Hockey Night in Boston v. The Beantown Classic
Lance LoFaro, executive director of Hockey Night in Boston, the cash cow of New England's summer hockey tournaments for over 30 years, has filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the smaller, more exclusive two-year-old Beantown Classic, run by Boston Junior Bruins head coach Peter Masters and his former assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Bill Riga, who was hired days after the end of the tournament by Union College.
Masters and the Boston Junior Bruins are reported to be in the process of putting together a $2 million countersuit, which we'll touch on in a minute, and report on in greater detail when and if it's actually filed.
LoFaro's complaint, filed in Essex County (Mass.) Superior Court, charges that the defendants, Masters and Riga, who also coached at HNIB (on a per game stipend), used their position as coaches at HNIB to gain access to "confidential proprietary information" belonging to HNIB. In addition, the complaint charges that Masters' and Riga's "direct contact with HNIB players to create a directly competing business venture" unfairly diverted business away from HNIB and toward the Beantown Classic.
There was no written non-compete clause in the complaint, but HNIB nonetheless claims the defendants' actions consituted a "breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing." HNIB's employment contract with Masters and Riga is described as "verbal." (Masters and Riga, according to the complaint, each earned approximately $2,250 per year for coaching at HNIB.)
The complaint goes on to say that, "As part of its business operations, HNIB maintains a confidential proprietary list (the "List") of the Northeast region's most-talented scholastic-age ice hockey players who attended their tournaments and tryouts. The list consists of over 2,000 current players and a data base of 5,000 players." The complaint says the list was "compiled by LoFaro and his assistants over the course of many years, and took substantial time and research to create."
The suit charges that "Masters and Riga knowingly calculated their decision to work at HNIB so they could learn the business, gain knowledge of HNIB's unique operations and systems, and wrongfully obtain confidential business information to assist them in establishing their competing tournament utilizing many of the specialized techniques developed over the years by HNIB."
The suit charges that for this year's tournament, Masters and Riga, "deliberately scheduled their Beantown Classic in the same time period as HNIB All-Star weekend. The purpose was to harm or destroy the business of their employer, HNIB."
The suit charges that Masters and Riga, at this summer's tournament, began to approach HNIB players about the Beantown Clasic tryouts, which were held Aug. 8-10 at Walpole's Iorio Arena. The suit contends those players were "encouraged to miss key HNIB Major Showcase playoff games and attend the Beantown Classic tryouts instead." The suit also contends that HNIB suffered from "noticeable absentees directly related to the Beantown Classic tryouts schedule."
The suit particularly emphasizes the following weekend (Aug. 14-17), when the Beantown Classic and the HNIB All-Star Weekend went head to head. On Sat. Aug 16, the suit contends, 28 of the 36 players committed to play in both tournaments failed to show up at HNIB.
The Masters/Junior Bruins countersuit, in the process of being worked up, is likely to center on 1) the fact that there was no non-compete clause with HNIB and that 2) NHIB, in filing this suit, is attempting a restaint of trade. Slander could also be included, as players and parents reportedly heard LoFaro, both around the rink and in front of a large crowd at the HNIB Awards Banquet on Sat. Aug. 16, denouncing Masters in strong terms.
LoFaro, asked to respond to both his initial suit and Masters' countersuit, told USHR that, on the advice of his lawyer, he was unable to speak to the specifics of the suit. "We'll just let due process take place," he said.
The bottom line here is that HNIB took a huge hit, in prestige more than in dollars, when a large number of top NCAA-eligible players opted for the Beantown Classic, which offered fewer teams and a significantly higher caliber of play, over HNIB. Given that disparity, players, pro scouts, college recruiters, player agents, and fans, rather than drive from Walpole to North Andover and back (over an hour each way) in order to attend both tournaments, stayed put at the Beantown Classic. The conclusion, to any impartial observer, was unmistakeable: the scouts and college coaches will go where they can see the best players. The best players will choose the tournament in which they can compete against the best. Nothing new there.
However, for LoFaro and HNIB, which began operations in 1972, and generated, according to the complaint, approximately $1 million in gross sales revenues in both 2001 and 2002, getting trumped by Masters and Riga was a blow.
Most people in the industry saw it coming, however, as, with twenty teams, and an increasing number of elite players bypassing the tournament, the level of play has become increasingly watered down in recent years, the result being that players, pro scouts, and Div. I recruiters have found fewer and fewer reasons to attend the tournament in the numbers they once did. LoFaro, who disagrees with that assessment, could take steps to address the problem by cutting back on the number of teams in the tournament, though that would reduce his revenue.
Since that weekend in August, LoFaro has been on the offensive. Shortly after the tournament, he sent a fax to the HNIB coaching staff, primarily comprised of elite prep coaches, bemoaning the fact that "the competition to get the top 75 players in this part of the country has now reached 'cut throat' proportions." The fax pointed a finger at the Chowder Cup, the Hub City tournament, and the Beantown Classic.
In the fax, LoFaro said he has always taken a "passive attitude towards the competition." However, he wrote, "That now is all going to change -- and it must start with a staff, an HNIB staff committed to supporting and endorsing our program. That means recommending and encouraging your players to attend HNIB. Not just in the summer but in March for the All-Scholastics as well. It starts with getting your best players involved as automatics (and we now have financial help when truly needed from CCM and Arby's)."
"Sadly, some of our staff don't really push their players to attend," the fax continues. "Unfortunately we will not be able to guarantee those coaches a spot next summer."
"Some coaches here send 10, 15, even 20 players to the HNIB camps. Others produce little and consistently provide excuses why their players are not here."
(The Boston Junior Bruins organization, by our unofficial count, sent ten players.)
