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And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going

25 March 2018

tUMD 3, Purple Cows 2 (OT)/tUMD 2, AFA 1

This team. Oh man. They just will not quit. They are taking every bit of luck that’s come their way, and are making the most of it. They might be playing with house money, but they sure as heck aren’t squandering it.

Imagine going back in time to early December and telling your past self that tUMD would be in the Frozen Four.

back-to-the-future-2-old-young

Basically.

I am still adjusting to living in St. Paul (was my time in Duluth just a dream?), so this past week, I wasn’t as anxious as I normally would be leading up to a regional. On Friday instead of worrying about the games, I was talking to an exterminator. Karmic retribution for being a completely obnoxious jerk to UND fans is bed bugs, I guess. I’ll take that trade! Especially because it means 1. I don’t have to host anyone for the Frozen Four because who wants to stay at Casa Bedbug? and 2. someone else is footing the exterminator bill so I just have to tough it out a little longer.

Not my favorite distraction, but I’ll take it. Friday I watched from home, and I mean the term “watched” loosely because ESPN3 the Tres was not great and also I was frequently afraid to look at the television. It seemed like every time the screen froze up, Mankato scored.

I felt sort of numb and resigned during most of the game, since Zebediah Springfield and Ian Scheid scored in the first period and it seemed like we would never score ever again in the entire future of the sport, but when Karson Kuhlman scored, I was temporarily jolted out of my funk. But then it just seemed like¬†absolutely nothing happened in the game for like… ever. When Nick Swaney scored with just over 4 minutes remaining, I started to think things might start to go our way.

Then, overtime. Possibly one of the oddest overtimes I have ever seen, outside of the “puck through the net” situation between Air Force and Vermont (side note: the primary assist on that goal was from a former tUMD recruit, Wahsontiio Stacey). tUMD appeared to win on Nick Swaney’s second goal of the game, but instead it was reviewed and called back for goalie interference. I guess that was a good call? I didn’t see it. I immediately panicked, thinking tUMD wouldn’t be able to settle down, and Mankato would take advantage and win. And they nearly did, except the puck bounced off the butt of one of their players, who was in our net. And then tUMD scored for real, on this insane goal from Parker Mackay.

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The REAL game winning goal, by Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography.

For some reason Blake Young was basically flattened in the background and no one cared in their rush to celebrate. I wasn’t clear on what happened besides a collision, but fortunately he and whoever crashed into him are ok

Of course we had to pack up our bedbugs (not really, we put everything we brought in the dryer before packing, and used plastic bags rather than our usual luggage, to minimize chances of contamination) and head out to Fighting Hawks Falls for the Saturday game. If it had not been my first week in the new office, I’d probably have gone Friday night, too, but it wasn’t to be. The drive is very dull, and we were very fortunate the game was at 8 PM central, because it had snowed in southern and southeastern MN overnight and apparently the roads were really bad in the morning. Way to go, MnDOT!

Biddy, Rachel, Dan of the Weak, and our SCSU fan friends Erik and Erik’s Dad were already in Fhawks Falls, so we met up and attempted to get food. Our first attempt was Sickie’s, which is apparently delicious. They had at least a 45 minute wait. So did the Granite City next door. So did the BW3 near the arena, which we drove to. So did the next 5 places we called from the BW3 parking lot. It turned out that everyone was just squatting on tables to watch pumpkin pushing. We then drove to a Five Guys, thinking there’s no way it would be busy – but the parking lot was full! We drove around downtown, looking for a place to eat, but then even when we saw places that might have tables, we couldn’t find a parking spot. We finally at literally 7 PM, 45 minutes after we were turned away at Sickie’s, found counter spots at a diner and had delicious food. Biddy ordered something called a beermosa, which was Coors Light and orange juice, and claimed it was delicious. Rachel had a mint Oreo shake, and when I tried to order that, they told me they were all out of mint. I had chicken and waffles instead, and inhaled it.

