UND HOCKEY: Risk, Reward on the Line for Underclassmen Fighting Hawks Going Pro


Midco Sports Network’s Alex Heinert pointed out that there has been a helluva lot of underclassmen leaving school early and going pro. Who can blame them, honestly– when the next level is calling and money is being thrown your way– why not take it?? You can’t blame them to get the money and go for their dream job when they can before they have some kind of injury that really shelves their potential.

The University of North Dakota have two players leaving early to go onto their professional career. Last week, both Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich signed their pro deals in two nation’s capitals– Wolanin with Ottawa and Gersich with Washington. It’s another year for UND to lose players early. Last season, they lost three players early– Tucker Poolman, Tyson Jost, and Brock Boeser and after their 2015-16 National Championship run, they lost Troy Stetcher, Keaton Thompson, Nick Schmaltz, Luke Johnson, and Paul LaDue to the pros. There’s a reason why University of North Dakota is on the cusp of having 100 players to play in the NHL.

When it comes to someone like Poolman, he really couldn’t do much more with UND. He was NHL-ready and that junior season was the icing on the cake for Poolman to try and repeat as a National Champion. The same could be said for Wolanin, who came into his own during the off-season and transferred it to his junior season, becoming the first defenseman since 1983 to lead UND in scoring for the season. Of course, on a rebuilding team and probably being a key cog in that, there’s going to be a lot of weight on Wolanin’s shoulders– especially given his pedigree being the son of a former NHLer.

Of course– there’s risks involved from leaving college early and not living up to the hype that has been out there right off the bat. That could leave people to wonder if it was worth leaving school early for. That’s something that I wonder when it come to Shane Gersich. Last season, alongside Jost and Boeser; Gersich made his name known with 21 goals and 37 points in 40 games. This season was solid for Gersich, if not frustrating at times. With only five goals and six assists in his first 20 games, you could see Gersich fighting the puck during his struggles. However, new year– new Shane as Gersich finished with eight goals and 10 assists in the second half to have some mojo going into his last games with the Fighting Hawks.

One recent example against the move for Gersich could be his former linemate in Jost, who left the University of North Dakota after his freshman season last year to sign with the Colorado Avalanche (after some alleged heavy/annoying persuading by the Avalanche brass). With only nine goals and 19 points in 59 games this season, you could argue that Jost wasn’t ready for that jump and could have used the time to stay at UND to grow more. Granted, you can’t take injuries into effect when they sign that deal, but it happens and you adapt from it.

Conversely– there’s players who may not look like they’re ready, but surprise plenty of naysayers– like Gersich’s other linemate in Boeser, who was a heavy Calder Trophy favorite with 29 goals (10 on the power play) and 55 points in 62 games until his season-ending back injury this year. Boeser could have probably went pro after his freshman year and winning a National Championship– but he decided to stick around. I’ll say upfront I didn’t think it was best for Boeser to do that, as he didn’t look that great to close out his sophomore season– but I’m glad he proved me wrong on that.

Both Gersich and Wolanin will face some hardships when they get into the big leagues– it happens with most every player, whether they leave early or stay all four years in college. There’s probably going to be questions of if they should have stayed one more year or if they should even be with the team that drafted them. In the end, they made the choice right for them and you have to respect them for it regardless of personal view now or down the road.

Candidates Leaving May Signal Worries of Dundon’s Structure


There were many people in Carolina happy when Thomas Dundon bought majority interest in the Hurricanes earlier this year. It was a welcome change from the bickering of the Karmanos family and who would get what. But now, with the GM spot being open and candidates dropping out, that may be a cause for a bit more of a concern than some may let on.

Let’s not kid ourselves– to be a GM in the NHL would be great and many would be honored to be in one of the 31 (currently) spots in the league. Yet, with the way that Dundon has been taking care of business early could cause some warning for those candidates.

