Black and Yellow…

Anyone that’s a Boston Bruins fan these days obviously has a lot to be happy about. Count goaltender Zane Gothberg among those happy fans.

The Force goaltender/North Dakota commit/former Thief River Falls star is a Boston Bruins prospect and he said it’s awesome to see the B’s four wins away from a Stanley Cup title because it shows the franchise is doing some amazing things.

“I knew for sure they’d be good. They are a deep team and they made some picks and trades earlier in the year like getting Nathan Horton who has been huge for them in the playoffs,” Gothberg said. “Timmy Thomas has also been huge as well. There were some doubters giving me crap and this has been a good opportunity for the Bruins.”

If there’s a player happy about being a possible Boston Bruin, it has to be Gothberg. There have been plenty of days where he’s walked around Scheels Arena with his Boston Bruins’ winter hat on.

During the Tampa Bay series, Gothberg dropped a message to Lightning prospect/former Force forward/Miami player Jimmy Mullin about it over Facebook.

Anytime he talks about what his Bruins experiences have been like he has nothing but good things to say. One of those involved last year’s development camps where rabid Bruin fans filled the place so much the fire marshal had to shut things down for a bit because of the large crowd.

“With them being an Original Six team, they have fans that are diehards that grew up with the Bobby Orrs and the other superstars they’ve had,” Gothberg siad. “They’ve established themselves as one of the premier teams in the league and their fanbase is one of the premier fanbases in the league too.”

He said that he’s received a bit of fan mail over the season from Bruins fans and they’ve even come to games asking for autographs.

Perhaps if things go the way Gothberg wants, the crowd of adoring fans could get even bigger. This offseason, potentially, could be the most important Gothberg has faced to this point.

He comes into a year where he’s not splitting time with anyone and he’ll be the guy that gets most of the playing time on a team that could easily compete for a Clark Cup title next season should things go as planned.

“I’ve been doing a lot more off-ice stuff,” he said. “It hasn’t been about putting on more weight, but just trying to build my muscle mass and my explosiveness. Also, my endurance. I’m just trying to put on a little bit of muscle but I also want to be quick with it too.”

Surely, this is news the Bruins are going to be happy to hear/read about. That’s because the Bruins have a system where they keep in contact with their prospects. Gothberg said the process, which is NCAA legal, has prospects update the team via email with their progress.

The team gets back with the prospects within a few days so they can get an idea for how things are going when it comes to development.

Given all the off-season work and potential heading into next year, he could easily give the Bruins front office plenty to feel confident about.

Then again, that’s all depending upon if he tells them what he’s listening too.

For those not aware of Gothberg’s reputation, Bruins fans love the kid on Twitter. They loved his attitude, his shiny helmet that he wore but when he admitted that he rocks out to Miley Cyrus, well, let’s just say he should have not admitted to that one.

“There is a little bit of Miley still on my iPod. She’s been a little quiet as of late and I don’t have too much of her new stuff,” he said. “I’ve been opening my genre into rap/hip-hop listening to Lil Wayne and kind of been rocking some Wiz Khalifa. I’ve been loving his tunes as of late.”

Walk The Line…

When the USHL Playoffs started there were more than a few people that thought the Dubuque Fighting Saints had a chance of winning the Clark Cup.

Most of that had to do with the kind of talent Dubuque had which included Northeastern commit John Gaudreau, the league’s second-leading scorer among others. The rest of it had to do with a growing hypothesis in junior hockey circles that the USHL sets up expansion or relocated franchises to have success in their first few years to attract fans.

What’s occurred in the playoffs the last three years has attributed to those claims. Prior to this season, the Force, a relocated franchise, had made the Clark Cup Finals in its first two years. The team missed out this year following a second-round loss to the Fighting Saints, a reboot of the team that dissipated in 2001.

Of course the argument could be made that Muskegon, another expansion franchise, made the playoffs but it didn’t advance to the Clark Cup Finals.

“I don’t think they (expansion or relocated teams) have an advantage,” said USHL spokesman Brian Werger. “When an expansion club comes in, we want to put them into the best position possible to be competitive but we don’t want them to have an advantage over everyone else.”

Werger pointed out that a lot of the success these teams, expansion or relocated, have is predicated on the coaching staff.