Missive #2 was sent by LoFaro on Sept. 3 to Frank Bonello, the director of Central Scouting for the NHL. In this broadside, LoFaro named the eight coaches -- all NHL scouts -- who were hired to coach in the Beantown Classic, and wrote: "We at HNIB consider this involvement of NHL scouts with a profit-making organization such as the Junior Bruins organization to be a direct conflict of interest. These scholastic players are 16-19 years old, all highly influenced by the attention show them by these professional scouts."
The Beantown Classic coaches included the NY Rangers' Bob Crocker, the univerally-respected dean of New England scouts; and also numbered Chris McCarthy (Edmonton), Scott Fitzgerald (Columbus), Chris O'Sullivan (Colorado), Wayne Smith (Columbus), Sean Coady (Bruins director of pro scouting and player development), and Neil Shea (Pittsburgh).
LoFaro also wrote Bonello that he has evidence that "some of these scouts called players using their status of (sic) a pro scout to ensure that a player would attend the event. " (There are no rules against that, so it's a mystery as to why it was brought up.) LoFaro also claimed that he knows of at least two instances where players were offered "tuition free" incentives to play. He did not specify who made the offer.
"Might I remeind you," LoFaro wrote, "that several years ago Pro Elite founder Joe Lyons of Canton, Mass. was dismissed as a Boston Bruins scout due to glowing (sic) 'conflict of interest' allegations."
LoFaro wrote that he felt pro scouts coaching at the tournament was "unethical and a direct conflict of interest, since, of course, these scouts are paid by their NHL employers as well." He didn't mention that the coaches who coach at Hockey Night in Boston are also being paid by their prep, high school, and junior teams.
Bonello was reportedly mystifed as to why he even received the letter, as not one of the scouts named above were employed by Central but, rather, by their respecitve NHL teams.
Six days later, on Sept. 9, LoFaro sent off another letter, this one to each NHL team's general manager, basically repeating what he'd written Bonello.
Needless to say, LoFaro is suddenly finding himself being looked on unkindly by pro scouts in the New England region, who see him as someone who is out to get them fired. When LoFaro came to the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs tournament on Sat. October 18 to to take pictures for the HNIB paper, he wandered into the scouts room and, according to one who was there, "got the cold shoulder. You could have heard a pin drop in there."
The next missive from HNIB came couched as a press release and was headlined Summer Tournaments Hit Dangerous Waters. In it, LoFaro wrote that "HNIB has uncovered what appears to be glowing (sic) NCAA violations as more and more summer tournament organizers try to attract the top players to their events. It seems that whenever necessary, players are being given preferential financial treatment by being allowed to participate for 'no fee.'"
"These types of deals are offered to star players, some of whom have already accepted college scholarships for 2004 or 2005," the release said. "The goal, it seems, is to strengthen their summer tournaments in hopes of attracting NHL and college scouts to attend."
The "deals" LoFaro is referring to fall under NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.6 and can lead to a player being judged ineligible for NCAA play if it is determined that preferential treatment, benefits or services, because of the athlete's reputation or skill are offered and accepted by the student athlete.
Continuing, LoFaro points a sharp finger at various other unnamed local tournaments, claiming they have violated this bylaw. He warns numerous parties -- parents, players, prep coaches, and college coaches -- of the "catastropic consequences" of violating this rule.
Masters, for the record, says he has cancelled checks from every player who played in his tournament.
Our take on all this is that HNIB is shooting themselves in the foot by bringing up the bylaw because the best kids will still go to the best tournaments -- they'll just be careful and make sure they are paying full price and aren't receiving any kind of preferential treatment. So it won't necessarily help HNIB. It appears that the issue was brought up because LoFaro, possibly fearing that his lawsuit might get tossed out in summary judgement, went looking for some moral high ground to stand on. By positioning HNIB as the only "clean tournament" in town and implying that kids who go to any other tournament might wake up some morning to the sound of NCAA henchmen tearing down their doors is probably an ineffective method of coaxing kids back to his tournament, and, like negative campaigning, can backfire. Perhaps by bringing up Bylaw 22.214.171.124.6 LoFaro feels he has found a way to get at his competitors by planting seeds of doubt in the minds of hockey tournament consumers (i.e. parents). The pitfall in bringing it up at all is two-fold. 1) It's extraneous to the main points of HNIB's complaint, which are breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In reality, a judge is unlikely to listen to any talk about the NCAA and its rules and regulations, as they fall outside his purview. And 2) By bringing up Bylaw 126.96.36.199.6, LoFaro opens up a Pandora's Box. If LoFaro, who has an obvious vested business interest, brings up something like this and the NCAA decided to pursue it, and did indeed find a kid who somewhere at some time had received some kind of preferential treatment, who'd be the winner? There'd be no winner, just a loser, and that would be the kid denied a chance at a college scholarship.
We have heard stories over the years of select kids at Hockey Night being given preferential treatment when it came to tuition and fees. When we asked LoFaro about it, he said, "That's not true."
The bottom line here is that pinning the blame on the Beantown Classic is just a waste of court time, like too many cases these days. If Peter Masters hadn't pulled it off, and come up with the higher quality tournament, then someoe else would have. It was just a matter of time. Clearly, LoFaro didn't listen to what people, this publication included, have been saying for years. But that's the way it is in business. If you're not giving the consumer what they want, they'll look elsewhere. Look at old photos of your hometown. How many of those businesses from thirty years ago are still there?
For now, the Beantown Classic is the local tournament of choice for the elite college-eligible player. That doesn't mean it will be next year, or five years from now. It just means it is now. As for the value of the "List" mentioned in the complaint, there is no value in it for the simple reason that there are not "2,000 current players" in the 16-19 age group with the potential for moving on to Div. I play. The trick is coming up with the 150 best -- and then recruiting them to your tournament. Anybody who watches a lot of hockey knows that Masters and Riga, through hard scouting winter, spring, summer, and fall, came up with eight strong teams of 18 players apiece, a group likely unmatched by any tournament of its kind in the U.S. last summer. It's no accident Nate Leaman snapped up Riga immediately upon assuming the reins at Union last August. There are no secrets. College coaches know where the talent is, and if you bring it all to one location for them, that's where they'll go.
