The Sunday Game:
An Introduction, by Chris Warner
“The Sunday Game,” which follows below, is a piece written for former Boston University forward Travis Roy by his younger cousin, Brendan Collins, a Rutland, Vermont native, hard-working businessman, and a scout for USHR. As Brendan’s editor, I was touched by his piece – and Travis’s response -- on many levels. I, too, was fortunate to have spent my formative years in Vermont – in my case in Cornwall, a small town outside of Middlebury, Vermont, where my father taught at the college. I was also fortunate that my best friend’s dad, Justin Brande, was a farmer who had played college hockey at Williams. Yes, he taught me how to milk cows. But more importantly, out behind the farmhouse and shielded from the sun’s rays, Mr. Brande created the most perfect outdoor rink you can imagine. To this day you can clearly see the indentation in the earth, and the rink’s outline, even on Google Earth. This gentleman taught his son and I the game when he had time, but farming is hard work and he mostly left the two of us to figure it out for ourselves, which was our only option considering there was no youth hockey in Middlebury at the time. So every day there was ice, we jumped off the school bus and played until dark. On weekends, we got sunburn and windburn from the hours we spent out there. When I was 10, my family moved back to the city, to Cambridge, Mass., where I was plunked down at BB&N, which barely had enough land around it for a cow to piss on. But they did have hockey. That fall, I also began playing pee-wee hockey in Needham, at the old Tabor Rink (now looking far different, and renamed the Henry T. Lane Rink, the home rink of St. Sebastian’s). It was the first time I had ever played indoors, or even on a real team.
The Sunday Game, by Brendan Collins
“Let’s play some pond hockey today.”
The words were from a dear friend and former teammate on our local Mite 9 travel team. Kyle Robillard was inviting me to a pond covered in snow and with no guarantee of how deep the ice was.
I figured, ‘Why not?’
This, after all, is where our sport started, kids putting on skates on local ponds, rivers, and lakes. Not only that but Kyle’s girlfriend was out there with a shovel carving out an ice rink in the deep snow. My pride kicked in; I had to help. I laced up my skates for the first time in a year and hit the ice with a shovel in my hands. The three of us carved out a mini hockey rink as big as we could in the deep snow, and after over an hour of hard work we had ourselves a playing surface. I reached out to everyone via text messages and other social media, asking them to come down and join in a pond hockey game: the Sunday Game.
Within an hour there were an additional five players. I went back to my car to grab my stick and hockey gloves and when I opened my bag I saw my custom-made #24 BU Travis Roy jersey. When I saw it my body went numb. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun Travis would have being here at this moment, and I realized how fortunate I was to be able to play. I also realized that all the years of intense competition to play college hockey, and the emptiness after my career was over, had masked much of my pure love of the sport. I have been a hockey scout for the past two years and a coach for two years prior to that, and with all those hours in the rinks watching hockey I lost my pure passion for the game. Don’t get me wrong. I love going to hockey games and analyzing players. It’s fun and I enjoy it very much, but it’s not the same thing.
Since that original skate we decided to name the rink the Combination Complex and made several upgrades to the surface in preparation for the next Sunday Game, a tip of the hat to the film Mystery, Alaska. Kyle manufactured goals out of wood pallets. I, with the help of my boss, constructed a homemade Zamboni. Chris Adams came with his four-wheeler and plow to expand the playing surface. We brought our Zamboni onto the ice for the first time before the start of the second Sunday Game, and it worked beautifully. The addition of goals, a grill, a clean sheet of ice, and a good group of players took the Sunday game to the next level. Everyone from Kyle, Chris, Steph and all the others who showed up to play took this from a pick-up game to a weekly event that every player looks forward to.
We just finished our third Sunday game this week. When I saw the players fighting for a puck along the snowbank, the smiles and laughs between periods, and the joy of someone scoring a goal, it took me back to dusting off my bag and seeing that #24 jersey. I wear that jersey every week Travis, and while it may sound corny to some, it makes me feel like we are both out there together. No matter how cold it is, no matter how much work it is to get that rink in top shape for the puck drop, I will be there because it means more to me than just a game. It is where our sport was born. It is where my love of the game was cultivated and it is where I can throw on my hero’s colors and, even if it’s just for one moment, I am Travis Roy scoring the game-winner against Boston College in the Beanpot finals. And when the sun sets behind the Vermont mountains and it’s time to pack up and go home, I realize that I owe everything in my life to the man who wore the #24 jersey. And I can’t wait for next Sunday to be him, again.
