It’s gonna be all right/View From the Bleachers
If I have learned anything in my nascent sports writing career, it’s that there is one immutable law that transverses all of sports, from professional football in the National Football League down to high school volleyball.
Never draft a kicker in the first round.
OK, If I have learned anything in my nascent sports writing career, it’s that there are TWO immutable law that transverse all of sports.
Winning solves all ills.
Any questions, any difficulties, any cracks in the faade, any coaches with drinking problems – there are few issues a string of victories doesn’t put to rest.
It is something to bear in mind as the Michigan Tech hockey team embarks upon its first ever season in the newly configured WCHA.
From casual conversation around the area to late-night discussions with my editor Brandon Veale, it has become apparent that much of the Copper Country community is not ready to move on yet from the WCHA of old. And I get it. Letting go of the status as a member of the The Premier (caps necessary) conference in college hockey can be difficult. Adjusting to eight new teams as conference opponents is just plain strange.
But it will also be wonderful for Tech.
For anyone who pays attention to college hockey they can probably quote theses following stats by heart, but it bears repeating for some perspective.
Tech has not hosted a home playoff series since 1993, 20 years and counting. The Huskies have finished dead-last in the WCHA five times in the last 10 years. In the three years prior to current coach Mel Pearson’s arrival, Tech won eight total conference games. Eight. As in eight games in 84 tries. In a sport with weird bounces, judgment penalty calls, hot goaltenders and a significant home-ice advantage, that number speaks loudest of all.
Even the last two seasons, which have rightfully been viewed as a revival for the Huskies, Tech finished No. 8 and No. 9 of 12.
What exactly is so appealing about that?
So Tech loses home dates with college hockey powers North Dakota, Minnesota, Denver, etc? Do those home dates mean anything when you are losing a battle to break into the middle of the pack? Does anyone really want to risk falling back into the 2-win seasons? Should I stop writing in questions?
This year, the Huskies were picked to finish third of 10 by the conference coaches, and fifth by the conference media. So merely meeting (outside) expectations will qualify as the most successful season in two decades.
And those expectations are right on. Tech absolutely should win in the new WCHA, and should compete for an actual conference title for the first time since newspapers abandoned typewriters. Through the first weekend of the season, WCHA teams went 6-11-3. Meanwhile, departed members of the WCHA finished with a 10-1-3 record. Merely by making incremental improvements in Year 3 under Pearson, the Huskies are in the position of title contender. This is a conference ripe for the taking.
And not to completely stumble into a Zen Buddhist rabbit hole, but there is a certain level of joy that can be achieved by just accepting what you are. With the size of the Huskies’ athletic resources and the location of Houghton – you know, away from everything – Tech was never going to be able to compete with the big boys year-in and year-out no matter how much of a wizard Pearson proves to be.
And that’s OK.
There is nothing wrong with striving to be the best small school in college hockey. Because as new WCHA member Ferris State demonstrated two years ago, small schools can win big when the NCAA Tournament comes around.
So fans can grumble and snark about when Bowling Green comes to town in December, cracking jokes about when the program used to host the likes of NoDak.
Few will be regretting the change if Tech is hosting a playoff series come mid-March.