We arrived at the arena just in time, and were in our seats at puck drop, essentially. I was in the upper deck, front row – and across the aisle from me was Bruce Ciskie, broadcasting away! Hilarious. If there was any screaming on the broadcast, that was me. Or Bruce.

The first period was all tUMD. Air Force could not get out of their own way. It was INSANE. I have never seen a hockey team screw up that much, even in a Little Chippers game. I could not understand how St. Cloud lost to them. They did not record a shot during the entire period. Even when they had an opportunity to shoot, a grade-A superopportunity, they screwed it up by making a bad pass or whiffing or missing the net. It was worrisome in the sense that Shep hadn’t made a save, and we could end up in one shot one goal territory if something went awry. tDogs scored 2 in the period, one by Joey Anderson and one by Nick Wolff that went in and out of the net so fast I didn’t realize it was a goal.

And then tUMD hung on. Going up 2-0 and then creating very little offensive excitement is a recipe for… a Mankato-like ending, basically. Fortunately, we were not playing ourselves, and were playing Air Force. Their only goal came in the 3rd, with what I would consider to be Way Too Much Time Left, on a loud noises PP (two guys racing full on to beat an icing/get an icing, tangled up, late whistle, and them boom, the AF guy falls and then hits the boards). They were able to pull their goalie fairly early on (1:42 left, although it felt like longer!), and tUMD was unable to get an empty netter to calm things down. It was incredibly stressful, but tDogs did enough defensively to get the win, celebrate as a group, and then skate over to celebrate with the fans.

Now we know that we’re the last hope left in the galaxy, tDogs have 2 weeks to prepare to humiliate the Small Seven. I am excited. I am not sure if I’m glad that I can enjoy the Frozen Four and then go home to my bed each night (there will be no more bedbugs by then), or if I am dearly missing living in Duluth and enjoying the camaraderie of the community.

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We’re going to the ‘ship! Photo by Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography.

I can’t believe it. Two more wins and tUMD will be national champions. Let’s turn 0.0001 into 1.0000!

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Significant Figures

21 March 2018

One ten-thousandth of one ratings percentage index point. The razor-thin margin that put tUMD in the NCAA tournament as the final at-large bid. Against overwhelming odds, in a bizarre scenario in which all things went tDogs’ way off the ice when absolutely nothing went their way in the ice, tUMD will be in Fighting Hawks Falls on Friday, facing off against former conference foe Minnesota State.

This is an unbelievable opportunity, and while I know tDogs are anxious to prove that they have more hockey left in them, that they have more to show us than what we saw last weekend, I have a different message.

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink*
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

*please note that in this context, “in the pink” means healthy, perv

Go out there and have a good time playing hockey. Don’t think too hard about this. You worked hard and played well and won lots of games to put yourself in this situation. Don’t let pressure or expectations or fear or impostor syndrome (do men even have that?) get to you. Go out and play hockey and try to win a game. And then another game. And then another one. And then another one. You’ve already done that twice this season. Why not a third time? And you probably won’t even have to play Denver, they’ll probably choke in the first round.

I won’t be in Fhawks Falls to see you guys play on Friday (first week in the new office, second week in the new house), which means you have to win, so that I can come see you guys on Saturday, which means you have to win again. No pressure; I know that the mere idea of my presence will be a powerful motivator.

The great news is that of the 3 teams in the regional, you’ve beaten two of them. (Never mind that they have also beaten you, that is somehow irrelevant. I would explain it to you but I suspect most of my readers are not well-versed in quantum mechanics.) The even greater news is that there will be significantly fewer beet fanatics flipping you off and thumping their chests while shouting their former nickname at you. (Or, more likely, at me. I endure a lot on your behalf, guys.) The somehow even more super greater news is that I bet $5 that you would win it all and I like money. Again, no pressure, it’s only $5, and I haven’t even given the money to Dan of the Week, so I can always renege!