Dubuque, for example, had a management structure in place that involved Adam Micheletti, who grew up around the game and has a working knowledge of it all works. It had Jim Montgomery, who has been an assistant at major college programs among others.

Having the right pieces in place is what can ultimately lead to a team having success in its first season.

“Look at year one for Fargo,” Werger said. “This reminds me of an interview with Dean Blais, who said he didn’t think his team would win a game before Christmas.”

But here are some numbers that can support either argument.

Since 1999, which is when nine of the league’s current 16 teams came into existence via expansion or relocation, only Dubuque has won a league title in its first season.

Yet in that same time of those nine teams, six of them made the playoffs in their first season. Of those six, Muskegon and Dubuque were the only expansion franchise to make the playoffs. The rest were all relocated franchises.

Franchises, whether they be expansion or relocated, face the task of trying to win along with making sure they’re acceptable to USHL standards. Werger said the league and its board of directors go over every detail with every new club to make sure the right people are in place so a franchise can continue to grow.

“We’re not like a car salesman that sells a car and hands the keys over and says, ‘here you go’,” Werger said. “When a team comes in, we want to make sure from top to bottom, they have the right people in place and that they are in it for the long haul.”

Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough…

Just got off the phone with Force defenseman and Minnesota-Duluth commit Willie Corrin and it sounds like he’s having a pretty good offseason.

Corrin said he is happy about returning next season and getting a chance to develop, which has been the theme of his off-season. He’s taken time off but starting next week, he’ll be working with a trainer, to gain more weight.

“I want to be 6-3, 200 pounds by the time the season starts,” said Corrin, who was listed at 180 throughout the season. “I want to eat more, but I want to eat the right things and gain weight in the best way.”

Corrin said he had a conversation with the coaches at Duluth and it was always came down to the team having him come in when it was necessary. Because Duluth hasn’t faced that many losses, Corrin is going to stay one more year.

“I’ll come in as a 21-year-old freshman,” he said. “But that’s more than fine with me.”

Corrin said some of the best advice he’s received was from former Gopher winger Ben Gordon. Gordon, who is from Corrin’s hometown of International Falls, told him to stay in juniors for as long as he can and develop.

Next year will certainly give Corrin that chance as he’s one of 11 returning players the Force has for next season.

He said that he’ll chat with a few guys on Facebook and he’ll text with guys like Colton Hargrove. Corrin said he plans on coming down to Detroit Lakes later in the summer to hang out with teammate Tanner Lane.

Corrin added he’s looking forward to hanging out with his teammates as they hold training camp in Prior Lake in early June.

They’ll be talking about a lot and one of those things will certainly be Corrin’s dance moves.

For those who missed yesterday’s blog post, here’s the Corrin of video showcases his dance moves.

 

Here’s the story about Corrin’s dance moves:

“Prom was the wekeend before that and I’ve always gone to dances since I was in seventh grade. I’ve always liked Michael Jackson and I did my best impression of him at Pep Fest. My buddy was emcee at the Pep Fest and nobody wanted to go back to class. So my buddy said, ‘For all the people who were not at prom, do you want to see Willie Corrin dance?’

“At prom I had this dance battle with the DJ and I kicked his ass. So my buddy thought it’d be funny if I went down and started dancing. The whole school started chanting my name. The part in the video where I grabbed myself, there were some moms that saw that and they tried getting me suspended from school for indecent exposure. Our principal saw the video and then he told me that he told the moms that they needed to mind their own business and get a life.

“All I ask is don’t Google my name because that comes up all the time.”

Rocketeer…

Defenseman and Minnesota-Duluth commit Willie Corrin answered quite a few questions when the team said Tuesday he’d return for next season.

Corrin, who played high school hockey at International Falls, split time between forward and defense last season. That led Minnesota-Duluth coaches to tell Corrin they wanted him to spend another year developing primarily at defense before coming to the school.

Anytime a team can get a returning player, it’s a plus. But when you look at the Force’s roster and see how many guys are coming back, it might be fair to say that it could be a Clark Cup frontrunner.

The Force will return 11 players for next season with the breakdown being six forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender.

From the looks of it, that’s pretty good and hypothetically, that’s two forward lines and two defensive partnerships along with a starting goaltender. Hypothetically, it means just having to fill two more lines and one more defensive partnership.

