Monday, June 29, 2009

Chad Johnson Dealt To The Rangers

Don't know how I managed to skip over this one. I kept a live search open for Chad in the days leading up to the draft this past weekend, hoping that something was going to become of last years NCAA D-I goalie statistics leader. But, I figured after Friday, that a decision wasn't going to be made until after the draft was over. Well, I was wrong. Chad was traded off during the draft to the New York Rangers, who seem to have an affinity for Alaskan players as of late. With their Captain, Scotty Gomez, and other squad members like Aaron Voros (one of the Nooks' most penalized players), and Brandon Dubinsky, Chad may feel right at home. Our hats go off to Mr. Johnson as he embarks on his pro career.

Friday, June 26, 2009

UNO Moves In...

So it's official. A lot of sources are pointing to semi-official statements saying that the University of Nebraska-Omaha has been semi-officially accepted into the WCHA. No hard evidence that UNO has been accepted, but a lot of trusted blogs and some news articles have reported on the seemingly-inevitable. I'm sure their allusions are accurate. Outside of the WCHA blindly not seeing the benefits of UAF being in the league, there are a valid list of reasons for UNO to be into the WCHA, but not as long as the list for UAF. Not that any of this matters now that UNO has secured the spot, but its worth me at least griping about for a sentence or two. Not to worry, the Alaska coaches, athletic department, and Forrest Karr himself have reiterated several times that they are happy with and have a good, long-standing relationship with Tom Anastos, and the CCHA. We've been there for a very large chunk of time, since before Al Gore invented the internet for me to blog about it anyway.

But without all of this speculation out of the way, that leaves us with Alabama-Huntsville to talk about. Which, with UNO out, does the CCHA want to be an 11-team league? Probably not. So they are an effective shoe-in. But there is chatter circulating around Wisconsin and their possible interest in the CCHA clubhouse. What will be brewing in the coming weeks with this? Time will tell. More to come on this as more information surfaces.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Where are they now?

A weekly segment to pass on information about past UAF Nanooks and their pro career.

Ryan Lang (2000-2004)
Ryan Lang has bounced around from
ECHL, AHL, and Italy after leaving the Nanooks. For the 06-07 he was the Augusta Lynx team captain and was a fan favorite from everything I have read. He took a year off from the ECHL and played a year in Italy and decided to come back for one last try for the AHL/NHL. For the 08-09 season he skated for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and 1 game for the Houston Areos, affiliate of the Minnesota Wild.

He was my favorite skater from this class. He brought a grit AND finesse to our team that I would like to see us get back to under Coach Ferguson.

Ryan McLeod (2004-2006)

I always wondered what happen to the All-CCHA tournament team member. Remember the game against Bowling Green in the 04-05 playoffs (I am sure Coach Paluch does)? 2 Goals in 13 seconds. I can not remember a game where Bruce Cech screamed louder (or me).

Unfortunately for us, Ryan left earlier than we all hoped. He went to the ECHL, then to the CHA, and Europe. He had a great season skating for the Olofströms IK in Sweden where he was second on the team in scoring and a +13.

Next week, Jeff Penner

Nanooks and the WCHA - The Saga Continues...

As promised, I have had a chance to speak with UAF AD Forrest Karr about all of these rumors floating around. Quite an enlightening experience to be truly honest. The numbers are actually quite staggering, even I was surprised.

The math has really been done on this. They've compared travel costs, breaking it down as far as average cost per mile flown. For FY08, it was $0.16/mile, for FY09, that number increased to $0.18/mile, a change of 12%. With UAF in the WCHA, with the teams physically closer to fly to, and leaving all other logistics at a constant, not changing any of the agreements with the CCHA as it exists, with UAF subsidizing 25 tickets for visiting WCHA teams, we would save $95,000 from the start. Currently, our contract with the CCHA includes ground transportation in Fairbanks, as well as hotel lodging. UAA's contract with the WCHA only requires a subsidy of 12 plane tickets to get to Anchorage, no hotel or local transportation required. Entering in a contract with the same terms UAA has now, UAF's cost savings just moved in to the $200,000 neighborhood.