Like a Rolling Stone

11 March 2018

Next week, when the UMD men’s hockey team heads to St. Paul for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, I’ll be going with them…

…and I won’t be coming back.

After four and a half years living in Duluth, I’m leaving. Starting on Tuesday, I’ll be a resident of St. Paul. Ultimately, it is a good thing (I have a great new job opportunity, but it required relocation), but leaving here is going to be so hard. It’s only two days away, but still doesn’t feel real.

When people find out I live in Duluth, their response is almost always “Oh, I love Duluth!” This is the same response I had before I moved here, and while I still love Duluth, it’s not a starry-eyed, naive type of love anymore. My love for this city is much more complex than it was before I was a resident.

It is considerably more fun to be a Bulldogs fan in Duluth. I loved sleeping in my own bed every night after hockey games, instead of going back to a hotel, or a friend’s spare room, or even worse, hopping in the car and driving two and a half hours back to the Twin Cities after the game. It was fun to see Riley Tufte at the movies, or Blake Young at Perkins, or Bill Watson in the elevator at work. It was neat when I was going to tUMD and would see Meghan Huertas or Sammy Squirrel Spurrell in the corridors; I even had a class with Catherine Daoust. It was nice to drop in at UMD Stores on campus for the balloon sale, or attend a special weeknight season ticket holder event.

It was fun to be able to attend high school games and other collegiate games. A high school friend of mine ended up returning to teach at UWS, and she and I attended several UWS women’s games. I went to high school section games, and saw my friend Hunter score his first high school hockey goal this past winter. It was also nice to be able to watch some away games on My9, even though I’ll be moving away just as they finally get the channel in high def. It was incredibly cool to see the Curling Club on TV during the men’s curling finals, and to hear the community buzzing about Maddie Rooney and Sidney Morin.

The ugly truth that many in Duluth don’t like to admit is that we don’t like hockey that much, collectively. There are dozens of outdoor rinks, and lots of kids that play hockey, but the men aren’t filling the arena every night, and the women seem to draw the same number of people no matter what (actually, they are likely drawing fewer people, since they play Friday-Saturday instead of Saturday-Sunday). It seems I’ve been proven right once and for all: Shannon Miller wasn’t the reason people stayed away.

The silver lining to this dirty little secret is that it doesn’t really matter if this city isn’t hockey obsessed. There’s actually more to life than hockey. I know it’s hard to believe! Especially for someone like me who appears to have structured her entire life around hockey. To the point where I deliberately scheduled my move for the week between the quarterfinals and the NCHC tournament. But obsessive fandom is only sustainable for so long. While I used to be almost painfully early to games, now I’m quite fashionably late to almost every game, much to the chagrin of The Aaaahj. I sometimes even miss games to do stuff like buy a house or run 31 miles.

Beyond hockey, there’s a lot to love about this city. The lake, whether it’s a full moon reflecting off it when it’s still, or whether it’s crashing against the shore during a storm. The Superior Hiking Trail, threading its way through town, providing wilderness in the middle of the city. Miles and miles of bike trails. Beautiful old houses. Walking along the red bricks of Superior Street downtown during the first snow, feeling like I’ve gone back in time 100 years. Mild summers where all we need is the lake for air conditioning.

But then, there’s also the Marches. And Aprils and Mays, when it’s warm everywhere else but here. In a way, May is the best month in Duluth: the college students have gone, but the tourists haven’t arrived in full force yet. Although with the number of youth hockey tournaments held here, it seems like tourist season never ends. It doesn’t take long to adopt a townie mentality, I am here to tell you. One Grandma’s Marathon weekend or move-in day and it’s all over.

Most people look at Duluth as some kind of hippie liberal paradise, and I suppose if you never leave downtown/Canal Park, it might look that way. But you don’t have to stray too far from the tourist attractions to see the other reality of Duluth; poverty, drug abuse, homelessness. A city split literally down the middle into the haves and have-nots. The “plausible deniability” brand of racism that is typical of the Midwest, locals decrying the “people from Chicago” who are bringing drugs and crime to the city. Environmentalists and union members at odds over two of the main industries in the region: energy transport and mining. Congressional campaigns waged over who likes guns more.