The Sunday Game: Travis Roy’s Letter
Brendan… my brother,
This is beautiful! It means the world to me for you to take my spirit out onto the ice. Whether it was Chris Drury putting the “24” on every hockey stick he ever used in the NHL, or you taking me out on the pond with you, it means every bit as much. My first love was hockey, and I will forever be broken-hearted that I didn't leave the game on my own terms. On Saturday I went to the St. Sebastian vs. Tabor Travis Roy Cup game. The best part about it was going into the JV locker room and talking to the JV B team. I told them being in that locker room was one of my most favorite places on earth. I told them that I had no idea what their ambitions were with hockey, but whether they were shooting for the NHL or never planning to lace their skates up again after the season was over, that I hoped they enjoyed the simplicity of the game. I told them not to worry about scoring a goal, impressing a coach, or how much ice time they got, but to simply breathe it in and enjoy making a nice pass, getting knocked on their ass, or just sitting on the bench and listening to the sounds.
Pond hockey is the simplest form of our sport, because you are more apt to do the things I listed above. You're left with the simple joy of the game. I'm afraid with all the hockey that gets played today, this joy has been lost by many. They're too busy thinking about making the travel, varsity, junior, or college team. So sad for them, but completely reinvigorating and fulfilling for someone like you who found our old love.
With that said… we all got screwed by my injury. I still can't help but wonder what could have been.
I hope to see you on the 23rd.
I love you Brendan,
RPI, JSPR, Big School/Small School & More
Going into the final four days of the regular season, we thought it might be a good time to put up a refresher on what goes into determining playoff spots.
-- Here is a link to an article we posted in early January that explains how RPI works:
RPI Rankings: Check 'Em Out
-- And here is a link to an article we wrote -- in 2013 -- explaining how JSPR works. Nothing has changed so everything you might need -- and then some -- is here. (The examples, hypothetical or otherwise, are drawn from that season, though.)
-- Here is this season's Small School/Large School Groupings. As you can see, NEPSAC takes the 58 tournament-eligible Div. I schools, and, using current male enrollment, draws a line down the middle, and places 29 schools on the left side of the ledger (Big Schools), and 29 on the right side (Small Schools). The numbers following each school represent male enrollment at the beginning of the current academic year.
(This is a printable PDF so you can print it out and do your figuring right on it. It's not that difficult, as we will explain below. You just have to keep in mind that the numbers will keep changing until the last of Saturday's games are reported.)
Large School-Small School Groupings
For those of you who wish to avoid all the mathematics and cut directly to the chase, here is a simplest explanation.
You will notice that the top 16 schools in RPI are also the 16 schools ranked in JSPR. Teams ranked in JSPR, also known as Teams Under Consideration, are fed through a second set of calculations that is more rigorous than the RPI in that the calculations zero in on head-to-head matchups, both real and hypothetical, among the 16 Teams Under Consideration. This is where beating top 16 teams during the regular season pays off handsomely.
Once the the Top 8 teams emerge from those calculations and are entered into the Top Tournament -- popularly known as the Elite 8 -- JSPR's work is done. Crumple it up and throw it away.
Now, to rank teams for the small school and large school tournaments, you return to the RPI rankings, cross out the teams that reached the Elite 8, and then, going strictly by the RPI rankings, pick the eight remaining highest-ranked large schools and the eight highest-ranked small schools, and put them each into their respective tournaments.
There is a new rule in place this year, as NEPSIHA received permission from NEPSAC to allow schools with records under .500 to play in the tournament if their RPI ranking shows them to be deserving. In 2012, the RPI numbers showed that small-school Millbrook (.50473), even though they had a won-lost record that put them under .500, deserved to be in the tournament. NEPSAC said no, citing their losing record, and the final spot went to St. Mark's (.50360), the first small school ranked below Millbrook.
This rule change would appear to be affirmation from NEPSAC that in the NEPSIHA ranking system 'the numbers work' to produce the fairest possible outcome.
A New #1 in USHR Prep Poll
This week's USHR Prep Poll, our last of the season, is now posted, and there's a new #1 as Cushing takes over the top spot.
We also took the chance to look back at our Prep Season Preview (USHR News, 12/1/14) and, of our top eight teams then, seven are still in our top eight going into the final week of the season.
We missed wide on Exeter. We had them at #11, writing that the loss of Spencer Young to the USHL and the David White-Henry Hart-Kevin Neiley line to graduation might be too much to overcome.
If we underrated Exeter, we overrated Choate, who we had at #6 in the preseason preview. The Wild Boars are currently 13-6-4, which is good, though 2-3 losses too many for the top eight -- the margin of error is small in prep hockey. We figured the Wild Boars would be a strong defensive team, and they are. However, they haven't scored a lot of goals. Choate has a nice opportunity to pull an upset when they visit Loomis on Tuesday.
USHR Prep Poll: Week of Feb. 23, 2015
Mass. Super 8 Picked
The MIAA picked the field for this week's Mass. Super 8 this afternoon. Undefeated Springfield Cathedral (20-0-2) leads the field -- no surprise there. It would have been a shock if they hadn't been.
The top six teams are determined by MIAA Comittee votes. The final four by winning percentage.