With a lot of them stepping back– Tom Fitzgerald, Paul Fenton, Mike Futa among them– you have to wonder why this position is being so shunned. There were reports from Hockey Night in Canada that it’s due to the low salary in comparison to the other GMs being a reason, but I think there’s a lot more to that. Sure, the money is a big deal when you’re taking on the stress that comes with being a GM, but there’s something not right with the way that Ron Francis got put out and the aftermath from it.

The fact that the new GM will report to Dundon directly rather than to Francis, the new President of Hockey Operations, make shake people the wrong way. Especially considering that Dundon has no sport experience when it comes to making big decisions in the sporting side of things. It’s great he wants to be a hands-on owner like his buddy Mark Cuban; we’ve all seen the downside of things when an owner gets too hands-on (shoutout Eugene Melnyk).

With his admitting he likes people to disagree and not do what he says or say what they think he wants– it’s admirable. But there’s a dangerous line there when it comes to owners getting too close to players and coaching decisions. That’s why it’s better to get people smarter around the owner to make those decisions and not have the owner be the decision-maker. The other side to that is that you don’t want an owner who will just sign the paychecks and do nothing else. There’s also an interesting line to deal with when it comes to saying to Elliotte Friedman when you’re taking to Dundon– you’re talking to the Hurricanes. Sure, he’s the owner, but when he has the end say in things– it’s possible to alienate those who may not disagree, but fear being cast-off from the team.

More over than that– this new GM for Carolina could be akin to what Greg Sherman was in Colorado– just having the title, but really not having a lot of hands-on work and really just along for the ride for whatever Dundon has in mind. The salary offer speaks almost to that.

Wanna Fix the NHL Playoffs?? Put in the Pairwise


People are really talking about changing the NHL playoff format?? The hell is wrong with y’all??

I know you’re never going to make everyone happy. The divisional way to go about the playoffs is what people thought they wanted– but they hate that already. The top-eight isn’t something that people wanted due to times of a weak divisional leader skewing the leaders. The top-16 regardless of conference was something people didn’t like at first, but seem to be warming up to. The idea of all the teams getting in is being put out there with Seattle coming into the fold.

You know whatever is chosen– if anything– people will get behind it and subsequently loathe it two years later when they feel their favorite team gets screwed because of positioning or whatever.

But you know what will really piss everyone off with the exception of a scant few?? Put a Pairwise situation together for the NHL playoffs. Do it like the NCAA and really get the FancyStats heroes get their calculators and algorithms going. As someone who had to deal with figuring out the Pairwise (and still haven’t)– there’s nothing more frustrating that having to deal with other teams in order to get your strength of schedule up and going.

It’s a long-shot, but it’s just as good as suggestions everyone else is throwing out there. The evolution of stats would make this the ideal thing to do and get people really interested in it. And in all honesty, what’s the best way to get people interested in teams all across the league?? Make it so that if you put the top-16 teams into the playoffs; the Rangers have to root for the Sharks to win a divisional game in order to boost the Rangers Pairwise ranking, despite maybe not having as good a record.

Let’s put something to rest, too– the SPHL format of picking your opponent WON’T WORK. NHL heads are still too traditional for that. Not only that, but that is more a minor league gimmick– let that be in the minor leagues. The NHL gets enough guff from the sporting world that they don’t need to be the professional league that makes their league like “Whose Line Is It Anyway!?” where the points don’t matter and you make it up as you go along.

There’s nothing wrong with the way the playoffs are as it is right now. It helps promote rivalry within the division and make those several games a year mean something. Plus, it helps push the NBCSN farce of a Rivalry Night every Wednesday– which is why it won’t change. It’s not perfect– nothing will be. People are fickle and so is sport. Best to just enjoy what you got until your team gets screwed by the system and then have this debate all over again…..next season.

One In, One Out for ECHL in 2018-19


So, some stuff happened on Tuesday that changed the face of the ECHL. It was the welcoming of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to the fold, while also saying goodbye to one of the most notable minor league franchises in the past couple decades in Quad City.

