Penn State really got it right coming out of the chute. Guy is an excellent coach - a teacher, a motivator and an educator. What a great first step for the Penn State program!”
And from Mike Cross, currently the AD at Bradley University and formerly an Associate AD at Princeton:
"Guy Gadowsky is one of the hardest-working and most high-character coaches in college athletics.  There is no question that he will build Penn State Hockey the right way with student-athletes of character that will make everyone associated with Penn State proud.  He is a very smart, successful and humble person who will have many, many years of success in State College and be embraced by the community. The future is very bright in Happy Valley under his leadership."
However, to really get to know how people really feel about their Guy, head on over to Tiger Blog.
Penn State has gotten someone dynamic to be the head man for its hockey program. It has someone with the drive and desire and sheer competitive will necessary to follow through on the school's investment.

Good luck, Guy.

Princeton will miss you.
We know you'll miss him, so we'll make sure he knows how much he means to Penn State.

And now, without further ado, may I present Coach Guy Gadowsky!


A Passionate Guy

If you think Joe Battista is passionate about Penn State and Penn State Hockey, just wait until you meet Guy Gadowsky.

The pair are two peas in a pod -- that much became evident about two minutes into today's press conference introducing Gadowsky as the first coach of the modern era of varsity hockey at Penn State.

This tweet from the Penn State blog 'Victory Bell Ring' says it all:


I'll have much more through the evening (and probably into the wee hours of the morning) as I work on editing and uploading my interviews with Coach Gadowsky, JoeBa, Tim Curley and Ben Bouma.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend

Thank goodness that I just bought an extended battery for my cell phone. It has gotten a workout over the past 48 hours, especially this afternoon.

By now, you have likely heard that Guy Gadowsky has left Princeton to take the position as the first coach of the modern-era of Penn State Nittany Lions varsity hockey.


Coach Gadowsky was one of three finalists that were in Hockey Valley this week interviewing with Joe Battista and the search committee.

Right off the bat, let me say that all three - Gadowsky, Wisconsin women's head coach Mark Johnson, and Minnesota-Duluth's Scott Sandelin - were outstanding candidates to develop the NCAA program.

Most of Saturday was spent on Twitter and Facebook going back and forth with former Icers coach Mark Horgas, Thank You Terry blogger and emerging Penn State hockey guru Kyle Rossi, and several others from the Icers family.

Today, Barb and I were planning on playing golf this afternoon, but the plans were waylaid when we got a text message from Paul Daley's parents. They were in town and generously invited us to join their family for an early dinner at the Mt. Nittany Inn.

Hey, gotta put in a shameless plug for one of our webcast sponsors. It was good to see Nancy Silvis and Dr. Doug Collins overseeing things at their fine establishment (Route 144 on the summit of Center Hall Mountain, for those who've never seen our commercial break), and to see Kurt Collins busing tables for Mom and Dad!

No sooner do we sit down than the first email comes from JoeBa - at 3:15pm. He says the coach will be announced at 3:30 with a press conference on Monday!

Barb had it pegged - saying that the "word" that the announcement would not come until after the upcoming ACHA and coaches' conference in Naples, Fla. was nothing but a trojan horse. That's why she's the Executive Producer!

The first tweet came about two minutes later from TSN's Bob McKenzie, and then the floodgates opened.

Barb and I weren't the only ones caught on short notice. Rodney Martin had his phone turned off while enjoying Easter dinner with his family. Kyle Rossi was also spending Easter with his family.

Kyle managed to put together an update on the situation after stuffing himself with ham and the trimmings. Rodney and I have left the details to Kyle. Great work as always, my friend.

Just like September 17th, 2010 - today is a day when Penn State hockey was front and almost-center on the airwaves. Of course, it helped that hockey was all over the airwaves today. On a side note -- too bad the Flyers spoiled Terry Pegula's big day!

So, why did Gadowsky win out? Johnson and Sandelin both guided their teams to National Championships in the past month. As Mark Horgas tweeted,


Not only has he rebuilt moribund programs at Alaska-Fairbanks and Princeton, as Dr. Graham Spanier was quoted in the official press release from Penn State:
"Guy is the perfect choice for Penn State. He has been immensely successful, is a great motivator, knows how to build programs, and has strong academic values."
Mr. Pegula echoes Dr. Spanier's thoughts:
"I am very impressed with Guy, his pursuit of the challenge at hand and plans for Penn State hockey.
And the coach is equally magnanimous in return:
"I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to lead Penn State hockey during this transitional period and into Division I," Gadowsky said.

