As of today, Michigan Hockey is the most shameful organization in all of sports. Even more shameful than my arch-nemeses Robert Morris. During all my years of life on this planet, I have not seen a more cowardly move than what Michigan Hockey has done this week. Lebron started the super-team era of the NBA because he was too much of a coward to continue building his own team in Cleveland. Cam Newton made the famous “business decision” in the super bowl to not jump on a loose fumble. Both fall short of the bar that Michigan has just set.
Michigan: Midwestern for CowardOut of nowhere, and for seemingly no reason at all, Michigan cancelled their Dec. 30th matchup against Western Michigan. This was set to be the marquee matchup of the Great Lakes Invitational this week. According to their press release, Michigan determined that they’re healthy enough to play against #18 Michigan Tech, but are incapable of putting a team on the ice against #4 Western Michigan the next day. They are short five players who are participating in the World Junior Championship (WJC), but anyone familiar with the game knows that this happens all the time.
It’s a strange scenario to watch unfold in college hockey every year. Some of the best teams in the country have to play games without some of their top players because they’re busy competing on the world stage. It’s something that doesn’t really happen in any other amateur sport. If you want my input, you’re asking for that when you load your team full of skill players. It sounds funny to say it’s a burden to have a highly skilled team, but sometimes you have to be prepared to reap what you sow. If you’ve been paying attention to my weekly rankings, you know Michigan’s one of the best teams in the country, and you probably saw this coming too.
Bad PressMichigan doubled down on their awful press release decision with another tone-deaf twitter post. They channeled their inner Belichick and threw out the “Next man up mentality” phrase as if they didn’t just claim their players weren’t well conditioned enough to handle playing two games in a row, as scheduled. I want to say that I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t. These “kids” are in the top 1% of humans in terms of conditioning. I’d be willing to bet everything I own on those guys WANTING to play the game, but their school doesn’t have faith in them executing. Sad!
Not the First Time
The precedent for how teams deal with this scenario has already been set, and as the kids would say “this ain’t it, chief.” Get ready, cause here comes the “homer” take. UMD played back-to-back games in the Ledyard Classic during the 2017-2018 season with 5 players out at World Juniors. That’s the exact same situation that Michigan finds themselves in this year, but they’re opting not to play. They’ve long had an identity problem at Michigan, trying to decide if they’re a football or basketball school. Whatever they are, it’s evident that they’re not a hockey school.For what it’s worth, UMD would go on to win the Ledyard Classic tournament with their depleted roster. Not only that, but the Bulldogs went on to win the national championship that year. It was their first of a back-to-back championship run. If you talk to people on that roster, it was a galvanizing moment for the team that they built on for a much needed second half push. Michigan’s coaches and athletic department is depriving their kids of the opportunity to create a moment like that. If I were the guys in that locker room, I’d be furious and embarrassed at the lack of faith in the ability to compete.
Other Teams Facing Adversity
It brings me no joy to keep pushing the UMD propaganda, (editor’s note: that’s a lie) but they’re also in a tough spot this year. With two of their top players out at the WJC, they’re set to take on the number one team in the nation this weekend. Mankato, on the other hand, will be entering this game with a fully healthy and complete roster. They’ve got Nathan Smith who is 2nd in the NCAA in points and Dryden McKay who very well may be the best goaltender in college hockey. Math guys will point out that two players is less than five, but cancelling a game (series) like this was never even an option. I guess that’s the difference between Minnesota and Michigan as well as the NCHC and Big 10 hockey.
On top of being embarrassed by the entire college hockey community, Minnesota High Schools piled on too. Michigan is afraid to burn their kids out with a slightly depleted roster for two games. Meanwhile, Cotter High School is playing AN ENTIRE SEASON WITH ONLY ELEVEN PLAYERS. Here’s the kicker, THAT INCLUDES THIER GOALIE. They’ll be rolling with two lines from start to finish. When you really WANT to play hockey, you play hockey. It’s that simple.
Get Ratio’d, Michigan
If you were following along on Twitter dot com yesterday, you probably noticed the CRUSADE I went on. I spent an entire day going after Michigan all day long. I will not apologize for that. In fact, EVERYONE in the college hockey world went after them. That is how you know the optics are insurmountably bad and inexcusable. While I’m sure to have missed a lot, I want you to enjoy a few of the tweets I was able to find.
Michigan has been touted as the best team in College Hockey since the start of the season. Nobody has garnered more attention than the squad from Ann Arbor. While it’s a nice break from the Boston propaganda spread by east-coast elitists, I’m starting to think it’s undeserved. Listen, they’re a good team. They may even be a great team. But if you really want to be thought of as “The Best”, eventually you’re going to have to prove it. You can’t run from tough games forever.
Regardless of where your hockey allegiances are, every college hockey fan seems to agree. If you’re a fan of hockey, you’re a fan of Michigan Tech…at least for this week. Go Huskies.
I’ve been hit by cars three times, which is an indication of how stubborn I am.
I write about everything across the board, but focus on Hockey and the pain that is Minnesota sports.
Argue with me on Twitter: @venividiveech