I’ll address the latter first in saying that while it’s not great for the fans, but it’s better to do it this way than to actually keep struggling monetarily and missing out on players that could make the team better. Losing almost a million dollars a season, owner Jordan Melville reached a breaking point– which was partly personally, as well according to Bobby Metcalf of the Quad City Times. Now, the TaxSlayer Center is saying they’d like the area to have hockey and have looked into some options. Obviously, the proximity of Peoria would make the SPHL an interesting choice for Quad City, but only time will tell if the fans would take a lower level of hockey to their area. It’ll be a helluva thing to lose the Mallards– who had success on the UHL, CHL, and onto the ECHL levels, but hockey is a business when all is said and done. This was strictly business.

As far as the St. John’s thing goes…I don’t understand it. Sure, it’s a hockey mad area that was left with nothing with the St. John’s IceCaps left for Laval after last season. But for a team to be almost 1,300 miles from their closest rival is a strain on the pocketbooks for sure. Plus, despite the quality of hockey being better than it has ever been– maybe some people won’t be as hyped up about AA hockey coming to town in a city that has success in the AHL. The QMJHL didn’t do well after the St. John’s Maple Leafs left and only last three seasons. I’m uneasy for the lower level of hockey playing in St. John’s.

That said, a second Canadian team can only help the ECHL and maybe the fans in St. John’s rallying behind it could make it a bigger success than many people could believe– myself included. The big issues will be if owner Dean MacDonald and executive Glenn Stanford will be able to deal with all the things to do in order to bring up a team in time for this October. It may seem like a long time away, but it’ll happen sooner than expected. Unlike Portland, who had over a year to make their team a reality, St. John’s is very much under the gun.

It’ll be an interesting look for the ECHL, which is really moving towards a very Northeastern field with the addition of St. John’s and the removal of Quad City and Colorado (moving to the AHL) after this season.

TEPID TAKE: The Blue Paint is There For a Reason


We get it, no one understands what goaltender interference in the NHL is anymore. It’s an ever-changing landscape and really depends on who the official is to determine the penalty or lack thereof. Players are mad, coaches are mad, the league is mad, fans are mad, everyone is mad— as is the norm with the NHL these days.

But here’s the thing– and this is just me: why have the crease painted blue if it’s nothing more than to be a contrast to the white ice?? It’s a crazy idea, I know, but maybe– just maybe– the crease can actually stand for something again rather than just looking fancy on the ice.

If the NHL actually makes the crease the no-fly zone when it comes to interference, then it’s a simple fix with a hard-and-fast ruling behind it. Contact within the blue-paint, no matter how small, is interference– end of story. Considering the goalies do go about a bit more to cut off angles and they may feel like they won’t get a call because of that– well, extend the top of the crease by a bit and we’ve got ourselves a simple, pain-free fix.

Goalies should be protected to an extent, much like a quarterback in football. Especially since they’re getting their pads reduced at an alarming rate, the least you could do in exchange for them is to extend the crease so they can go ahead and be able to cut down the angle without fear of getting their legs taken out from under them when trying to make the save. When they’re out of the crease– they aren’t going to be free-game, but they’ll get less of the benefit of the doubt when there is some kind of incidental contact.

There’s always been a weird thing for me that defenders would throw players into their own goalie just to get a cheap interference call– so in that instance treat it like a diving call. If a player pushes the attacking player into their goalie– the attacking player gets called on interference, as does the defender for being going out of his way to try and get the call at the risk of his helpless goalie.

It’s always something with the NHL– players calling out unfair face-offs, the review process taking an inordinate amount of time (and could be fixed by simple technology), some slashes and hooks called while some are not– it’s the status quo that not everyone will be happy at the same time with the NHL. Yet, there’s so many logical simple fixes that could be made that for one reason or another– no one will take the time to listen to…though that seems to be the world we live in these days; why should the NHL be any different??

UND HOCKEY: Jones’s Late Heroics Lift North Dakota in Sweep of Omaha


Photo from @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– On Saturday, it was a story of two teams desperate for different reasons. North Dakota was desperate to end the series in a sweep to help their Pairwise ranking and to get an extra day of rest. For Omaha, they were desperate to extend the series and hope for the best in a Game Three. It took extra time, but North Dakota got the best of Omaha in overtime to send the 10,351 at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy and sweep the playoff series and move on to the Frozen Faceoff next weekend in St. Paul.