"I am truly honored to join Penn State and the spirit, pride, passion, class and professionalism found within its students, staff and alumni. I am humbled by the tremendous gift by the Pegula family and the commitment by Penn State. This is a very exciting time for college hockey and Penn State and our family is thrilled to be joining the Penn State family."
On a personal note, in addition to his coaching and recruiting skills and his emphasis on academics, there are several additional reasons why I like him already.

#1 He's just like me!

#2 He played his collegiate hockey at Colorado College (1985-89). I was in Colorado Springs in 1997-98 (before coming to Hockey Valley) and worked at KRDO-AM/FM, the flagship radio station for Tigers hockey.

#3 He spent the 1992-93 hockey season with the St. John's Maple Leafs, at the time the AHL affiliate of my Toronto Maple Leafs. That was the year that Doug Gilmour led the Leafs to one Kerry Fraser missed call from a Stanley Cup final meeting with the Montreal Canadiens.

#4 Since he's Canadian, he's got to love Tim Horton's coffee. I'll confirm that suspicion at tomorrow's presser. Even Mark Horgas agrees:


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Too Much Time on My Hands

With all of this lovely spring weather in central PA, I've been spending more time this month at the computer than working and/or playing at the Penn State Golf Courses. (shameless plug inserted)

One positive coming from the dreary weather is this highlight video. Obviously, the season did not end the way that everyone was hoping it would, but in reality only one team and its fans can say that it did. Despite the up-and-down year, there were a lot of highlight moments.

Several players notched their first goal in a Penn State uniform, Chris Cerutti topped 100 career points while helping Tim O'Brien reach 100 goals and 200 points (the 15th Icer to reach that milestone).

John Jay finished his four years undefeated (10-0) while Ted Hume wrapped up his Icers career third on the all-time list with 60 victories. Yes, Ted's 60 is second numerically; however, John Gray (89-93) and John Sixt (95-99) both recorded 65 wins, so that puts Big Teddy at number 3.

This is an exciting time for Penn State hockey, with some big news expected in the days ahead. The recruits that have already committed for next season will add to the outstanding talent returning in the fall and we're told there's more on the way.

I'll be checking in here and on Facebook and Twitter with news as it happens. For now, enjoy the video, enjoy the summer (if it ever gets here) and keep in touch.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rink Dimensions

It's a well known fact that I'm a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Having said that, one of the great things about being a Leafs fan is reading all of the Leafs-related blogs in the blogosphere.

Without a doubt, my favorite is Down Goes Brown. DGB says it all for Leafs Nation in his masthead.
Unapologetically nostalgic for the past. Brutally realistic about the present. Grudgingly optimistic about the future.
He is also bitingly sarcastic in most of his entries. His latest takes a shot (pun intended) at Colin Campbell and the kerfuffle over hits and head shots.

I especially like the "composite stick graveyard!"
NHL fans learned something new this week when Colin Campbell revealed the existence of a "hitting zone" behind the net where, apparently, headshots are legal.

This got me to wondering: what else don't we know about the NHL rink? So I dug into my old cartography library, and came up with this original map that lays it all out:
The map of an NHL rink

Monday, April 18, 2011

Close Call

The Penn State hockey world awaits with breathless anticipation the announcement of who will be the first coaches of the new men's and women's hockey teams. Important news, for sure, but inconsequential when compared to events that transpired over the past weekend.

The severe weather that ripped through the Southeast served as a reminder of how fragile life is while hitting close to home for members of the Icers family.

NC Storm
April 16, 2011: Emergency personnel enter a Lowes Home Improvement store after it was hit by a tornado in Sanford, N.C.
AP Photo
As many as 45 people were killed in the three days of severe weather, including at least 22 in North Carolina. Sixty-two tornadoes were reported in North Carolina, including one that ripped through the heart of Raleigh.

Paul and Sara Cohen live in the Raleigh area. This morning, Doc Cohen sent this via email.
Hi Steve. We are fine but the tornado passed about a half mile from us. We hid in the bathroom (small, no windows), lost power, but no major damage. Others we not so fortunate (22 dead, 130 injured in NC alone).

That same tornado went through downtown, hitting a small private college (Shaw), shutting them down probably for months.

