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The Hunt Down
Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
The state high school hockey tournament is Minnesota's most famous prep event, the only one that draws national attention unless Blake Hoffarber is involved.The thing is, though, that the Prep Bowl is better - and here are five reasons why.
1. The Prep Bowl actually involves teams from around Minnesota - Caledonia and Moose Lake-Willow River and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley and so on - rather than being the Suburbs, Private Schools, and Warroad/Roseau State Championship like the hockey tournament.
2. Watch the Prep Bowl, you'll see every kind of football; spread offense and offenses that throw twice a year, quarterbacks that can sling the ball seventy yards and quarterbacks that appear to be throwing with the wrong hand, teams that kick field goals and teams that can't hardly kick off. It's a veritable smorgasbord of football. Unless you're a particular student of the one-man vs. two-man forecheck, the hockey tournament is more or less a lot of the same thing all day.
3. The Prep Bowl gets the benefit of being played on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, the best possible dates on the calendar, when days off and leftover turkey combine with high school football to make the best possible sports viewing experience. Half the hockey tournament is played while you're at work.
4. Chris Dilks at the Western College Hockey Blog wrote a convincing column this week that suggests that it's time to stop pretending there's any basis for community-based prep hockey, since most players gravitate towards the all-star teams that tend to be created at that level. You'll never read a similar column about prep football in Minnesota.
5. The best high school hockey players in Minnesota play Elite League hockey and junior hockey and summer hockey and go to the USHL and go to the National Team Development program in Ann Arbor. The best high school football players in Minnesota play high school football in Minnesota.
*On with the links:
*The Twins need a ton of pitching, which isn't a secret. John Bonnes thinks that Josh Willingham is worth basically nothing on the trade market, which leads into Nick Nelson's home truth: if the Twins aren't going to be terrible next year, they're going to have to spend an enormous amount of money this off-season.
*With John Gagliardi's retirement at St. John's, SJU grad Shawn Fury takes a look back at the legendary coach.
*Hamilton Nolan writes about Adrien Broner, boxing's next, unbeatable, unpunchable thing.
*The Economist takes a scientific look at Formula One's successful return to the United States.
*And finally: I will never fail to be entertained by this kind of thing.
The story of the Benilde-St. Margaret's boys' hockey team ended in dramatic, storybook fashion Saturday when the Red Knights, at the end of an emotionally trying season during which teammate Jack Jablonski was paralyzed during a junior varsity game, won the Class 2A state title behind senior Grant Besse's five goals.
The residual chatter about the game, however, hasn't been about Besse's standout performance. It has instead circled back to the story of Jablonski, which has permeated so much of the season.
The big questions on the minds of many readers and hockey fans: Should Jablonski have been on the ice for the postgame awards ceremony -- and should he have received an official state championship medal?
As you might know, he was not on the ice. The Minnesota State High School League, which ran the tournament, explained its policy to the Star Tribune on Saturday: Jablonski was not on the roster and was therefore not eligible to be on the ice for the ceremony.
MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead expanded on that Monday, issuing this statement:
A number of people have asked questions about why Jack Jablonski was not on the ice for the award ceremony on Saturday night. Jack was not listed as a member of the official roster, but the League staff worked directly with the school and the coaching staff to ensure that Jack could be an important part of his school team before and following each game.
Championship medals are awarded to each member of the team, team managers and coaches. A school can also request additional medals for players, and we accommodate all teams in all sports to ensure that their needs are appropriately addressed in a timely manner.
In order to make sure the $2 million Lifetime Catastrophic Insurance policy the League purchases for each athlete was not at risk, the League's insurance carrier was contacted. I was informed that if an accident of any type would have occurred, the insurance claim may well have been jeopardized.
The MSHSL joins everyone in Minnesota and beyond in wishing Jack all the best in the future.
Benilde-St. Margaret's head coach Ken Pauly said Monday that he and the MSHSL worked well together on a plan during the tournament to have Jablonski able to visit the team in the locker room before and after games. The notion of what might happen after a championship game, Pauly said, never came up -- partially because the idea of BSM, unseeded going into the tournament, winning it all would be a "big assumption," the coach said.
In retrospect, Pauly said, it would have been nice to have Jablonski be a part of the post-game ceremony at ice level in some form, but he was not specifically aware of the liability issues.