Currently, the CCHA generates its revenue from the conference playoffs, as every other league does. All teams that host home playoff games on behalf of the CCHA are required to fund back 90% of the profit made off of the game (gross income - operating costs = profit * .9 = what the CCHA gets). After all of the teams pay their returns, money is taken out to fund the league office staff, etc. Here is where the interesting part is. The CCHA teams have opted to establish a capital reserve, a "rainy day" fund, if you will. Normally, the left over money from the playoff revenue is divided among the teams evenly. What is done is, after the CCHA office pays their bills and salaries, $100,000 is set aside on top of that, and put in the capital reserve fund, and the remainder is divided among the 12 CCHA teams, coming around in the ballpark of $4,000-$6,000. What did UAA get back from the WCHA then? $130,000. In case you can't do the math, that is a big, Big, BIG difference.

Why the huge gap? Ticket sales. In the CCHA, UAF had the second highest attendance for the conference playoffs, second only to Michigan. Thus submitting the second most amount of cash to the CCHA. The Carlson Center seats up to about 4,595 butts. Yost Ice Arena, where the Michigan Wolverines like to call home, can seat 6,637. As far as ticket sales are concerned, that is chump change. WCHA teams, like Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin seat up to 9,700, 11,500, and 15,237 people, which they regularly fill, or come close to it. Let's not forget though, UNO plays their hockey games in the QWest Center, which seats the most people, at 16.680, of which, they only fill about 4,000 of regularly, unless a big name team comes to town, then they will come close to half capacity...

Donald Dunlop did a great job over at the UAA Hockey Blog charting out a lot of the logistics behind why UAF would be a great asset to the WCHA. In three words: The Alaska Exemption. Teams visiting Alaska to play an Alaskan team earn an exemption from their NCAA-limited 34 game schedule. Yes, the games count towards their records and point totals, but the visiting team would essentially get a permission slip from the NCAA to host two more home games. Let's think about Wisconsin. (UPDATE: I apparently misunderstood Forrest when going over this information before. I have reformatted this overly-long explanation to reflect the accurate data. Sorry for the mix up) Currently, they only travel to Alaska in 3 out of every 4 years to play UAA. They take those six exemptions home and make big profits. 15,237 seats * $20/ticket = $304,740 * 6 games = $1,828,440 extra cash in Wisconsin's pocket every 4 years. Forrest laid out the logistics from one of the "scheduling gurus" that with UAF in the league, Wisconsin would travel to Alaska every year. The Badgers would head to Anchorage one year, and get two exemptions. Travel to Fairbanks the next year, get another two exemptions. And the 3rd year, take a long road trip and travel to Anchorage and Fairbanks, and get 4 exemptions. And then the three year cycle starts over. So now, in a 4 year span, Wisconsin can rake in up to $1,828,440. With UAF in the picture, Wisconsin could pull in $3,047,400 in the same time frame. They can buy a LOT of cheese with that money. The same goes for any other team in the WCHA, though they don't quite have the amount of seats as Wisconsin has to fill, save for Minnesota and UND.

So this is where I have to ask what the WCHA sees in UNO? Why do they seem to be so interested in them? Forrest's response, "No idea...". I second that. The only thing that I can think of is the recruiting side of things. Omaha puts you right in that fine divider between USHL and the NAHL, which opens up a lot of recruitment opportunities for the coaching staff of the WCHA that they currently don't have. Forrest said there was a CCHA conference call slated for next week where Commissioner Tom Anastos is going to bring everyone up to speed in regards to In the aforementioned post in the UAF Chancellor's Grapevine, Forrest mentioned a May 27th meeting with UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. I asked about what took place at that meeting, which was said that the Chancellor was brought up to speed in regards to all of the finances, and was also told that we are basically we were only inside the metaphorical car, UNO is driving and will ultimately decide the stops. If they turn around and go home, its our turn to take the wheel.

Contradictory to the WCHA's official press release dated April 28th, Bemidji needs a home for the 2010-2011 season. The NCAA is withdrawing the CHA's automatic bid into the 16-team D-I hockey tournement after the upcoming season, citing the minimum requirement of having 6 teams, and have elected to fold rather than expand. With that in mind, the WCHA may be expanding sooner than they may want to.

But with all of the financial benefit to all parties involved, why are we riding the pine pony while UNO hogs all the WCHA ice time? I didn't have an answer, but Forrest Karr put it nicely. "Right now it doesn't make sense to jump into the mix as the WCHA is a long ways down the road already with UNO. The coaching staff (and I agree) would rather show loyalty to the CCHA and if for some reason a UNO-WCHA partnership does not work out, we will discuss further."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Word On The 'Net Is....