UPDATE: I originally posted that Paul Zodtner and Brent Tranter also lived in the Raleigh area. My mistake - they're in Charlotte. DOH!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Giving Back

Joe Battista in his latest weekly column at StateCollege.com wrote of receiving a phone call from colleague R.J. Gimbl while he was in St. Paul for the Frozen Four.
(R.J.) asked me if I was sitting down and then told me of an amazing gift from a former teammate of mine for the new hockey endowment. It was from John Davis and his wife, and it was a gift from the heart.
Naturally, everyone wanted to know more -- now we know more:
Intercollegiate Athletics announced today a leadership gift from John N. and Karen M. Davis to the Penn State Ice Campaign. The family's gift will endow a full position scholarship for a goaltender as well as the naming gift for the men's hockey head coach's office. The office will be named the "Joseph M. Battista Head Coach's Office" in honor of former Icer head coach and current Associate Athletic Director for Ice Hockey Operations Joe Battista.
John played for the Icers from 1981-85. Despite having Joe playing "defense" in front of him during in his freshman season, Davis still managed to capture Rookie of the Year honors.

John was the starting goaltender on the Icers' 1984 national championship team.
He finished his career with a record of 42-19-2, the best record for any Penn State netminder to that time, and was inducted into the Icers Hall of Fame in 1996.

John is grateful for what he learned during his time at Penn State, both on and off the ice.
"I decided to come to Penn State because of the opportunity to continue to play ice hockey as well as get a great engineering education. Not only playing on the Penn State hockey team, but also being a part of running the organization as president of the club in 1984-85 was a big driver in helping me get to where I am today.

The hockey club had some tremendous leaders while I was playing, from a great role model for me my freshman year in Joe Battista, to the president in my junior year, Sue Sullivan, who was the first female president of the hockey club. The Penn State hockey organization has always been about winning in the classroom, on the ice and in life."
In addition, John hopes that his fellow Icers alumni feel the same as he does.
"I hope this gift is an inspiration to all my fellow teammates, as well as those that came before and after me. I hope they can look back and see all of what Penn State has done for them and leave a legacy by supporting the Penn State varsity hockey team and the Penn State Ice Campaign,"
To John and Karen, on behalf of the Icers family, thank you for your generosity. We look forward to seeing you on opening night at the Pegula Ice Arena, if not sooner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Life of Joe

If you've ever wondered what it's like to be Joe Battista, let me relate a little incident from this morning that might give you an idea.

The college hockey season may be over, but that means Joe's world is shifting into high (higher?) gear. Our man Joe was at the Frozen Four in St. Paul but this week is back in his new office at the Bryce Jordan Center.

I was working across the street at the Penn State All Sports Museum and called Joe's assistant Nancy Doyle to try and get a DVD of Mike Messner's fantastic video.

About a half hour later, I'm walking with Nancy from Joe's office to the Athletics Media offices and double-timing it the other way is our Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena & Hockey Development.

No surprise that Joe's got his cell phone to his ear. He shrugs and gives me a half-wave to indicate there's no time to stop and chat. I return the shrug and wave, knowing full well that is his life in microcosm.

I suspect nothing will change - even after the new coaches are hired.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hockey Truisms

The evidence is clear after Thursday's Frozen Four semi-final games at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

A couple of hockey clichés
Special teams are vital
and
Goaltending will win championships
may not be clichés after all.

Let's start with the matinee curtain raiser between Minnesota-Duluth and Notre Dame. Special teams were the difference as the Bulldogs edged the Irish 4-3 to advance to Saturday's championship tilt and a chance for the school's first-ever National Championship.

UMD scored three power play goals on 6 opportunities, continuing the stellar special teams play that began with 5 power play goals at the East Regional.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, shot blanks on their man-advantage opportunities. No, that's not right -- the Irish simply didn't shoot, held to two measly shots on goal on their five power plays.

The only spot on UMD's special teams play was Calle Ridderwall's short-handed marker at 2:05 of the third. The Irish owned the final period, outshooting the Bulldogs 15-2, but goalie Kenny Reiter shut the door - proving cliché #2.

Goaltending was the key to game two last night as Michigan's Shawn Hunwick stymied top-seed North Dakota, backstopping the Wolverines' 2-0 shutout upset. The loss was the Fighting Sioux's first since January 28.

Hunwick, all 5-7 and 160 pounds of him, came into his senior season as the #3 goalie on Red Berenson's depth chart. After playing in just a dozen games in his first three years in Ann Arbor, Hunwick went 22-8-4 this past season and saved his best for last night.

The Sioux outshot the Wolverines 40-20 (26-7 in the final two periods) and Michigan defenders blocked more than a dozen more UND shots. Talk about being committed to defense.

It's safe to say that a Minnesota-Duluth - Michigan final is about as unexpected as Butler - U-Conn. I think that it's also safe to say that tomorrow's final game will be a whole lot more entertaining than Monday's stinker in Houston.