The top six teams are all Catholics. However, since #10 Xaverian plays #7 Franklin and #9 Woburn plays #8 Burlington in the play-in games, there will be at least one public school among the Super 8.
1. Springfield Cathedral (20-0-2)
2. Malden Catholic (16-1-2)
3. Austin Prep (20-1-0)
4. BC High (13-5-2)
5. St. John's Prep (14-5-1)
6. Central Catholic (15-5-2)
7. Franklin HS (16-2-3)
8. Burlington (16-1-4)
9. Woburn (15-2-4)
10. Xaverian (14-5-1)
Both play-in games will be held on Tues. Feb. 24th at the Chelmsford Forum (Billerica, Mass.). Franklin vs. Xaverian will face off at 5:10 pm; Woburn vs. Burlington follows at 7:10 pm.
The first round of the Super 8 will be on Sun. March 1 at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell. Game times are TBA. In recent years the first game faced off at noon.
MPHL Playoffs This Weekend
The Midwest Prep Hockey League playoffs take place this weekend at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio, about a half hour east of downtown Cleveland.
The #1 seed is Stanstead College.
2015 MPHL Playoff Schedule
Exeter Remains #1 in USHR Poll
Despite their undefeated season coming to an end with Wednesday's 6-4 loss at Proctor, Exeter remains #1 on USHR's Weekly Poll for the third straight week.
USHR Prep Poll: Week of Feb. 16, 2015
Prep Finals: All You Need to Know
Well, we can't tell you who's going to be playing in it, but we can tell you the when and where, and perhaps a few other things.
First of all, there is no plan for the Elite 8 semifinals to be held at one venue, as was the case last year when both games were played at Berkshire.
Quarterfinals will be held Wed. March 4th and semifinals Sat. March 7th at the rinks of the higher-seeded teams.
The finals will be held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH on Sunday March 8th.
The times are:
Small School Championship: 12:00 pm
Large School Championship: 2:30 pm
Elite 8 Championship: 5:00 pm
The rink, the Thomas F. Sullivan Arena, was completed in 2003, has a 200x85 sheet, a grand organ, and a capacity of 2,700.
NEPSIHA President Sean McCann wanted to hold the tournament in the Boston-area this year but some of the obvious colleges, due to playoffs, were unwilling to give up their barns at the times needed.
Last season, you may recall that the games started at 2:15, 4:45, and 7:15 pm. They couldn't begin earlier because Yale had its ice reserved for practice. This created a late night for those who had long distances to drive home.
Given the earlier starting times, that shouldn't be a problem this year -- unless this nutty weather pattern we're in continues for a few more weeks. St. A's is about an hour north of downtown Boston via I-93.
Wood Sits Again
Nobles senior forward and BC recruit Miles Wood has been suspended one additional game and will sit out Wednesday's home game vs. Governor's. This comes on top of Wood's automatic one-game game suspension (served Friday at St. Paul's) for a hit from behind on Thayer D Jack Judge last Wednesday, leading to Wood's third game misconduct/DQ this season.
Wood received his first game misconduct/DQ of the season on Fri. Dec. 12th, for contact to the head of Dexter F Ryan Donato.
Wood's second game misconduct/DQ of the season came on Wed. Jan. 28th, when he head-butted St. Sebastian's D Matt Doherty.
The third one -- which was also Wood's second in a week -- sparked increased discussion around the league. Look for it to be an issue at the next ISL meeting.
Prep hockey, unlike the NCAA, doesn't differentiate between a game misconduct and a DQ. They are one and the same.
In the NCAA a second DQ results in a two-game suspension; a third DQ results in a three-game suspension, and so forth.
In prep hockey, the only person who can hand out supplemental punishment is the athletic director at the offending player's school, in this case Nobles' AD Alex Gallagher.
That in itself is very weird. Can you imagine if the NHL had handed out its two-game suspension to Brad Marchand for slew-footing Derick Brassard and Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli adding a game or two? We certainly can't.
If Gallagher had followed the NCAA rulebook, which prep hockey generally does, Wood would be sitting out three games -- and it would be automatic.
Remember Stephan Seeger, the Brunswick School senior captain who left the Greenwich, Conn. prep school last year during the Christmas break for the opportunity to play major junior for the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL), a team that had drafted him in the 10th round the summer before?
Well, he finished the season with Moncton, scoring 11 points in 25 games. In August, he was released. This fall, Seeger played one game for the Oshawa Generals (OHL), and was subsequently released. He then moved on to the USHL, joining Des Moines in late November. They released him early last month. A week later, on Jan. 10, the Merritt Centennials (BCHL) added him at the trade/roster deadline. He has a 3-2-5 line in 10 games with Merritt and, of course, his NCAA eligibility is burned.
A cautionary tale, for sure.
In sum, since leaving Brunswick a little over 13 months ago, Seeger has been released by three teams, and is now on his fourth. He will turn 19 next week.