Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Colleges

Fans' passion for hockey fuels Frozen Four

tom jones' two cents

Ever see the movie Fargo? The good folks of Minnesota probably didn't care for all the "yahs" and "you betchas," although as someone who lived in Minnesota for three years, I can tell you the spoof wasn't really a spoof.

However, there is one scene even Minnesotans would agree rings true. It's when Jerry Lundegaard, played by William H. Macy, asks a co-worker if he has an extra ticket to the University of Minnesota hockey game.

The co-worker turns and acts as if Lundegaard has worms crawling out of his ears.

"Are you kidding?" the co-worker says.

That's what college hockey means in Minnesota. Asking someone if they have an extra Gophers ticket is like asking them if they have an extra winning lottery ticket.

The Gophers aren't quite as essential as food, water and oxygen, but they are not too far down on the list.

It's like basketball in Indiana or football in western Pennsylvania. Hockey is a way of life in Minnesota, especially Gopher hockey.

And this week, the same can be said on the campuses of Boston College, Ferris State and Union as they join Minnesota for the Frozen Four at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. It's why this is one of the coolest events ever to come to Tampa Bay.

Here's a look at some of the things that make college hockey — and this year's Frozen Four in particular — so great.

The passion

Let's look at Gophers coach Don Lucia. He won national titles in 2002 and 2003. He has guided the Gophers to four Frozen Fours. He has won 318 games in 12-plus seasons with Minnesota and 597 overall. Quite simply, he's one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history. Yet there were those in and around the Gophers program who wanted Lucia fired because he had the audacity to miss the NCAA tournament the past three years.

Forget that he was fighting a disease called sarcoidosis, which caused a mass on his brain. Forget that his father died last year. There was a chance an entire recruiting class would go their entire career without playing in the NCAA tournament, and that just wouldn't do. Not in Minnesota.

Firing Lucia would be like the Gators firing Billy Donovan if Florida strung together just a few subpar seasons. Can you imagine? But then that only shows how much passion there is for Gophers hockey.

The little guy

There aren't too many sports where a school such as Union, with 2,200 students, can compete for a national championship alongside a school such as Minnesota with its 52,000 students. There aren't too many sports where a team from Big Rapids, Mich., (population 10,849) competes for a national championship along with a team from Boston (population 617,594).

Some are calling today's Ferris State-Union semifinal the junior varsity game before the Minnesota-Boston College varsity game. Ferris and Union had never been to a Frozen Four; Minnesota and BC have a combined 43 appearances.

Word is that three busloads of fans are coming in from Michigan to root for Ferris State.

"I hope they get here safely," Ferris State goalie Taylor Nelson said, "because we want them here to help blow the roof off this place."

Three busloads blowing the roof off the 20,000-seat Times Forum? Isn't that about the cutest thing you've ever heard?

The traditions

At some point during tonight's semifinals or Saturday's final, you'll hear a chant right after a goal. You'll listen closely, trying to figure out what the fans are saying. The answer: "sieve." As in, "Your goalie is a sieve." It's one of hockey's greatest insults. Hearing that along with marching bands is the soundtrack to college hockey.

It's hockey … in Florida

There is already a buzz that if Tampa Bay has a good weekend, it could be a permanent part of the Frozen Four rotation.

Makes sense. It's a pleasant escape for the teams up north. And when you think about it, there's no difference for a school to fly to Tampa as opposed to Denver or Minneapolis or Buffalo. Once you get on a plane, it doesn't really matter where you end up.

And there aren't too many better places to end up than the west coast of Florida.

"You get off the plane, and there's not trees with no leaves on them," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "There's palm trees."

Palms trees and sunshine. And a sheet of ice for one of the cooler events to ever come to Tampa Bay. Yah, you betcha!

 
Comments
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Published: 12/10/17
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, completing a climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football. Mayfield won a lopsided vote to become the sixth Okla...
Published: 12/09/17
Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

TAMPA — His team was in Ann Arbor, practicing. He was signing footballs in Tampa.Yet another Jim Harbaugh fun fact."I can’t be in two places at once," Harbaugh said.Not that Harbaugh wouldn’t try it if he could. College football’s firestarter, its bi...
Published: 12/08/17

Gasparilla Bowl journal: Temple’s Collins speaks highly of former boss, new Gator Mullen

ST. PETE BEACH — If anyone has an accurate read on how new coach Dan Mullen will fare at Florida, it’s Temple’s Geoff Collins.Collins worked under Mullen as a Mississippi State assistant from 2011-14. He jumped from there to Gainesville, where he spe...
Published: 12/07/17
No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

GAINESVILLE — Aundre Jackson scored 23, Cameron Krutwig added 14 and Loyola-Chicago stunned No. 5 Florida 63-59 Wednesday, handing the Gators a third consecutive loss. Less than 48 hours after Florida coach Mike White said his team’s performance agai...
Published: 12/06/17
Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

No matter what happens on the field at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the star of the show will be the bloomin’ onion. Not the deliciously crispy, glistening, 1,900-plus-calorie appetizer served at Outback restaurants, but the person who parades t...
Published: 12/06/17
Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

TAMPA — Back home in Indiana, he was basketball royalty. He played in his first league at age 2. He lived — and loved — the hardwood life. He was accustomed to performing before more than 10,000 fans for his big games.Pat Bacon capped his storied pre...
Published: 12/06/17
Offensive guru Heupel is named UCF coach

Offensive guru Heupel is named UCF coach

UCF hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel as football coach.Heupel quickly hired former UF interim coach Randy Shannon as defensive coordinator.Heupel, 39, was a consensus All-American quarterback who led Oklahoma to the 2000 national titl...
Published: 12/05/17
At Hall of Fame induction, Steve Spurrier and Peyton Manning share respect

At Hall of Fame induction, Steve Spurrier and Peyton Manning share respect

NEW YORK — After the class picture of the latest Hall of Fame inductees was taken, Peyton Manning made his way over to Steve Spurrier for another handshake and some chit-chat before heading off in opposite directions to do media interviews. The forme...
Published: 12/05/17
FSU upsets No. 5 Florida, its fourth straight win over Gators

FSU upsets No. 5 Florida, its fourth straight win over Gators

GAINESVILLE — Terance Mann scored 25, CJ Walker added 17 and Florida State upset No. 5 Florida 83-66 on Monday night to remain undefeated. The Seminoles (7-0) also extended their winning streak against the Gators (5-2) to four, their longest in the 6...
Published: 12/04/17