Since UMD has both clichés covered in this post-season, it says here that the Bulldogs will win their first-ever championship with a 4-2 victory over Big Blue.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Get Your Tickets Now

OK - maybe not quite yet, but you can certainly plan your ticket purchases for the 2011-12 Penn State hockey season.

Some dates on the schedule are still tentative, but there are some interesting matchups and road trips.

First of all, the 9pm Friday games at the Greenberg are history, replaced by 7pm starts that will be the norm for the varsity schedule beginning in 2012-13.

The opening month will be a tough test for the team. After opening at home against Washington & Jefferson, the Icers hit the road to take on Illinois at the Big Pond before hosting Ohio and then heading out on another Rhode trip (pardon the pun).

November begins with games against a pair of NCAA Div. III teams (Neumann and SUNY-Fredonia) and a rare Sunday home game against Pitt, followed by home and home series with West Chester and Delaware. December includes a visit by Rutgers and a road trip to Liberty U. in Lynchburg, VA, followed by the traditional visit by Niagara.

The month of January will be an eye-opener, beginning with four games in four days against Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma. Returning from the heartland, the Icers will host Rhode Island and West Virginia before heading to the Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio.

Oklahoma comes the Hockey Valley to kick off February before Mercyhurst visits. The Icers wrap up the regular season with a home and home series against Lebanon Valley.

WHEW - I think that it's safe to say that the Icers will be battle tested before the National Tournament in Cleveland.

schedule

Monday, April 4, 2011

Double Edged Sword

The Frozen Four is days away and the buzz in Hockey Valley continues to build as speculation about who will be the first Nittany Lion hockey coach grows.

It's all good, but there is an underlying theme that I've talked about in the past that was brought to the foreground over the past few days. An online article and an interview with a rumored coaching candidate have highlighted the difference between hockey at the "club" level and it's varsity counterpart.

It is a given that the vast majority of the young men who have played for the Icers over the history of the program spent four or five years as student-athletes before moving on to make their mark in their chosen fields.

Unfortunately, that will likely change once the varsity program begins. As I've said several times, hockey at Penn State will go from the family atmosphere as it has been with the Icers to more of a business.

Everyone involved with hockey and athletics at Penn State, notably Tim Curley, Joe Battista and Vance McCullough, have stated that Penn State wants to focus on education ahead of hockey, which is as it should be.

However, some of the young men recruited for the Nittany Lions hockey program will, at some point, have to make a decision about continuing their education or leaving school early to sign with the NHL team that has drafted them.

Case in point - this from Andy Baggot at madison.com talking about the number of players that have already left or could possibly leave school early:
To date four schools have lost one underclassman to the pros: Denver sophomore defenseman Matt Donovan (New York Islanders); UW junior defenseman Jake Gardiner (Toronto); Minnesota junior defenseman Aaron Ness (Islanders); St. Cloud State junior defenseman Oliver Lauridsen (Philadelphia).

If North Dakota wins its eighth NCAA title, it will almost certainly lose more than the seven seniors on its roster. Junior winger Jason Gregoire (Islanders) and junior defenseman Ben Blood (Ottawa) seem the most likely defections as underclassmen. They may sign even if the Fighting Sioux fall short.

If Minnesota-Duluth wins its first NCAA title, it will almost certainly lose multiple underclassmen in addition to six seniors. Junior winger Mike Connolly (free agent) and freshman defenseman Justin Faulk (Carolina) are the prime candidates to exit along with junior center Jack Connolly (free agent). Again, they may sign even if the Bulldogs stumble.

In addition to nine seniors, Denver has lost Donovan and will have to sweat out the possibility that freshman winger Jason Zucker (Minnesota) and sophomore center Drew Shore (Florida) will turn pro.

Andy also mentions the "possible defection" of Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. Whether or not he's in the running to come to Hockey Valley, Coach Gwoz has some strong thoughts about college hockey players completing their four years before moving on.

Chris Botta, the former longtime media relations VP for the New York Islanders, spoke with the coach last week shortly before Matt Donovan announced he was leaving DU for the Islanders.

It's a lengthy interview, but the money quote (begins at about 5:00) is this:
“I have never, ever talked to a player who has regretted staying for another year. A lot of players across the country have left early and regretted their move.”

Botta, by the way, is the central character in a boycott by the New York-area members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA). They announced on Friday that they will abstain from voting in the year-end awards as a form of protest after Islanders GM Garth Snow revoked Botta's media credential.