We came to Duluth in September of 2013, intending to stay for a few years while I attended tUMD (after becoming a Gopher reject myself, I guess karma for calling them my safety school back in 2000), and then moving back to the Twin Cities or wherever I could find a job. By the time I graduated, it looked like we were going to stay indefinitely. My time as a student at tUMD was amazing: even as a non-traditional student, I felt like I fit in; I got an amazing education in the same halls as my parents, my uncle, and my aunt; and I found a fantastic internship that turned into my full-time job. My grandparents moved back here permanently, my dad moved to Pike Lake, my uncle is looking to return as well. Often times I can’t believe I’m leaving. The movers are coming to start packing tomorrow morning, and yet it still doesn’t seem real.

If this all seems maudlin and melodramatic, it is. It’s not like I’ll never be back – I’ll be back in May, if not earlier. I haven’t slain Tybalt. It’s just hard to imagine that Wednesday morning I’ll wake up in a new house, in a new city, with a new body of water mere blocks from my house. Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

What About Bob?

8 March 2018

Today is International Women’s Day, and it’s also the third day of the Shannon Miller v. The Regents of the University of Minnesota trial. It’s probably a good time to bring up something that isn’t sitting well with me.

Last weekend, four people were inducted into the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame: golfer Tom Waitrovich, longtime multi-sport volunteer Dale “Hoagie” Haagenson, women’s hockey legend Jenny Potter (who played under Miller), and former AD and football coach Bob Nielson.

I really don’t understand inducting Nielson into the HoF at this time. I know a lot of the hype around the lawsuit, from pro- and anti-Miller sides, focuses on Chancellor Lendley Black and AD Josh Berlo, but the alleged systemic issues that led to the discrimination lawsuit pre-date both Berlo and Black.

Black’s predecessor, Kathryn Martin, testified on Tuesday. The Duluth News Tribune reports:

Martin acknowledged that she was protective of the women’s hockey program, and that she asked Black to continue those efforts. She said Miller had the support of former athletic director Bob Corran, but his successor, Bob Nielson, was “hesitant about pushing too hard for equity in the women’s hockey program.”

This is unsurprising and unremarkable, in the sense that there are hundreds of men in AD positions around the country who are hesitant about pushing too hard, or at all, for equity in women’s sports. If you require me to cite a source for that, all I can say is I’m sorry you’ve broken from reality and wish you well during your in-patient psychiatric treatment.

The DNT continues:

The university maintains that the December 2014 decision to let her go came as a result of her declining performance and an analysis that showed a cost-per-win well in excess of rival head coaches as UMD faced a budget shortfall.

This was elaborated on in a subsequent article:

Donald Chance Mark Jr., another attorney for Miller, turned the discussion to one of the factors subsequently cited by UMD in its decision: a financial analysis prepared by Berlo showing that Miller was paid about three times as much per win as the women’s hockey head coaches at Minnesota and Wisconsin during her final four seasons.

This is somewhat off-topic but is a perfect example of what women have to face in their fight for pay and resource equity. No one ever questions that perhaps Johnson and Frost are underpaid. When Tony Granato was hired at Wisconsin to replace Mike Eaves, Johnson became the senior coach, with significantly more proven success in the job, but Granato makes nearly twice as much money as Johnson does. Why doesn’t Johnson press for pay equity? Rumors that Johnson was marking time in the women’s job until the men’s job became available (only to have Eaves stick around long enough that Johnson’s window of opportunity passed) would make it seem that he views his job as inferior to the men’s head coaching job, and that he in fact deserves to be paid less. Of course, he’s never stated this to me, so I can only speculate. We need coaches and administrators, regardless of their gender, to be tenacious in their pursuit of equity.