"If you look at it, after the trophies were awarded – and out of respect to Hill-Murray allow them to leave as a team – I think it would have been a better plan to get him out there a little bit," Pauly said. "I think that would have been fun. And a lot of people stuck around to see him, and I feel for them."
It's hardly as though Jablonski was ignored, however. He watched the game from a suite, visited teammates in the locker room after the game and was given the state championship trophy to bring home. Pauly said Jablonski will receive a medal as well.
And, the coach noted, the private moment in the locker room was plenty special to Pauly and the BSM players.
"Us having that private moment in the locker room at the end of the game was a chance to be back together as a team alone away from the cameras," he said.
For now, the ceremony question lingers. What do you think? In this case, is a rule a rule ... or was it worth whatever risk might have been there to bend the rule in this case?
It's championship day in high school hockey - St. Thomas Academy vs. Hermantown at noon, Hill-Murray vs. Benilde St. Margaret's at 7. It's also a big weekend for conference college basketball championships, as anyone who watched the Gophers drop yet another heartbreaker last night knows. Watching the two of these side-by-side this year has made me realize that, for all of its flaws and foibles, and for as much as I've complained about it in the past, I actually like the way the Minnesota State High School League does the playoffs.
I have, in the past, sneered at the "everybody-gets-a-trophy" style of tournament. Some people are still miffed about having two classes for hockey, or four classes for basketball, or seven now for football. Thinking about this, though, I can't remember who I was sneering at. When I was a senior in high school, and again when I was a sophomore in college, my high school went to state in boys' basketball, which traditionally is the most popular sport in Ortonville. As the entire town lined up outside the city limits to welcome the team bus back home, or as the town emptied on the day of the tourney so that everyone could make the drive to the Cities, I don't remember anybody thinking, "Well, this is fun, but it's sort of a joke because there's four classes for basketball now, not two like when we went in '82." I like the idea that as many kids, and parents, and small no-stoplight towns like mine, get that experience as possible.
I've also complained about the fact that virtually everyone makes the playoffs in every sport. This does lead to some serious wallopings, especially in hockey; you can count on seeing scores like 14-0 and 26-1 in the first round of the playoffs every year. But the good thing about doing this is that it eliminates the smoke-filled back room where section administrators have to decide who's in and who's out in the playoffs. Tomorrow night, the NCAA Men's Basketball Selection Committee will sit down and ruin the Big Dance dreams of teams across the country. Not even one-quarter of the eligible teams will make the tournament; I can't imagine high school administrators having to cut the playoffs down to the same level. There'd be wild controversy throughout Minnesota. The argument against this would be to note that 15 of the 16 section No. 1 seeds in hockey made it to the state tournament, so it's not like section administrators would have had hard decisions to make. That said, the lone outlier - Benilde-St. Margaret's - was the third seed in their section, and they're in the state title game tonight.
Sure, the big-tent, multiple-class tournament system is unwieldy and overlarge. But it's fun. It's fun for as many athletes, parents, students, and schools as possible. And really, isn't that what this is supposed to be about?
On with the links:
*Tim Allen of Canis Hoopus went to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and has a recap of what he heard. It's long, but it's interesting for those of us who A) like sports research and B) couldn't think of a good enough reason to spend all of that money to go.
*SB Nation has started its own YouTube channel, which leads to videos like this one, where Matt Ufford goes to curling nationals and discovers the exact same things that everyone discovers when they go curling for a story. However, he also has an interview with Minnesota's Pete Fenson, long a nationally recognized curling powerhouse, and he found out something else interesting: Pete Fenson seems like no fun whatsoever.
*According to an ESPN survey, professional soccer is now the second-favorite sport of 12-to-24 year olds. More of these kids are avid fans of international soccer than of the MLS. This link is brought to you by my long-running campaign to remind you that soccer is not potentially a major sport in America in the future because it is a major sport in America already.
*And finally: I suppose that homophobia in professional sports might never completely go away, just in the same way that racism lingers. That said, the tide feels like it's turning, helped in part by campaigns like the Burke family's You Can Play campaign. I encourage you to read, and watch the video.
A few folks were tweeting about footage from the famous championship game between Milan and Muncie Central being released by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, so we went to have a look-see. The video is predictably grainy, but that only adds to the awesome-ness of it.
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