It was a line up that was looking impressive to begin with but Corrin’s return gives the Force a much better look heading into next year. Having guys already familiar with Herter’s system should allow first-year guys like defenseman Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota) and first-round forwards Jordan Nelson and Gabe Guertler to ease into the system.

This doesn’t guarantee that the Force will be a Clark Cup contender or even a playoff team. But when you look at the returning players plus what the Force can bring in via the affiliates list, the USHL Entry Draft and the USHL Futures Draft, it looks like things are on the up for the black and blue.

Here’s also another reason why its a good thing Corrin is returning. A few weeks ago, I was on YouTube looking to see if there were any highlight videos and I stumbled upon this video of Corrin. Something says Herter and his staff didn’t have this kind of reaction yesterday, but they were probably pleased to hear he was coming back.

 

Try It Again…

A few days ago, there was an entry regarding a report that officials in Marion, Ind. were moving ahead with a new facility to bring in a USHL team in 2012-13.

That could very well happen, but league spokesman Brian Werger said Marion getting a franchise is still “premature” considering the report stating that the city will indeed be getting a team.

“They have applied to the league and it’s been submitted to a review,” Werger said from the league office in Chicago. “Just because an arena has gone up there, it does not qualify them for the team.”

Werger said the Marion ownership group’s paperwork is in the early stages and getting a team is a process that does take time. The league’s board of directors goes through the paperwork involved when it comes to adding a new team.

He added that just because there’s interest in bringing a USHL team to Marion, it doesn’t mean it is a done deal by any means.

Werger has said on separate occasions that the league does receive multiple requests a month from potential ownership groups wanting to start a team. But there are quite a few factors the league looks at before even giving a team a “yes” or “no.”

“I don’t think there’s an exact number in mind, but if you are asking a population question, that’s something we’d look at,” Werger said.  “You want to go into a market that’s supportive and a community that’s a quality place to live and its a place that can bring in kids that are 16 to 20 years old. There also has to be a good schooling system and there’s a lot of different factors that go into it.”

Werger said there’s no plan to add teams for the 2011-12 season. The USHL generally likes to give teams more than a year to plan ahead.

He used the recently-crowned USHL champs the Dubuque Fightings Saints as an example. Werger said Dubuque had the kind of success most franchises dream of, but even they admitted they wish they had another six or so months to get everything in order.

“With expansion we’ve done a good job and we want to set them up in a place where they could succeed,” Werger said. “We would at least want to be a year out from having a team come into the league.”

Should Marion be given a franchise it would expand the league’s eastern footprint, as Werger said.

Indiana has been a really good market for the USHL given the Ice’s success. The team had the second-best attendance in the league this year in a state that’s historically had mixed, at best, reactions with the sport.

The Ice have drawn more than 100,000 fans the last three seasons and also had the league’s second-highest attendance in the 2009-10 season.

Rhode Island’s It For Me…

Some know him as a budding Twitter star. Some know him as the young umpire calling JV baseball and softball games across northwest Minnesota.

Former Roseau star and Providence forward Tyler Landman is known as a lot of things. He’s just hoping that he can use the summer to help Providence come back from a disappointing season and be known as one of the better teams in Hockey East next season.

“It was a tough season and we had a good team along with a great nucleus of seniors,” said Landman, who scored three points in 24 games last season. “We had some puck luck in some games and I thought we were in every game but couldn’t find a way to win and it snowballed. It was a frustrating season.”

The frustration led to the school releasing coach Tim Army and bringing in new coach Nate Leaman, who led Union to a 26-10-4 mark along with a NCAA berth.

Landman, who’ll be a junior next season, said the school’s search for a new head coach was uneasy because there were unknowns that made it hard to figure out what could be in store. But when the school hired Leaman, he had a quick team meeting before school ended.

Landman and Leaman will talk sometime in June about the goals for the upcoming season and what they hope to accomplish. One thing Landman can tell his coach is that he’s been busy in the weightroom. Landman is spending the summer in Roseau working with multiple players including former Force forward and now St. Cloud freshman Nick Oliver and St. Cloud goaltender Mike Lee.

“I think it helps when you are surrounded by good people who know what they are doing,” Landman said. “Its not like your in high school and you’re doing squats. That’s not good enough. You have to go above and beyond in the weight room and make sure you are around good people.”

This week, he’ll be around New York Islanders prospect and former Gopher Aaron Ness, who’ll be working out with the group for a few days.