Hopefully, all this stuff will be put to bed before it progresses any further. HNIB can still be a profitable tournament. It might take some repositioning, perhaps gearing the tournament more to prep school coaches at the younger age levels, and Div. III coaches at the older age levels, but it can be done. One thing is for sure: there's plenty of money falling from the money tree, enough for everyone who works for it.
As for the "specialized techniques developed over the years by HNIB", well, running a hockey tournament is not quite the same as running the human genome project. 'Nuff said.
UNH Strikes Again
6’2”, 195 lb. LD Craig Switzer of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) will be joining the Wildcats next fall, becoming the third player to commit to UNH in a busier-than-normal Thanksgiving weekend.
Switzer, a 10/16/84 birthdate ranked as a “B” prospect for June’sNHL draft, is an offensive defenseman with good puck composure, and will be QB’ing the Wildcats power play before long. Switzer has a lot of poise with the puck, moving it well and making good decisions. A native of Peachland, BC, he has the potential to be UNH’s next big-time defenseman.
The schools Switzer was dealing with were Northern Michigan, Ohio State, and Alaska-Fairbanks. In the end it came down to UNH and Northern.
This year, in 25 games with Salmon Arm, Switzer has a 7-23-30 line
In other commitments this week,5’8”, 170 lb. RW Tomas Klempa of the Danville Wings (USHL) committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the fall of ’05.
Klempa, a native of Piestany, Slovakia, is a small, quick forward with good stick skills. In 18 games with Danville he has a 7-12-19 line. He’s a 2/3/84 birthdate.
Jesse Lane (see below) was a success in his first game back in the USHL. An NHL scout at Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to River City, said that the Carolina 3rd round draft pick was highly noticeable. “Lane,” he said, “made a significant difference in the flow of the game. He created opportunities, and just kept things moving when he was on the ice. He’s a much bigger kid now – a strapping lad. He didn’t play ultra-physical or anything, and I wouldn’t say he was exceptional defensively. He was fine, but I expected a little more. He’d mostly just ride guys out and give them a little chop. He did move the puck well, though, and get things going. It was nice to see someone make plays -- and put the puck in places where plays can be made. I think he could play in the AHL now.”
For the record, Lane had one assist in the game.
Richter to go Ivy
Mike Richter, who retired this past summer as the winningest goalie in NY Rangers history, will be returning to college as a full-time student starting next fall.
As of this writing it’s unclear where he will be going, but he’s already been accepted at Brown. He’s waiting to hear from Yale and Dartmouth.
Richter will be considered a transfer student, as he completed his first two years of college at the University of Wisconsin from 1985-87 before leaving to play with the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team at the Calgary Olympics, and then turning pro afterward.
Whatever school Richter winds up at, he’ll be entering as a junior. The hero of the US World Cup of Hockey win in 1996, he turned 37 in September.
Reportedly, Richter, a native of Flourtown, PA, outside Philadelphia, and a 1985 graduate of the Northwood School, is looking for a new challenge, so don’t look for him to be jumping back into the hockey world after he picks up his sheepskin.
Richter posted a 310-258 career record, all during a 14-year career with the Rangers. He played 666 regular-season games, posting a 2.89 career gaa.
A Big Challenge for Hynes
One Div. I college coach whose school played – and handily beat -- the U.S. Under-18 Team this fall was appalled by how undisciplined the U.S. team was on the ice – from the way they played to the way they looked (ripped hockey pants, etc.)to the way they acted (constant mouthiness and swearing).
“A real ragtag bunch,” he said.
And he didn’t even mention other problems, the behind-the-scenes stuff like an abundance of suspensions from the team due to poor grades, and significant problems at Pioneer High School.
You could say that the situation 28-year-old newly-minted head coach John Hynes walked into last week, nearly three weeks after Moe Mantha left the program for the OHL, is a reclamation project.
Hynes, however, thrives on hard work, and is intensely disciplined. If he can get this team on track, it will be a noteworthy accomplishment and a huge career boost for the former BU forward who has learned the trade under the likes of Jack Parker, Jeff Jackson, and Mike Eaves.
Hynes, a Warwick, RI native who played at Toll Gate High School, thinks he can bring positive changes to the Under-18 team, and knows his methodology, which, basically, begins with one important point.
“The kids are going to follow after the personality of the head coach,” he said. “They’re simply the products of what they’ve been around.”
Hynes acknowledged that he’s returning to an NTDP quite different from the one he left when he went with Eaves to Wisconsin after the 2001-02 season. While Hynes wouldn’t point fingers, it’s clear to everyone closely following the scene that the program has suffered from lack of leadership at the top.
“David (Quinn) and I are both disciplined and we’ve tightened the reins,” he said.
The team is taking its first road trip under Hynes this coming weekend, playing three Div. III colleges -- Colby (Fri., 7 pm); Bowdoin (Sat., 5:30 pm); and Williams (Sun., 4 pm). If they play well and win, it could serve as a much-needed confidence builder. In the seven games the Under 18s have played against major conference Div. I schools (UNH, Denver, CC, Maine, Cornell, Northern Michigan, Notre Dame), they’ve lost every time out, which is not unexpected. What is unexpected are the lopsided scores and the lack ofconsistent competitiveness.
Hynes’ job will be to raise the Under-18’s level of play, and get it to a point where the players can gain something development-wise out ofthe games against Div. I opponents, which this year have done nothing to help the confidence of the kids.