With the birth of the schedules, and some recent news articles stemming around the 'net, notably from todays News-Miner article, as well as UAF AD Forrest Karr's response on the UAF Chancellor's Grapevine (see May 22nd), it's pretty clear that we are riding the pine pony in regards to dropping our sticks on WCHA's ice. But apparently UNO might have gotten that spot anyway. Let's Play Hockey has "sources" saying that the WCHA has offered UNO the spot, which, as part of ex-UND head coach Dean Blais taking over the program's terms, UNO WILL be taking that spot (that may or may not have been offered yet in the first place). A lot really hasn't been said officially in terms of what will and won't happen in the future. UAA AD Steve Cobb, who also happens to be a member of the WCHA Structure Committee, was quoted in the aforementioned News-Miner article, saying “From my point of view, we would support and vote for UAF coming into the WCHA for a number of reasons,”. What is missing is what those reasons are exactly, and what is being said about UNO. And potentially even which way the scales may tipping between these two teams. These types of questions are missing from these interviews that other people seem to be taking. All geographic, skill, size, and money concerns aside, it seems to be down to UNO and UAF. And its going to come down to which team brings more food to WCHA's dinner table. Sure, UNO plays in the Qwest Center, a 15,000 seat facility which UNO can only fill about 4,000 of. UAF sells out the Carlson Center on a regular basis, which is obviously a much smaller facility, but its what we've got.

So, who is it going to be? If things aren't really going to be announced until some un-announced meeting occurs sometime somewhere, then why in the hell did LPH already say that spot was offered to UNO? A direct answer needs to come from somebody, sometime.

We all remember Darcy Campbell, a rock solid blueliner that played for the Nanooks from 2004 to 2007, who went pro for one game with the Columbus Blue Jackets, has just signed with Finland's premier team, TPS on Wednesday, (if you can read Finnish, the official post is here, and no, Google Translate does not work) earning a US-equivalent salary well into the 6 figures.

The Alaska Nanook Pep Band has a new graduate student director starting this fall, that will NOT be dancing wildly with a cowbell during songs. Hannah soon-to-be Johnston, graduated from UAF in 2009 with two BMs, one in Music Education (K-12), and the other in Trumpet Performance. You might remember her from her air guitar performance at one of the Ferris State home games last year, funny stuff. Hopefully the band gets a little bigger this year, there seems to be fewer and fewer players over the course of the last few years. Apparently people go to college for an education these days, so nobody wants to have fun anymore. I see how it is...

I'll be seeking some more answers in regards to this WCHA fiasco and making some phone calls in the next week or so to see what I can get out of my "sources". If he hasn't read this blog yet, I know Forrest is reading this now. Questions are coming.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Still No Official Word

So after all of this that has gone on, there is still no word on the final WCHA slots. Forrest Karr said in a radio interview that it sounded like UNO would be getting the last spot, and the CCHA was trying hard to keep us where we are (still looking for a reference on that). It kind of satisfies the butterflies in my stomach, as we would need about 7 more Joe Sova-types to keep up with the smash-your-face-in-if-you-have-puck style hockey that seems to be so popular in the WCHA. But in the end, the WCHA has kept pretty quiet

On another happy note, Trevor Hyatt, Senior LW from the 2008-09 season was awarded the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American honor on Monday (6/9). I won't go into detail in regards to all of the awards that he has won in his last two seasons, the write-up at the Alaska Nanooks website does a nice job of that. But definitely a big congrats to Trevor on that one. It adds yet another first for our hockey team.

On the recruiting front, we have a lot of new faces coming in this year. Dallas got a pair of new faces signing LOIs in May, both from the BCHL. Most notable is the addition of yet another goaltender, Collin Rundell. A descendant of the Okanagan Hockey Academy in
Port Alberni, he moved up to the BCHL to play for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. In the 08-09 season, he went 9-17 with 1,437 minutes played, allowed 97 goals, for a 3.94 goals against average, and an 88.34 save percentage. Not a superstar, but definitely not a slacker either. BCHL plays some pretty fast paced hockey with high scoring games not anything out of the realm of the ordinary. He turns 21 in August.

I'm still digging up dirt on the newest addition, Left Wing, Chad Gehon from the Westside Warriors (again, BCHL). The BCHL stats page isn't doing a whole lot for me at this point, but at 26 goals and 41 assists over the course of the season, I'm happy to welcome another scorer.

Hopefully, in the near future, I'll have another collaborator on this blog to help out with some of the recruit tracking.

September 26th can't seem to get here soon enough...