No one can ever say Miller was not tenacious in her pursuit of pay equity, and she was fortunate to have Kathryn Martin in a position to support that and to pay her a salary comparable to her peer (since tUMD plays up in hockey but is actually a D-2 school, Scott Sandelin is the only coach who was truly her peer in this sense), but, according to the lawsuit, she faced retaliation for her actions in this regard.

Many of the details that first emerged when the lawsuit was filed are disturbing and speak to a hostile work environment. But did that hostile work environment appear overnight in 2013, upon Berlo’s hire? Or was it a continuation of what was already occurring under Nielson’s watch?

Nielson is not going to appear in court, but may have been deposed for testimony, according to Tom Olsen of the DNT, who is covering the case.

I question the decision to induct Nielson into the Hall of Fame before this lawuit has been decided. It would be in extremely poor taste to honor him in this way, only to later hear in court that Nielson was complicit in the retaliation or workplace harassment Miller experienced during her tenure. UMD should have waited until a decision was reached in the lawsuit, and then gone through with the induction if it was still appropriate.

I know there are lots of people out there who don’t like Shannon Miller and who found her either personally or professionally grating. I am here to tell you that it does not matter if you don’t like her, or think she’s annoying, or if she wasn’t sweet and nice and meek, or if you’re a disgusting subhuman cretin who hates women’s sports and thinks they don’t deserve any funding or support – it is not acceptable to use gendered insults, or insults related to her sexual orientation, to express these feelings in the workplace. (It isn’t acceptable in any arena, but it is illegal federally [on the basis of sex] and on a state level [on the basis of sex and sexual orientation] to behave in this way in the workplace.) And people in authority (like, say, athletic directors) have a responsibility to ensure they themselves are not discriminating against employees on this basis, and that their employees are not being harassed on this basis by their colleagues. And until this trial is concluded, it was ill-advised for UMD to have honored someone who may (or may not) have been in a position to allow discrimination or harassment to fester.

Remembering Andrew Carroll

22 January 2018

There’s no need to use hyperbole or superlatives to describe Andrew Carroll. Simply telling the truth of his accomplishments and demeanor while playing for the Bulldogs says more than any adjective ever could.

Andrew Carroll was the type of player who, through sheer will and determination, far outstripped what might have been the natural talent ceiling for another player with a similar skill set. His dedication to the sport and to his team was evident whether he was following a strict diet (as of his tenure with the Bulldogs, he hadn’t had fast food since something like 8th grade, and he packed his own lunch on road trips – also a prudent financial measure) or throwing up on the bench between shifts due to illness. He was a one-man penalty killing machine. He filled any role he was asked to.

It’s often clich√© to say a player loves the game so much he’d play for free – but when Carroll was playing for the then-ECHL Charlotte Checkers, he had a chance to play with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Upon learning of the call-up,

“He said there’s no need to pay me. I just want to go,” [Charlotte Checkers coach Derek] Wilkinson said. “‘Just give me a jersey. He’s got no sense of entitlement whatsoever. He’s a kid you want to root for.”

His nearly unprecedented 3-year captaincy with the Bulldogs is also a testament to his character and dedication. He played a significant role in moving the program forward to where it is today; the improbable playoff run of the 2008-09 Bulldogs (his senior year) set a new standard for Bulldog hockey. Carroll himself set a new standard of pride and workmanship for both players and leaders. Putting on the #20 jersey means something more than it did prior to 2005-06.

Fans have shared anecdotes recounting his acts of kindness, large or small, that impacted their lives or their children’s lives, even a decade later. He was an easy player to root for or look up to. There were likely quite a few youth coaches in the area who could point to his work ethic and his defensive play as virtues for their young players to emulate.

His parents were as much a part of the Bulldog family as he was; years after he graduated and left Duluth, they were often spotted in the crowd at Amsoil Arena (or elsewhere). His family and friends, his teammates, his coaches, and his teams’ support staffs, have lost a person of great consequence. The legacy he left at UMD will endure as long as the program exists, and his giving and kind spirit will survive in others as, per his family, he was an organ donor.

