Former Gophers left wing Josh Birkholz said his suspension had very little to do with him leaving the program on Tuesday. "It is what I feel is best for me and my situation," he said, "what I feel most comfortable with."

But he said he realizes it will be easy for people to think the suspension is the reason because the news on that and his leaving came out at the same time.

"Once our season was over I started evaluated the year," Birkholz said, "so I've been thinking about it. It did not happen right at the time of the whole suspension."

He said the hockey lifestyle of the Everett [Wash.] Silvertips in the Western Hockey League appealed to him. They play 72 regular-season games, seven preseason games and seven-game playoff series.

"It's an NHL-type season," he said, "being part of that, getting that experience now willl help me get used to it."

Former North Stars defenseman Craig Hartsburg is the coach of the Silvertips.

"I talked to coach Hartsburg," Birkholz said. "He seems like a good guy. Obviously, he was a player in the NHL and he coached more than 500 games in the NHL [close 491 actually]. He knows what to do on and off the ice. I am very excited to start working with him and soaking everything in."

 Birkholz said be visited Everett this summer. "I did not make this decision on a whim," he said. "It was a very hard decision for me and my family. I educated myself on Everett and what they believe in."