As Hynes begins his career as a head coach, he pays homage to Parker, Jackson, and Eaves. “Every one of those guys has won championships at high levels,” he said. “They taught me everything about coaching and life. What makes them successful is that they can translate and break down aspects of the game so the players understand it. They do it in a fun and passionate way. They also have the ability to be organized and on top of things. They are role models, teachers, and administrators.”
Hynes will have to be all of that. Asked about the fact that he is only 28 years old, Hynes said, “You are what your experiences are. Age is just a number. There are doctors and lawyers who are 28.”
Hynes also points out that that the NTDP is about development. “And I’d say that 90% of my experience coaching has come from the development side of the game.”
Next year, Hynes will become the head coach of the Under-17 team (the ‘88s), while Quinn, who’s had success with this year’s Under-17s, will move up and become the head coach of the Under-18 team, thereby having the ‘87s for two years in a row. That is, if Quinn, who came close to getting the Vermont job, isn't tabbed for a Div. I job after this season.
Two for the Wildcats
Texas Tornado (NAHL) RD Brad Flaishans and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL) LW Greg Collins have committed to UNH.
Flaishans is coming to UNH next fall. A Glendale, Arizona native, he’s an offensive defenseman who can run a powerplay. He has good speed, breaks the puck out smartly, is an excellent passer, and has a shot from the point that he keeps low, hard, and on net. His stick skills are outstanding. He has a 5-18-23 line in 19 games, and is expected to finish the season as the NAHL’s top-scoring d-man.
Flaishans, who’s 6’0”, 177 lbs., is a 10/23/83 birthdate and is in his second year with the Tornado. Prior to joining the Tornado, he played for the Dallas Stars Midgets. He’s the younger brother ofJustin Flaishans, who played briefly for Denver a few seasons back, and now plays club hockey at Arizona State.
Collins, the younger brother of BC’s Chris Collins, will play one more year in the USHL and arrive in Durham in the fall of ’05, in the class which includes Gerry Pollastrone and Kevin Kapstad.
A native of Rochester, NY, Collins is 5’8”, 165 lbs. and a 2/14/86 birthdate. He’s quick, sees the ice well, is strong both with and without the puck, and is as hard a worker and as competitive as anyone you’ll find.
Collins, who played for the Walpole Stars (EJHL) last season, has a separated shoulder right now. In 15 games, he has a 4-10-14 line, good for fourth on the team in scoring.
Collins made his final choice from between BC and UNH, and he had a very difficult time making up his mind.
Lane Returns to the USHL
6’2”, 200 lb. Jesse Lane, a third round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2002 and the leading scoreramong all major junior defensemen while playing in the QMJHL last season, is driving west right now and will be in Des Moines in time to suit up for the Buccaneers as they host River City in a Thanksgiving Eve match.
It will be the first time Lane has played in the USHL since the 1999-2000 season, when he also played for Des Moines, then coached by Tom Carroll. At the time, Lane, who is from Needham, Mass., was the youngest player in Bucs history.
Here’s what’s happened in the years since. In 2000-01, Lane moved on to the U.S. Under-18 Team. The following year, he matriculated at Harvard. In what would have been his fourth game for the Crimson, Lane was benched for accruing too many penalty minutes the night before as Harvard was blitzed for four powerplay goals by Vermont. Three days later, in a move that shocked the college hockey world, Lane was playing major junior, having signed with the Hull Olympiques (QMJHL). After his first year north of the border, in which Lane notched 83 points in 48 games, he was drafted in the third round by the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season, Lane played the first half of the year with Hull before being traded to the Victoriaville Tigers (QMJHL). At the end of the season, he was named a first-team QMJHL All-Star. He reportedly worked hard in the summer, played well in Boston-area summer pro leagues, and expected to be signed to a contract by Carolina and assigned to the AHL.
“Carolina was very encouraging in the summer,” Lane said, “but some people in the organization didn’t think I was worth the money.”
When the Hurricanes training camp ended, Lane was not offered a contract, which would have placed him in Lowell (AHL), which Carolina now shares with Calgary. Carolina VP/assistant GM Jason Karmanos, a former Harvard forward (’96) wanted Lane to return to Victoriaville.
“I was shocked and dismayed,” Lane said. “I felt I had nothing left to prove in major junior. I led the CHL defensemen in points. I was a first-team all-star. I didn’t know what else they wanted me to do. Carolina was saying they didn’t have any money to sign me. And I didn’t think returning to major junior would have been the best for development.”
So Lane hung up his skates and worked this fall as an intern at the Cato Institute, a Washington, DC public policy think tank that, Lane said, advocates “free markets and an Adam Smith laissez-faire approach to economics.”
“I liked it,” said Lane, who is interested in going into politics someday. “You learn to look at things with a skeptical eye.”
Lane’s return to Des Moines is serendipitous. While playing for the Bucs four years ago he started dating a local girl and the relationship continues to this day. In October, he wasin Des Moines visiting during a weekend and went to visit with his host family from four years ago. The boy in the family plays hockey and Lane went down to watch him at the Metro Ice Sports Arena, where he was introduced to Bucs’ coach Bob Ferguson.
“He said he was low on D, and asked if I would like to play. I told him I was in DC doing an internship, but when I was thinking about it later, I remembered how much I loved played out there.
“A week ago, I called him and he said ‘we’re still short one D.’”
Lane’s internship was due to end at the end of the week. He told Ferguson he’d be out right afterward. It’s fair to expect him to be rusty at the start.
“I’m really enthused about this,” Lane said. “I still love the game. I’m going out to Des Moines to prove to people what I can do.” (If Lane isn’t signed to a pro contract by June, he becomes a free agent.)
Under the current plan, Lane is going to play for the Bucs through January. In early February, he will be returning to Harvard as a full-time student, though he hopes to be able to fly out to Iowa and play weekend games with the Bucs.
How does he feel about his leaving Harvard two years ago?