The energy was up for UND, creating plenty of chances in the first five minutes, but showing nothing for it. UND was getting to the hot spot and tried to spread out the game, but Evan Weninger was equal to the task early on in the game. The first goal cam on a loopy call, as Matt Kierstad’s shot went in off the post, bounced off Weninger’s back-end and into the net to make it 1-0 after a lengthy review. Minutes later, Dixon Bowen made it 2-0 after taking a lovely pass off the boards from Trevor Olson and beating Weninger on the backhand. After the under-five media timeout, Teemu Pulkkinen tipped a Lukas Buchta shot to put Omaha within one. Shots after the first were in UND’s favor by the count of 11-4.

“It’s been a while,” mentioned Bowen of his goalless drought, which happened on November 11th against Miami. “It’s good to get the monkey off my back. It’s playoff hockey and anything can happen.”

Five minutes into the second, right after Hayden Shaw’s penalty expired, Pulkkinen got his second of the night after the Fighting Hawks couldn’t get it out of the zone. After yet another two-goal lead slipped away, UND looked to be playing on their heels a bit in the second with giveaways and a bit of an inability to get the puck deep enough to create many chances for themselves. Though they had some sustained pressured towards the end of second, no goals were to show for it and the period ended tied at 2.

The third period started with a goal review for Omaha that was waved off due to inconclusive evidence, but Omaha officially broke the tie when Jake Randolph scored off a crazy scramble in front that had Cam Johnson flailing all over his goal crease. UND tied the game at the mid-point of the third after Nick Jones tipped home a Colton Poolman blast on the power play. Chances on either side were few and far between, which lead to the game going into overtime.

“When we went down there, we showed a lot of character to get one back,” said Bowen after the game. “We never gave up. We’re glad to get down to the cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and check off another box.”


Nick Jones/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

The overtime was quick and dirty, as Nick Jones banked a Jordan Kawaguchi shot off Weninger to win it just 53 seconds into the overtime to advance UND to the Frozen Faceoff.

“You see goals like that all the time, just throwing it at the goalie,” said Jones of his game-winner. “I’ve tried that 15, 20 times and just lucky to get a bounce this time. He was playing pretty far out of his net and I just threw it out there hoping for a bounce.”

“He picked a good time to score,” said coach Brad Berry of Jones after the game. “He bring instant experience to your lineup. He was in another program, went back to juniors, as an older player with college experience; he’s a seasoned vet. He does all the little things and his leadership qualities are impeccable.”

It is the 16th-straight year that UND will move on from the first round, but they’ll have to wait to see who their opponent in the second round will be. Both the Miami/St. Cloud and Denver/Colorado College series are going to a third and final game. The standings will be re-seeded after the first round with Miami and Colorado College both seeded lower than UND could cause a little havoc going into the semifinals.

UND HOCKEY: Statement Game for UND in Big Game One Victory


Photo via @UNDmHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– With their tournament hopes on the line with this single series, the University of North Dakota and University of Nebraska-Omaha took to the ice in the first of a best-of-three NCHC Quarterfinal match-up on Friday night. With each team splitting the regular season series at two wins apiece, each side knew they were in for a tough series for a chance to make it to the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul next weekend, as well as having a better chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament. Knowing they needed a solid showing, UND came through in a big way in front of 10,125 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, taking Game One 4-0 over Omaha.

After a steady first 14 minutes, UND broke the ice as Shane Gersich rifled a wrist shot home from the the top of the circle and thanks to a screen by Colton Poolman, was able to get past Omaha’s Evan Weninger to make it 1-0 Fighting Hawks. A very quiet frame before and after with shots registering in at 11 for UND to Omaha’s six.