Landman’s pretty straightforward when it comes to his workouts. He wakes up early in the mornings and takes care of business right away.

But after that’s over, he’s just like any other hockey player enjoying the off-season. He’s getting in as much golf as he can while hanging out with friends he hasn’t seen since last summer.

Some of the things he and his friends have talked about has been the Thrashers would be move to Winnipeg. If and when the team moves, it’s going to be a hit in Roseau for a few reasons.

“I think there has been a lot of excitement and you’ve already had people ask, ‘Hey do you want to get in on season tickets’ and and a lot of people want to go see (former Roseau star) Dustin (Byfuglien),” Landman said.  “It would be nice to not drive six or seven hours to see and NHL game and I think it’d be good to have the Jets back in Winnipeg or whatever they’ll be called.”

The Stein Song…

Barely 20 minutes passed after Jim Montgomery won the USHL’s Clark Cup championship and the talk already started.

Fire Timmy. Hire Jimmy.

Those not familiar with that term, it has basically become code for many University of Maine fans and alums that the school needs to get rid of current head coach Tim Whitehead and hire Montgomery, the school’s all-time scoring leader.

Whitehead hasn’t exactly had the best seasons lately to put it mildly. Maine has missed the NCAA Tournament the last four years and that’s not sitting well with the Black Bear faithful considering Whitehead started his first six years at the school reaching the tournament in every year along with winning a minimum of 20 games every year during that stretch.

Maine looked like it was going to turn the corner this year with early season wins over North Dakota but it turned out to be another disappointing season further fueling the fire of Whitehead getting canned.

Four years is a long time to go without making the tournament. So the frustration is understandable. But will hiring Montgomery really solve everything?

Being a Maine alum, I’ll provide this insight into Montgomery. Paul Kariya was the most-well known player to play at Maine. Montgomery, among some, is the most popular with fans and alumni. Montgomery has a display case at Alfond Arena with his jersey, awards and photos detailing why he might be the greatest player in school history.

He was part of this surge that turned Maine into a hockey power in the early 1990s. All that plus the fact he’s been an assistant at Notre Dame and RPI is enough for some to say Montgomery is the guy for the job.

Maybe he is. Just not now. Montgomery, though he’s a great GM in the USHL, needs time before he takes over the Maine job if it is indeed something he wants to do. There hasn’t been any indicator that says otherwise but you just never know.

As for Maine fans disappointed with the program. Yeah, get in line with others that aren’t too happy with things. Minnesota is going through it right now. Every program, at some time, just goes through a bad stretch and right now its Maine’s time.

That and it feels like whenever a program isn’t achieving what fans want, it is way too easy to say “get someone from our glory days” to return a program to prominence. Don Lucia has heard that quite a bit these days and it doesn’t help that he potentially has Dean Blais looming over his shoulder.

Whitehead’s situation is different because there isn’t anyone one figure outside of Montgomery that’s really being touted as a successor. Whitehead’s done his part in terms of recruiting but he can’t exactly help the fact that the major pieces he wanted to build around jumped ship and bolted for The Q. Hiring Montgomery isn’t going to change that. No coach can change a kid’s mind into jumping for Major Junior.

Maine fans need to give it time and before they know it, they’ll be drinking to all the happy hours and careless days soon enough.

That being said, it really is a make or break year for Whitehead. If Maine misses out on the tournament – again -it might not be fun times around Orono and it could be proof that a change really is needed. In turn, that makes the upcoming season a make or break year for Maine hockey in general.

But its just to early to say that Montgomery is the right guy to fix what some may consider to be broken.

Indiana Wants Me…

Last night I put out a tweet saying that there’s a chance that Marion, Ind. could possibly get a USHL team.

There was a report, which indicated that the people in Grant County were building a new arena that could be ready by 2012 setting up a possibility that the league could have a team there.

The USHL has had success in Indiana with the Ice, a team that does draw well in a state not typically known for hockey. But what can be said about Indiana is that it is a decent sports state. People will come out and support a team and if this does happen, maybe this could spurn the local economy in Marion. There are quite a few local economies that could use a shot in the arm and maybe this could be it.

Let’s say this happens, that’s great but it does raise a question. What city is next? You just really can’t picture the league saying it is only going to add one expansion team giving the league an odd-number of teams.