“I don’t regret it,” Lane said. “I think I’m a better player now. Also, going to Canada was a good experience. I lived in a culture I didn’t know much about. I’m a better person for it. It’s also made me appreciate school more. I liked all the games in the Q. If we lost a game we could get it back a few nights later. But I really missed school.”
Colorado College assistant coach NormBazin remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., and while “official” first-hand news from doctors or any other officials is difficult to come by, we can tell you, after piecing together information from various reliable sources, that things are improving.
Medically, there are many issues, all of which appear to stem from the fact that Bazin’s aorta was severed in the accident, an extremely dangerous situation; and he has a large number ofbroken bones. While we have no specifics on how the accident happened, we can tell you that five hours of emergency surgery were performed Thursday night into Friday morning to repair the aorta. Signs indicate that the heart is now successfully pumping blood to the body. The rate of infection after such surgery is fairly high, with the first 48 hours being the most critical. Bazin is well past 48 hours, so that’s a very positive sign, though the potential for complication still exists.
Reports indicate that the spinal cord is intact, and CATSCAN reports were looking good., too. Bazin has movement in his limbs.
We know that Bazin was put into an induced coma in order for at least some of the surgeries, which have been numerous, to be performed.
The other major issue is simply the fact that Bazin suffered an awful lot of broken bones. -- both legs, both ankles, numerous ribs, and his jaw.
Later today (Tues.), doctors will be doing surgery on Bazin’s jaw. If everything progresses well and he eventually moves on to rehabbing, it could be a long processNeedless to say, there are a lot of pins holding him together right now..
Bazin, at 32, is young and in very good shape. In addition, his wife, Michelle, whom he met while an undergrad at UMass-Lowell, is expecting the couple’s first child in February, so right there Bazin has a lot to help pull himself through. Bazin, who is from Notre Dame de Lourdes, Manitoba, and speaks French as a first language, played for the Notre Dame Hounds (SJHL) before going on to Lowell. An intelligent, likeable person, Bazin has many, manyfriends in the college hockey community.
D-Day in Dayton
By tonight the Dayton Gems (NAHL) could be out of business.
The club is owned by Dayton businessman Jeff Walker, who owned the former Gems CHL franchise. Walker is reportedly uninterested in putting any more money into the team. Recently, he attempted to pull together a group of 30 investors, but that effort failed as the investors backed out on him.
The league has already had one meeting on the situation, and a second will be held today.
Some owners, reportedly a minority, would like to see the NAHL take over the operation
of the team while other owners would prefer to fold the franchise.
The Gems are currently in last place in the league’s North Division.
Head coach Mark Frankenfeld and his staff are reportedly frustrated with the situation.
Players are quitting and going home. Reportedly, a parent of one of the players took
money out of his personal account so the team would have meal money for a recent road
Calls to the Dayton Gems and the league have gone unanswered.
Central Scouting Preliminary Rankings
Following the link below will take you to Central Scouting's preliminary rankings for the June 2004 NHL draft.
You'll need Adobe Acrobat and Excel in order to read them. Click on "Preliminary Ranking" on the tool bar on the left-hand side of the page.
In the first list of players -- USHL & US High School -- players are designated as "A" or "B" players. In the estimation of Central Scouting an "A" player is one who has the potential to be selected in the top four rounds of the June draft. "B" players, needless to say, are those who have the potential to be drafted in the late rounds.
Note: Phillip Axtell, a Michigan Tech recruit for the fall of '05, is listed among Minnesota high school players though he's actually from Maryland and playing midgets in Michigan (Marquette Electricians).
Note: Phillips Exeter defenseman Andrew Gale is likely to be drafted both in baseball and hockey, and should go high in the former. Gale, who throws in the '90s, is the son of former big league pitcher (and Red Sox pitching coach) Rich Gale.
Ian Keserich, Auto Designer
6’2”, 180 lb. Cleveland Barons (NAHL) goaltender Ian Keserich signed his National Letter of Intent with Ohio State this week.
Keserich, a 1/6/86 birthdate from Parma, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, uses his size well in coming out and challenging shooters, and plays his angles well. In tight, he’ll utilize the butterfly. And he’s very competitive.
Keserich was recruited hard by BU, Michigan State, and UMass-Amherst. Maine was on him, too, particularly in the wake of his August performance at the Under-18 World Junior Cup in Piestany, Slovakia, where he was named the tournament’s most valuable goaltender. (The other goalie on the gold-medal winning US team was Andover Academy’s Cory Schneider, a BC recruit.)
Keserich has ties to Columbus. Blue Jackets forward Danny Fritsche is a former Baron, and Fritsche’s younger brother, Buzz, will join the Buckeyes in the 2005-06 season. On top of all that, both of Keserich’s parents attended the Columbus Institute of Art.
Their son might have wound up there, too -- if they had a Div. I hockey program. The younger Keserich is into design engineering and can often be found drawing on the team bus. His particular interest is in automobile design.
Keserich is in his second season with the Barons’ junior team and has played 1,123 minutes (nearly 19 games) with a .901 save percentage and a 3.04 gaa. Last January, Keserich was playing for the Barons’ midget team when Tim Alexander returned to coach the NAHL team, and made calling up Keserich his first act as coach. Over the rest of the season, Cleveland’s GAA was nearly two goals lower than it had been prior to Alexander calling up Keserich.
Bazin Critical but Stable
Colorado College assistant coach Norm Bazin is in critical but stable condition after a Thursday night car accident near Spokane, Washington. At the time of the accident, Bazin was returning from a recruiting trip to British Columbia when his rental car collided with a SUV about 20 miles north of the city. Road conditions were snowy, as a storm had dumped up to a foot of snow in the area.
Bazin, 32, underwent multiple surgeries Thursday night and Friday morning at the Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane. Bazin’s wife, Michelle, who is expecting the couple’s first child in February, flew into Spokane, along with other family members, Friday morning.