With 1:54 left in a carry-over power play, UND made the most of it with many great chances, but Christian Wolanin’s wrister hit the back-bar past Weninger to make it 2-0 for UND. The pace of play stayed consistent with not many good chances either way, but Nick Jones changed that with 7:21 left in the second. Coming off the bench to a loose puck, Jones went wide, then made a little flip of the puck over the Omaha’s defender’s stick and took a diving shot that went past Weninger to make it 3-0. Four minutes later, Omaha’s Joel Messner fumbled a breakout attempt, in which Joel Janatuinen made no mistake to bury it past Weninger to make it 4-0.


Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Our forwards were working so hard on the forecheck, maintaining pressure and making it hard on their defense,” said Christian Wolanin. “Our defenseman did a good job moving it north quickly. All the little things made up for some big goals for us.”

One big chance in the third saw Weninger make his best save of the night with a big cross-crease glove save on Grant Mismash to deny UND a fifth goal. UND outshot Omaha 34-25 in the game. It was Cam Johnson’s third shutout of the season and 12th all-time at UND.

“The key for us was to make them play defense,” mentioned Wolanin of UND’s ability to shut down Omaha’s threats. “If we don’t give them the puck and eliminate time and space, we’re going to have success against them.”

“It’s a good start. That’s the key word: start,” North Dakota coach Brad Berry said. “It’s just one game. I thought our guys did a lot of good things. The biggest thing is focusing on tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day and our lives are on the line still. There’s going to be a business-like mentality there.”

With the win, UND moved to 14th in the Pairwise Rankings, which is heavily used in helping determine the at-large bids for the tournaments. With that win, they move ahead of Omaha and would give themselves a better chance of moving up if they can sweep the series on Saturday.

“You kind of hear about what people are saying, but we’re focused on tomorrow,” defenseman Colton Poolman said of the Pairwise. “All that stuff is in the rear-view for us. We’re just focused on tomorrow.”

Puck drop is 7:07 at The Ralph, as UND looks to move onto the Frozen Faceoff next weekend and then to the National Tournament.

UND HOCKEY: Do-Or-Die Playoff Weekend for Fighting Hawks


GRAND FORKS, ND– More than just a spot in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff is at stake this weekend between the University of North Dakota and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, as both are fighting for a spot in the National Tournament. With the Pairwise Ranking being the determining factor for a tournament spot– both UND and UNO are on the bubble at 15th and 14th respectively. With both teams facing off against each other in a best-of-three NCHC Quarterfinal match-up; it’s almost a win-and-in scenario for both sides.

“We need this one,” said defenseman Colton Poolman during media availability on Wednesday. “If we lose this one we probably don’t have much of a shot. From here on out it’s a must win situation.”

“You know, they’re a hard team, they’ve got some big bodies,” said defenseman Hayden Shaw of Omaha. “We really used this week to focus on ourselves and how we’re gonna play them. We’ve used the video in the past to see what we need to work on. It all comes from translating from practice into games.”

“They have four lines that play extremely hard,” said head coach Brad Berry. “We know their power play with David Pope is really good there, but they score by committee. We know Tyler Vesel and Pope and Steven Spinner are a very good unit, but they have a lot of good units there.”

This past weekend, UND split a series with the #1 team in the nation in St. Cloud State, losing on Friday, winning on Saturday with both games going to overtime. Those games are something that UND will try to carry over into the weekend.

“We got to bring the same mentality,” mentioned Poolman. “We were fighting for our lives this last weekend and we needed good results. We got it on Saturday. It’s live or die– we got to bring that attitude all weekend.”

“It’s good to look at, especially with last weekend against the #1 team,” said Shaw. “It’s used as a confidence boost into this weekend. Our starts were great and we stayed level-headed most of the game. We’re going to take that weekend and translated it into the playoffs.”

With Omaha, UND will be hoping to get a more consistent result than the previous meetings this year, splitting the season series with both the Fighting Hawks wins coming via shutout. UND has outscored Omaha 14-10 in their four games this season.