The league said about a month or so ago on the blog that there has been interest shown from cities saying they want a team, but nothing concrete was really given. Keeping with how the USHL does things, maybe it is a safe bet to say the team will be somewhere in the Midwest.

It is now just a matter of what town and when they’ll come into the league?

Have any thoughts? Please feel free to share.

Take care everybody.

Going Away To College…

In case you haven’t heard the news, some of the NCAA powers-that-be said they could consider paying college athletes more than the scholarships they’ve already been given.

This has been an argument in college sports for years. Should the NCAA and these universities, which make a killing, repay the kids that have made them so rich? Some say yes and some say no.

Each has their reasons for it but there are reasons it might not work and college hockey is an example. Take a look at most college hockey schools. There are schools like Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Minnesota that have big athletic budgets because they have a consistent flow of revenue.

And then there are schools like North Dakota, Cornell, Maine, Denver, New Hampshire, et. al., that do have other sports but hockey is the main sport and in many cases those sports don’t come close to generating the kind of revenue like a school like Minnesota would have with football.

That’s the thing to look at in all of this. If you are the Floridas, Texas and USCs of the world, this sounds doable, but if you are a smaller D1, how do you make this work?

Would there be some kind of revenue sharing plan where an allocated amount of money is dispersed to every school? Even if there was, something says that wouldn’t go over well.

Imagine being the head of an SEC school and being told that you’d have to go for some kind of revenue sharing plan to help a school up in Yankeeland with hockey. That’s probably not going to go over to well.

Not only that, but let’s be real here. If you are a big name school, would you want to share your pot with anyone? Especially if its a school that may never be able to add to this revenue sharing idea?

There’s also the whole argument as to what this could do for the Major Junior vs. NCAA debate. Quite a few people agree that paying college kids would, to a degree, make college hockey suffer because anyone that was a Major Junior washout could play college and take spots away from kids that may be more deserving.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this one.

Bye Bye Birdie…

Usually this space is reserved for junior and college hockey but this whole Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg strikes a nerve and here’s why.

If we’re talking about what this means for people locally, it gives them another team to cheer for that’s nearly the same distance as the Wild. If you live in Roseau, you’ve got to be happy about all this.

The Thrashers moving to Winnipeg has winners and its losers and the biggest loser in this is Southern Hockey.

Before anyone gets on this high horse that hockey in the South is irrelevant, let’s look at this. When Dallas won a Stanley Cup, they beat Buffalo, a northern team. When Carolina won its cup, they beat Edmonton, which is about as Canadian as a cup of Timmy’s. Oh and then there’s Tampa Bay. They beat Calgary. See my point?

Hockey in the South has worked and its continuing to work the problem is it didn’t work in Atlanta. And you know what? It really isn’t a surprise. Anyone that’s followed me on Twitter or just knows me, knows my thoughts on Atlanta. In short, it is easily one of the worst pro sports cities in America. The Braves have more fans outside town than in town. The Hawks are only relevant when they’re winning and nobody gave a damn, at least on a full time basis, about the Falcons until Mike Vick came to town.

The NHL, and God love them for it, had a move to make and they made it. They wanted to grow the game and that can’t be done unless you hit major markets and Atlanta was certainly that. Atlanta had its chances. It had its players but it just didn’t work.

But don’t get it twisted. Atlanta’s failures certainly do not represent that hockey in the South can’t work.

Hell, I am living proof. Granted, being military I’ve grown up and lived a bunch of places but I went to middle and high school in the South. My parents are from the south and they’re about as country as cowboy boots next to a hot plate of catfish and grits. But let me tell you this. I found a way to get interested and there are plenty of other people who found ways to get interested.

It just so happened that quite a few of them lived in Atlanta. When the NHL has talk of relocation, it is so damn easy to pick on the Southern cities because let’s just say it, people don’t like the idea of their precious game being lambasted by the south. Guess what? Get over it.

Think Canadians love the fact that their sacred game has teams that exist mostly in a nation that doesn’t hold it in the same regard?

Congrats to Winnipeg for getting a team. It never should have left in the first place. But for anyone that says hockey in the south is a failure, my advice to you is this. Look at Tampa Bay when they play Boston and see how many empty seats there are.

You won’t find any empty seats. All you find is proof that hockey can work even in the South.