CC coach Scotty Owens informed the team of the news during Friday’s pre-game meal. CC battled to a 2-2 tie at Wisconsin that evening.
Bazin, from Notre Dame de Lourdes, Manitoba, a French-speaking suburb of Winnipeg, played his college hockey at UMass-Lowell. A left wing, he graduated in 1994 after playing one year for Bill Riley and three for Bruce Crowder. After a short minor pro career, Bazin returned to UMass-Lowell and worked three years on the staff of Tim Whitehead. This is his fourth year at CC.
What happened on Thursday night plays into the fears all the assistants at Div. I programs have. These guys log thousands of miles every year, often traveling in remote areas under wintry conditions. Frequently, they are road-tired, yet have to push on to the next town for a game, a connecting flight, or sometimes just to find a place to sleep. Recruiting is not always as glamorous as it sounds and, as Bazin’s accident illustrates, has its dangers.
Our thoughts – and the thoughts of the college hockey community -- are with Bazin and his family.
Hanson Gets Slapped -- Again
Longtime Catholic Memorial head coach Bill Hanson, charged with running a preseason camp in Nov. 2002, didn’t get what he was looking for in his Nov. 4 appeal to the Mass Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Board of Directors.
He got worse.
Hanson’s initial suspension dictated that he be barred from coaching CM’s first six MIAA games of the season. This past Tuesday, instead of reducing Hanson’s suspension or overturning it, the MIAA board upheld it – and added to it. Hanson is now suspended until the seventh MIAA-sanctioned game of the season. With games against outside competition such as St. Sebastian’s this means that Hanson likely won’t be back until the tenth game of the season, which is in January.
Catholic Memorial is planning to appeal Hanson’s suspension to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Council. We have no idea whether that board has the power to extend the Hanson ban even further, which would certainly be unusual. Clearly, Hanson has raised the ire of the MIAA.
The camp in question was conducted – at least the on-ice part – by Chris Nilan, a CM grad who played in the NHL and came back to his alma mater last season as an assistant coach.
McDavitt to Union
5’11”, 190 lb. RD Phil McDavitt of Noble & Greenough will be going to Union College in the fall.
McDavitt is a highly mobile, competitive defenseman who can skate and moves the puck..
A 2/2/85 birthdate, McDavitt is a native of Duxbury, Mass.
Att: U.S. College and Junior Coaches, Scouts, and Fans
The Northeastern U.S. Division I Prep Composite Schedule, 2003-04, a must-have for anyone combing the back roads of New England this winter, will go to the printer tomorrow and will be back and ready for mailing by the end of the week. Click below for an order form.
Boys Div. II and Girls Prep Hockey Coming to USHR
Sorry about the dearth of news. As we mentioned last week, we've been woodshedding, trying to get a new improved web site together that will include not only Div. I boys, but Div. II as well. And that's not all, as we're also starting a girl's section. You'll see it all this week, and any feedback is most welcome. Drop an e-mail to email@example.com
We're also looking for someone who would like to help edit the girl's section.
It's a great internship opportunity. Our ideal candidate is someone who can
write, both understands hockey and has a passion for it, and can cut to the
U.S. Under-18 Team 5'11" RD Nate Hagemo, a prized recruit for the University of Wisconsin, has decided he wants to play closer to his Edina, Minn. home.
And he will.
Hagemo is no longer a Badger recruit. He's a Gopher now, and will be joining the U's blueline when next fall rolls around.
Hagemo, who's accelerating and will graduate in June, and his parents recently initiated talks with University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, and yesterday visited the school, where he committed for next fall. We were unable to get Hagemo's thoughts, as he's flying back to Ann Arbor as we write this.
For the Gophers, this has all come out of the blue -- an unexpected early Christmas gift. For Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, it's the opposite. Eaves and Lucia talked last week and, as far as we've been able to discern, it was cordial.
When we reached Eaves around lunchtime today, the Badgers coach, while disappointed in losing a player of Hagemo's ability, sounded philosophical about the whole thing. "To be honest," he said, "it's the risk you take with a 17-year-old boy. They change their minds. It's just part of the risk these days."
Hagemo made his verbal commitment to Wisconsin last December, just two months after his sixteenth birthday and a few months after arriving at Ann Arbor. To our way of thinking that's too young to be making college commitments -- and you won't find much disagreement on that matter among Div. I coaches, even as the whole process continues unabated. Since we've seen Div. I schools recruit players, get commitments, and then change their minds and tell their star recruit that they are no longer needed, it's hardly surprising that kids are changing their minds, too. Frankly, they shouldn't be put in a decision where they have to make that decision in the first place. They are kids, and they should take their time. But there's pressure on them to commit, be it real or perceived, and sometimes they just make the 'wrong' choice, not realizing how much they can change in a year. We can certainly understand how playing for Eaves would have captured Hagemo's imagination a year ago. We can also understand how Hagemo, well into his second year away from home, might now find going home and playing in Mariucci in front of friends, family, and his old Holy Angels teammates to be a potentially more valuable experience.
Of course, Badger fans might feel differently.
Hagemo was recruited to the National Program while Eaves was still in charge there, but never actually played for him.
Hagemo leads the Under-18 Team's defensemen in scoring with a 1-8-9 line in 14 games.
Matsumoto to Bowling Green
6'0", 180 lb. LC Jonathan Matsumoto of the Cumberland Grads (CJHL) has committed to Bowling Green.
Matsumoto, a strong skater with excellent hockey sense and a nose for the net, currently leads all rookie scorers in the Central Ontario Junior Hockey League with a 10-13-23 line in 15 games. He has four penalty minutes.
After the league's showcase weekend in Ottawa he was recruited by a dozen schools, but narrowed his final choice to St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Miami, and, of course, Bowling Green.