“They’re a team that’s grown a lot this year,” Berry said about Omaha. “We feel very familiar with them because we just played them. They have added a lot to their offense. These are going to be hard heavy series.”

“All this boils down to is us and them,” continued Berry. “We need to build on the outcome of the game (Saturday night against St. Cloud). There’s a lot going into this. Two teams neck and neck in the Pairwise and trying to making to the Frozen Faceoff.”

The best-of-three starts Friday with Saturday being Game 2 and if necessary, Sunday hosting Game 3.


Golden Homecoming for Maryland’s Haley Skarupa


Haley Skarupa/ Photo by Jen Conway (@NHLHistorygirl)

The US Women’s National Team has been on a non-stop media tour since winning the country’s first gold medal in 20 years. For defender Haley Skarupa, she says that it started to hit her of this accomplishment on the flight back to the US.

“I was thinking about it from our flight back from Korea,” Skarupa remembered during media availability Saturday night in Annapolis. “It was the first time it started to sink in that, ‘Wow, we’re going back to the United States bringing our country a gold medal.’ You can’t put words to that experience. You’re kinda going non-stop, but it’s good.”

The Rockville, Maryland native played in all five games for the US, though she did not register a point during the tournament, helped the defense for the US keep a co-tournament low of five goals against during the Olympics. Saturday night at the NHL Stadium Series game in Annapolis was a sort of homecoming for Skarupa, who was a Capitals fan when she was growing up.

“It’s awesome to come back here,” said Skarupa. “I was going to come back and watch this game regardless with my family and friends, but it’s awesome to come back here with my teammates and bring home a gold medal and show it to my family and friends.”

One of the last moments of the celebration of the gold medal was the fact that two flags were on the ice were the USA flag and the flag of Maryland. It was brought on the ice by Skarupa’s former teammates from the Washington Pride.


Kelly Sherman, Haley Skarupa, and Kat Mackey/ Photo by Kush Sidhu

“Two of my best friends (Kelly Sherman and Kat Mackey) literally flew in the day before the game,” Skarupa said. “I didn’t know they brought the flag– it was so dang cool to see that. I brought it down, took a picture with it and it was so crazy to bring a piece of home out there with me. I love the flag it’s great. It’s so much cooler than all the other ones.”

While Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic is without a professional women’s team, the game has been growing in the girls’ ranks. Ranging from U12 to U19, the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (AKA the DMV) area has been starting to grow with the influx of girls picking up the sport– something that may rise from the USA winning gold.

“The sport has come a long way in this area,” explained Skarupa. “It used to be you play boys’ hockey until you’re in high school. Nowadays, there’s so many girls’ teams in the area. At the clinic, there was over 200 girls register from the DMV area. It’s awesome and really exciting. To see how far it’s come since I’ve been playing has been really incredible.”

Despite not playing on a girls’ team until she was in her teens, Skarupa relished the challenge of playing on the boys’ roster. It’s something she said that was fairly invaluable to her development to where she is today.

“I loved playing against the boys,” remember Skarupa. “They challenge you, they’re aggressive, and they’re ruthless. I played until I was 12 against the boys and then my brother and his friends out in the driveway. Getting beat up by the boys really helps you in the long run. Getting to prove the boys wrong is a good feelings.”

The Rockville native doesn’t forget her roots. She said she had numerous people coming up to here this week from people who went to pre-school with her to old teachers from Wooten High School. She also credits former Capital Jeff Halpern (and to an extent his Astro Donuts store) for helping her on her way to development.

“Jeff Halpern helped me throughout my career,” mentioned Skarupa. “We both skated through the same power-skating coach, Wendy Marco and Cold Rush and he became a coach there. Skating with him helped push me, too. He’s a great role model for this area with his success and how he gives back to the community.”

While she is riding high now, Skarupa is also taking the future into account with a clearer head. She said that she’s taking it one day at a time and while there’s not a team there and Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis hasn’t talked to her about one coming through– she believes the area should be rewarded with a professional team sooner rather than later.

