Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Highway Robbery

So I was calling a boys hockey game the other night between Bloomington Kennedy and Lakeville North, and I witnessed the greatest display of highway robbery (and poor sportsmanship) I've ever seen. Here goes.

The two teams were scoreless through 2 1/2 periods, and North scored on a power play to go up 1-0. A few minutes later, North had a two-on-zero breakaway, and the second player flipped the puck over the goalie to score on a rebound shot. Or so we thought. The referee was right there to wave off the goal, because one of the North players was in the goal crease (later, our video replays showed conclusively that the call was right on the money - and that the player in the crease actually made contact with the goaltender while he was on the ice).

Right after the goal was disallowed, the Lakeville North player in the crease went ape and got right in the face of the guys in zebra uniforms. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct minor. But even worse, the North coach stopped the game for at least 5 minutes while he argued the call. He was absolutely livid - and this wasn't the first...or second...or even the third time in the game that he stopped the game to hog the spotlight and argue.

Kennedy scored the equalizer 10 seconds into their power play, and then another 1:09 later, they scored the go-ahead goal. With 3 1/2 minutes to play, they had a one-goal lead thanks to North's complete meltdown. And they held on to win the game.

Lakeville North was ranked #9 in the metro and #13 in the state before the game. But unfortunately for them, they are no longer. As a Lakeville graduate, I attended the high school during the tenure of the current coach. At that time, several players quit the team because they couldn't stand playing for him. The team has played in a few state tournaments since then, but clearly the coach hasn't figured out some of the little things. And it cost his team that game against Kennedy. Remember, the Eagles made all the plays to come back and win, so don't take anything away from them. But a team's actions reflect the character and teachings of its leaders. If the North coach had set a different example for his team, to respect the game, their opponent and the calls of the officials, they surely would have held on for the victory. Even in the face of adversity, you have to stay mentally tough. That's where good teams are separated from the great ones. And this North team completely failed their first mental test of the season.

But this goes beyond the game on the ice. This is about teaching young athletes right and wrong. Blaming others for how things unfold in your life doesn't make anything better - instead, you need to step up, take responsibility for yourself and do your best with what you have. That's the game of life, reflected in this one game of hockey. And the Lakeville North coach seems to have lost that game bigtime, much to the detriment of his players. It's really too bad.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I'm back...

So I'm back...sorry guys.

The Vikings have won five in a row, and struggling St. Louis is coming to town. Yes, the defense is playing better, but one of the more underrated reasons for the turnaround? Koren Robinson. This guy is playing his lights out, and he's corrected a lot of the things that kept him from fitting with Seattle - namely holding onto the football. In hindsight, this was easily one of the top three free agent moves the team made last offseason.

High school hockey is back! Already I've seen some good contests - Jefferson/Lakeville North, etc. But Hill Murray/White Bear Lake? What a yawner. The #2 and #3 ranked teams in the state scored 1 combined goal, and passes were sloppy, skating was lackluster and penalties were frequent. I was completely underwhelmed...glad it's early in the season.

And speaking of low scoring, how about the T-wolves! They may have it put together now, thanks to the fact they only allow 80 points a game. 10-6 after 16 games isn't a bad start, for a new coach and a lot of role players. If they keep gelling, it could be a fun rest of the year.

Gotta run. I'm out like girls hockey players from the Kennedy H.S. team.