The Third Annual BB&N Thanksgiving Jamboree will take place at the school's Cambridge, Mass. campus on Sat. Nov. 29. Six teams will be on hand: BB&N, Milton, Gov. Dummer, NMH, Pomfret, and Tilton. The games, all mini-games, will consist of one 20-minute stop-time period.
SAT. NOV. 29:
11 am: Pomfret vs. Milton
Noon: Pomfret vs. GDA
1 pm: Milton vs. GDA
2 pm: Milton vs. Tilton
3 pm: BB&N vs. Pomfret
4 pm: GDA vs. NMH
5 pm: Tilton vs. NMH
6 pm: BB&N vs. Tilton
7 pm: BB&N vs. NMH
Big Man for Harvard
6'4", 205 lb. LW Dave Watters of the Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) has committed to Harvard.
Watters, an 8/12/84 birthdate from Shorewood, Minn, is a rookie in the USHL, having graduated in June from Eden Prairie HS. There, he put up a 26-17-43 line in 25 games to help lead EP to the Excel Center, where they were knocked out by Roseville in the semis of the Minnesota State HS Tournament in March.
Watters only has an 0-3-3 line in 11 games for Des Moines. A big, strong power forward with good hands, Watters' biggest asset, Bucs coach Bob Ferguson said, is his ability to create scoring chances with his size. "But he has to keep working on his ability to finish," Ferguson added. "Right now, it could be a confidence thing. He's getting two or three quality chances a game, but he's squeezing his stick a little too hard."
After this season, Harvard graduates a pair of big wingers in 6'3", 210 lb. Rob Fried and 6'5", 215 lb. Dennis Packard, so Watters will definitely have a role to assume. Harvard's other two forward recruits are Alex Meintel and Paul Dufault, both small skill guys. There's a good chance Holy Angels' 5'11", 170 lb. LC Mike Taylor could be winding up at Harvard, too. At any rate, he'll be visiting this weekend. Taylor, an '86 has been playing for the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this fall, posting an 0-5-5 line in ten games. Last year, Taylor was one of the top scorers in the state of Minnesota, but was only the second leading scorer at Holy Angels with a 33-40-73 line, six points behind team leader Jimmy Kilpatrick, who graduated and is with Green Bau now.
In addition to Harvard, Watters visited Yale. Brown recruited him hard, too.
New England Prep Season Underway -- Sort of
Exeter, NH -- Phillips Exeter likes to get a game under their belt quickly, perhaps a little too quickly, as this afternoon they went up against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL) and got pounded, 9-2.
The Monarchs, who led 2-1 after one period, 6-1 after the second, and 9-2 at the end, exhibited a balanced attack, getting goals from nine different players -- Reese Wisnowski (who made his official visit to St. Lawrence the other day), Dan Acropolis, David Germain, Chris Healey, Jon Rheault, Joe Adams, Jim Tselikis, John Geverd, and Josh Coyle.
Exeter's goals were scored by Andy Gale, who's looking more likely to opt for a baseball scholarship to the University of North Carolina than go Div. I in hockey; and Providence-bound Dylan Cox, an Exeter PG -- and son of UNH great Ralph Cox -- who played for St. John's Prep last season.
Starting goaltenders were Brian Foster (formerly of Bishop Brady) for the Monarchs; and Mike Piekos (formerly of Medford HS) for Exeter.
The Monarchs outshot Exeter, 63-21.
Note: We're hustling to get both the 2003-04 USHR Prep Composite Schedule Book published, and get the 2003-04 prep site up and running. We should say sites, because we're adding Div. II boys as well as girl's prep. We're also improving the interface to make it easier for coaches or their representatives to enter info easier. We'll be keeping you informed of the latest developments.
St. Paul's Jamboree
The Third Annual St. Paul's School Thanksgiving Jamboree will take place at the school's Concord, NH campus on Sun. Nov. 30 and Mon. Dec. 1. Six teams will be on hand: Bridgton, Deerfield, Proctor, St. Paul's, Tabor, and Taft. The games, all mini-games, will consist of one 20-minute period (no overtimes), and will take place on the school's two rinks, which are in the same building.
SUN. NOV. 30:
12:00: Tabor vs. Taft
1:00: St. Paul's vs. Deerfield
2:00 Deerfield vs. Taft
3:00 St. Paul's vs. Bridgton
4:00 St. Paul's vs. Proctor
12:15: Proctor vs. Deerfield
1:15 Bridgton vs. Taft
2:15 Proctor vs. Tabor
3:15 Deerfield vs. Tabor
4:15: Deerfield vs. Bridgton
MON. DEC. 1:
10:00: St. Paul's vs. Tabor
11:00: St. Paul's vs. Taft
12:00: St. Paul's vs. Taft*
10:15: Bridgton vs. Taft
11:15: Tabor vs. Bridgton
12:15 Tabor vs. Bridgton*
Note: The last two games on Monday will be special teams periods.
Next Up at Ann Arbor
Look for University of Wisconsin assistant coach John Hynes to take over the U.S. Under-18 head coaching job recently vacated by Moe Mantha, who took over the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) on October 29th.
Right now, the U.S. Under-18 team is being coached by Lou Vairo who, in his capacity as USA Hockey's Director of Special Projects, has long and loudly denounced the Ann Arbor-based program his employers are spending $1.8 million per annum on. Now Vairo's coaching the team, and the irony of the situation is not lost on people in the hockey world, most especially major junior coaches, scouts, and players, who find it all rather amusing. Look for them to exploit the situation and use it as heavy artillery when battling the NTDP for players next spring and summer.