“In the future, women’s pro hockey should expand to this area,” according to Skarupa. “With all the girls that play here and all the interest, there’s a huge opportunity for women’s hockey in this area.”

On the Topic Of the Annapolis Stadium Series Game


The atmosphere outside the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium was electric. Fans from all over were getting into the spirit of the game, intermingling in the parking lot tailgates, helping each other gets lasting memories of their time at an outdoor event, and some making a weekend out of it like some Toronto fans who watched the Raptors/Wizards Friday and went to the Stadium Series game on Saturday. It was an amazing time.

From the time they stepped onto the ice– especially with the Maple Leafs glowing white jerseys against an off-white ice, the fine faithful of both teams found were bouncing around– probably to stay warm. With the midshipmen “manning the rails” of the aircraft carrier that surrounded the rink, to the fans interacting with the anthems, to the F/A-18F Super Hornets going overhead, the pomp and circumstance matched the excitement.

With the Capitals getting out to an early lead and keeping it throughout helped the fans stay happy in the frigid, windy temperatures, as well as a power outage at the 10-minute mark of the third period. The players seemed unaffected as well– especially with the ice, which many Capitals players were saying was the best home-ice they’ve played on this season.

“It was a blast, it was really fun,” mentioned Matt Niskanen post-game. “The conditions were great. I don’t think the wind was a factor, the ice was great. Even with the lights going out, the fans were still singing and having fun. It was a great experience of everyone. We’ll remember this one.”

But let’s not let the joy go all to our heads on this one.

There’s plenty to clean-up, especially since there were only 29,516 in attendance, which is the lowest of all-time in outdoor games. Could this be the luster finally wearing off?? I don’t think so– many people who had been to outdoor games before were happy enough to be there. Some claim apathy of giving a team extra money for tickets when they haven’t been past the second round in a dog’s age.

Another factor could have been the lack of advertising to the general populous. Many people I’ve talked to around town didn’t even know there was an outdoor game going on. There wasn’t a sign to be seen, wasn’t a promotion to be found in the area– which may not have made it a total sell-out, but could have peaked interest enough for people to talk about it and then maybe buy up the last tickets to be a part of something unique to the area for once.

Then you get to the game, which was covered as well as you’re going to cover it when all the hurdles were in the way. Yet, when NBC, the EXCLUSIVE rights holders to the NHL in the US, cuts away from the game to put it on NBCSN because they need to get to local news and then Saturday Night Live. There’s only three more years left in this deal with the NHL and NBC and maybe– just maybe– the NHL can look at this happening constantly to the NHL on NBC (remember the Senators/Sabres/Kentucky Derby fiasco??) and perhaps either get a better deal elsewhere or write a better contract to make sure they doesn’t keep constantly happening.

And let’s not forget the timing of the game– March. It’s after the trade deadline, right in the sprint to the playoffs and you’re putting two big points up there and hoping Mother Nature cooperates. Luckily– outside of the wind– it did for this one, but the later these outdoor games keep happening, the more risky it gets for things being postponed and such. There was worries that this game would have been pushed to Sunday– which would have been hell for the Caps, who were to fly out on Monday for their last west coast trip.

I understand there’s a lot of consideration that goes into these bids and there’s a lot of gaps that had to be filled. I’m thankful the NHL was able to have a game in Maryland for the first time since November 1997 (RIP Capital Centre), but it could have been so much more around the area if more effort was put in it to promote this game– not just in the area, but around the NHL. Just because you do an advertising blitz on the NHL Network a week out from the game doesn’t mean you did all you could to hype it up.

But to the fans out there– thank you for making the game a success to me. The energy, the reactions, the fact you were out in the elements and enjoying every minute of it was awesome to see and awesome to take part in.

Despite it being the lowest attendant outdoor game since the format started. Despite NBC cutting the National coverage with four minutes to go in the game. Despite the wind, despite the power outage, despite the timing of the game in the year, despite the advertising– or lack thereof. The fans made the atmosphere better for it. The NHL needs to realize this and maybe start listening more attentively to them when they speak up on topics to better the league.