Thank you for the four years you gave to this program, Andrew. I wish your loved ones had been granted forty more. I hope for peace and comfort to those who mourn you.

Dire Straits

2 January 2018

I haven’t been to Amsoil Arena in a month, and haven’t seen a Bulldog win at home since November 25th. It’s been below zero Fahrenheit almost every moment since Christmas Eve. The US men lost to Slovakia at the WJC and then needed a shootout to beat Canada in The Most Ridiculous Outdoor Hockey Game Ever Played Other Than The One in LA. Things are getting a little dire.

Some good stuff is happening, too. Of course 5 of our guys made the WJC roster (2/3 Andersons, TUFTE, Perunovich, and Samberg), and the remainder of the group pulled out a tournament* win** at Dartmouth. There are two exhibition games this weekend to look forward to, vs. Team Korea (with bench boss Sarah Murray) and vs. the Whitecaps.

*I guess we can call any event in which 4 teams convene a “tournament” nowadays?
**Shootout win, officially a tie, but Dartmouth is scary – just ask Denver.

Some amazing things are happening, too. Sidney Morin and Maddie Rooney are on Team USA for the Olympics. Haley Irwin, Jocelyne Larocque, and Brigette Lacquette have made Team Canada. Lacquette is the first indigenous woman to play for Hockey Canada in the Olympics. The head coach of Team Canada is our former assistant HC, Laura Schuler. This will be Team Canada’s first Olympics since 1998 without Prime Minister of Quebec*** Caroline Ouellette, so that will be weird. I can’t find any rosters for other countries (though I did not try very hard), but one can be assured that Lara Stalder will be on Team Switzerland, and there will be Bulldogs on Team Sweden.

***Obviously Celine Dion is Queen of Quebec.

This season has thus far been one of managed and/or adjusted expectations, on both teams. We knew it would be, but I know it’s hard. We’ve been having more ups than downs on the men’s side of things, and we’ve had almost entirely ups on the women’s side of things since the program’s inception. There are still plenty of exciting players on the ice, and plenty of games left – no one’s been eliminated yet. Wow, how about that for optimism?

All right, let’s all grit our teeth, hunker down, and ride out the season. Even if it doesn’t end so well for either or both of our teams, next year’s gonna be awesome.

From Top Shelf To Food Shelf, Year 5

13 December 2017

My friend Jessi sent a message out into the universe the other day about how she constantly feels like she wants to do something to improve what seems to be an increasingly more unpleasant world. I get that feeling – anyone with a soul is struggling right now with a sense of helplessness and a perceived inability to affect positive change on a grand scale.

If you’ve been a part of From Top Shelf To Food Shelf over the past 5 years, whether you’ve pledged, challenged others to pledge, or helped publicize the event, you’ve been part of something that has made a real difference. Or, at least, I hope you’ll feel that way after you see what we’ve accomplished together.

This year, we raised $4053.25 and 159 food/clothing items for various organizations in our own communities, or in the communities where our teams play. While managing the data behind the event, I get a chance to see the organizations you folks choose. These are great places doing amazing work.

Over the 5 years this event has taken place, we have raised $10624.65 and 594 items. I hope you can take a moment and feel good about that. There’s lots of work to be done to help people who are struggling or vulnerable, or to stop people who want to exploit them, but we’ve done something tangible to help.

It feels different, to me, to give as part of a group effort. I make donations when and where I can, and it feels like nothing. $20 feels like $0. But when I think “I was part of a group of people who raised $10k to fight hunger,” it feels like making a positive impact is attainable.

Thanks for being part of this, whether it’s your first time or your fifth time, whether you gave five bucks or five retweets. Thanks for looking past what a heinous beast I am to the players on your team or your fanbase or you personally (*cough*Bruce*cough*) and joining in the fun. Thanks for finding a little extra in these uncertain times, to help out strangers.

Chag Sameach, friends!