To say that the NTDP needs stability and leadership is an understatement. Hynes is young, but he's coached under Jack Parker, Jeff Jackson, and Mike Eaves, so he's about as well-mentored as possible. He's also an extremely hard worker and a no-nonsense guy. When he has a point to make, the message gets across loud and clear. Hard work was the cornerstone of his game at BU, from which Hynes graduated in 1997, afterward starting his coaching career as a grad assistant on Parker's staff. In the fall of '98, Hynes came to the National Program, spending two years in the same capacity before returning east as an assistant at UMass-Lowell for a year. In the fall of 2001, Hynes, from Warwick, RI, returned to the National Program, then being run by Eaves. After the season, Eaves was named head coach at Wisconsin and took Hynes with him. This is Hynes' second season with the Badgers.
In case you're wondering, the Saginaw Spirit are 1-4 since Mantha took over, picking up their first win on Friday, topping the Belleville Bulls, 6-3.
If and when Hynes is hired, there will be three former BU players on the NTDP staff -- David Quinn, John Lilley, and Hynes.
UPDATE 11/10/03: The above is now official: Hynes will have the Under-18 Team for the remainder of the season and he and Quinn will co-oversee the entire program. As for next season, look for Quinn to move up with his current players and coach the Under-18s, while Hynes coaches the Under-17s -- that is, if one and/or the other don't get hired elsewhere. With the opportunity to coach his own team now, Hynes can be added to the list of legit candidates for a Div. I job somewhere along the line. Quinn is already there, having made a strong impression as a candidate for the Vermont job this past summer.
Under-17s Win Gold In Russia
The U.S. Under-17 and Under-18 teams were both in action at their respective Four Nations Tournaments over the weekend, with the David Quinn-coached Under-17's picking up the gold in Magnitogorsk, Russia and the Lou Vairo-coached Under-18s picking up the silver in Hutwill, Switzerland.
In the three Under-17 games, Jack Skille posted a 7-3-10 line and Phil Kessel posted a 4-4-8 line.
Four Nations Tournament; U.S. National Under-17 Team
Magnitogorsk, Russia; Nov. 7-9, 2003
Nov. 7 -- USA 10, Slovakia 3 -- Kessel (Frazee, Johnson) ppg; Gerbe (Kemp) ppg; Kessel (Johnson) ppg; J. Lawrence (Stoa) ppg; Johnson (Kessel, Skille) ppg; Foligno (unn.); Skille (Kessel, Johnson) ppg; Skille (N. Lawrence); Stoa (unn.); Kessel (Gerbe).
Nov. 8 -- USA 4, Russia 3 -- Gerbe (unn.); Skille (unn.); Skille (Kessel); Felde (Mueller, Skille).
Nov. 9 -- USA 6, Switz. 2 -- Kessel (Skille); Skille (Kemp, Mitera) ppg; Skille (Johnson, Kessel) ppg; Skille (Gerbe, J. Lawrence); N. Lawrence (Stoa); Foligno (N. Lawrence, MacVoy).
1. United States
Four Nations Tournament; U.S. National Under-18 Team
Huttwil, Switzerland; Nov. 7-9, 2003
Nov. 7 -- USA 3, Finland 4 -- Auffrey (Desantis); Porter (unn.); Lerg (Porter).
Nov. 8 -- USA 4, Sweden 2 -- Lerg (Porter, Davis); Hagemo (Kolarik, Fritsche); Kolarik (Fritsche, Palmer); Scero (Lerg, Porter).
Nov. 9 -- USA 5, Switz. 3 -- Seidman (Palmer, Swallow); Kolarik (Lerg, Porter); Hagemo (Lerg, Porter); Davis (Lerg); Fritsche (DeSantis)
2. United States
'88 Goalie in Russia with U.S. Under-17s
The U.S. Under-17 Team left Detroit yesterday, arrived in Magnitogorsk, Russia today, and will jump into action with an exhibition game against host Russia tomorrow.
The round-robin phase of the tournament begins with a game against Slovakia (Fri.), and continues with games against Russia (Sat.), and Switzerland (Sun.).
The Under-17s, coached by David Quinn, have elected to bring along '88 goalie Joe Palmer from the Syracuse Stars Jr. B team to fill in for former LA Junior Kings and Taft School goaltender Billy Blase, who has been out for awhile with a broken finger.
At the Select 15 Festival in August, we rated Palmer the #1 goalie prospect on hand, and it was an easy choice. We wrote, in part: "(He) has size, confidence, and moves very well laterally. Doesn't smother rebounds as well as he might.... From Yorkville, NY, near Utica ... His .904 save percentage made him the only goalie here with a save percentage over .900. His 2.69 gaa was also a tournament best."
Palmer, who takes up a lot of the net at 6'1", 185 lbs., is the #1 goalie prospect for next year's Under-17 team, and the trip to Russia will give the NTDP staff a good chance to see him up close against top competition. He's also been watched closely by OHL teams this fall, and some observers think there's a good chance he may take that route.
In addition, former NY Apple Core (EJHL) forward Scott Birnstill, who at 17 has already had two operations on his balky knee and recently reinjured it, will not be going on the trip.
The U.S. Under-18 Team has arrived overseas, too, in Huttwil, Switzerland, and will face their hosts in an exhibition game tomorrow. The round-robin portion of their schedule consists of games against Finland (Fri.), Sweden (Sat.), and Switzerland (Sun.).
NTDP detractor Lou Vairo will be coaching the Under-18s.
Weller to Clarkson
Capital District Selects (EJHL) forward Shawn Weller has committed to Clarkson.
Weller, a 6'2", 190 lb. LW is leading Cap District in scoring with a 4-4-8 line in 10 league games. He also leads the team -- by a healthy margin -- with 48 penalty minutes.
A 7/8/86 birthdate and a native of South Glens Falls, NY, Weller is a physical, bruising power forward who plays hard and has size. He's a pro prospect, and a likely draft in June.
Clarkson, which gave Weller a full scholarship, was the only school he visited. Other schools showing interest included CC, Providence, RPI, Union, and Vermont.