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Reflections on the 2012 Tournament

 
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karl(east)



Joined: 17 Jul 2007
Posts: 4541

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:26 am    Post subject: Reflections on the 2012 Tournament Reply with quote

As we wrap up another season, I decided itís time that I offer up a longer than usual reflection on the Tournament, for whatever it may be worth. So, here you go:

I write an awful lot about hockey, but a weekend in the press box showed me that Iím still very much on the fringes of the high school hockey media. While I felt perfectly comfortable up there, chatting easily with the guys who invited me in or the Benilde-St. Margaretís student media, Iím still closer in age to the players than I am to most members of the press. Most of them were hard at work, with no time for some detached college kid who moderates a forum in his spare time.

Still, my time in the press box made my annual weekend of vicarious living that much more profound. It gave me a front row seat to the tournamentís pageantry and roller coaster of emotion. I would say it was a fantastic tournament, but that doesnít seem quite right; even the most boring tournament is still a fun experience. And with a host of upsets and an individual performance for the ages in the closing act, there will be plenty to remember from 2012. Itís not often we see an upset ranked among the greatest of all time, or hear of a playerís name being thrown around with that of Dave Spehar, but both happened in the past few days.

We canít pretend the more unsavory or controversial aspects of the Tourney donít exist. The penalty time changes led to increased scrutiny of the referees, and the success of several private schools prompted plenty of debate, though thankfully the often shrill cries directed at St. Thomas Academy found themselves a witty, clever spokesman in Bruce Plante. Bruce brought some much-needed color to a fairly predictable Class A tournament, though there is plenty to appreciate in the feisty effort of a team like Thief River or the crisp efficiency of St. Thomas, whatever one may think of such wildly opposite schools fighting for the same title.

In Class AA it was the year of the upset, as the top seeds all went tumbling down to Mariucci. It was the deepest field in recent memory, yet the superior talent on the stateís top three was no match for Blake Heinrichís hits, a brick wall named Michael Bitzer, or a Lakeville South team that played the perfect game. In the end we were left with two Catholic schools, but no anti-private bias could keep away a huge crowd. And with good reason: Bill Lechnerís Hill-Murray teams never cease to entertain with their speed and physical play, and Benildeís season was almost too storybook to believe, as a dysfunctional December team rallied around the Jack Jablonski tragedy and became Marchís miracle-workers.

Ken Pauly, who grew on me as the tournament went on, called it a spiritual experience. He is a fiery coach who takes no shame in ruffling a few feathers. But he never lost sight of what was truly at stake, and knew when to take his hands off and let his players reach their destiny. The end result--Grant Besse, resplendent in glory as he re-wrote the history books--captured Paulyís panache, and a daring desire not only to win, but to do so with style, not caring what the rest of the world thinks so long as one attains that ecstasy of victory.

People often describe the Tourney as a homage to innocence, which I find somewhat ironic. Any event involving hordes of horny, hormonal teenagers has the potential to stray about as far from innocence as one can get. Those who think the players or fans are pure little saints are deluding themselves. But itís alright that theyíre not perfect. Theyíre at the point where they cease to be children and head out into the world. It happens gradually; a first drink here, a little love-making there, the arrival of certain new burdens. But thereís also a far more profound moment, when a kid confronts adulthood head on.

I saw it happen on Thursday, as a defeated Jake Randolph made his way out of the post-game press conference. He was absolutely devastated by Eastís loss; he couldnít even string a sentence together, nor could he remember the way back to his own locker room. The loss was more than a hockey game; it was the end of an era for a kid who had devoted his life to a mission. Just like that, it was all over. He was suddenly released from that dream and thrown into the world, and he didnít know how to react.

Of course it had to happen someday. But that shock, that realization that the little world heíd dedicated himself to for so long, was no more--there is no way to prepare for that. The Benilde players, perhaps, did have some of that awareness; their cozy world was wrenched apart the day Jack Jablonski fell to the ice, and they knew they were a part of something bigger. But for Jake, for whom hockey remained simply hockey, there was no answer. All I could do was clap a hand on his shoulder as he stumbled by. Afterwards I kicked myself for not guiding him back towards his locker room, or offering up a few words of consolation.

So hereís the good news, Jake: the Tourney may be over, but it never really ends. No: youíre going to look back on weeks like this years from now and find that you never really can let go of those memories, or escape the allure this tournament has for so many of us. You lived it, and whether through a reunion with old friends many years down the line or simply in your own memories replaying through your head, you can always bring it back. You have the world before you now, but even though that comfort of the past is gone, you can always lean on it as an essential part of who you are.

Whether your hockey career beyond Duluth East is long and successful or comes to an abrupt halt, you were once free to chase down glory in its purest form, in the name of a community you held dear. Those who have been down that road know the feeling, and the rest of us can only imagine it. And thatís why weíll all be back next year, ready to see how the next generation tries to balance its joy in the moment and its realization that things are about to change. And so the cycle begins anew, always circling back around; repetitive, but never short on sincerity. The Tournament brings together the traditions of the past, resolves the efforts of the present into an explosion of emotion, and opens up both the promise and the uncertainty of the future. With that sort of foundation, Jake, I suspect youíll do alright, wherever that future takes you.
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PuckU126



Joined: 07 Feb 2005
Posts: 3769
Location: Minnesota

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done and well said, Karl.

That pretty much sums up the tourney. A bunch of ups and downs, and smiles and tears to many.

This tourney will be a memorable one to a lot of fans.

Congrats to all teams.

Cool
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MNHockeyFan



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Easily the most thoughtful and well-written post I've ever read on these forums.
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Sats81



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 1189

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very well said.
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wildone



Joined: 20 Aug 2011
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karl,
Iím speechless. Bravo! This is a classic piece of literature for anyone whoís a fan of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament!
Thanks
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scarlethockey33



Joined: 09 Dec 2008
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MNHockeyFan wrote:
Easily the most thoughtful and well-written post I've ever read on these forums.


Took the words right out of my mouth! Great read as always karl, thank you for another great season, your weekly rankings were an enjoyment to read, but you have really outdone yourself here.
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Doglover



Joined: 10 Feb 2008
Posts: 550

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was inspiring and very, very well said. Thank you karl for all you add to MN High School hockey. We all love this game but you sum up the emotions well. Applause
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East Side Pioneer Guy



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 393

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't have the exact numbers in front of me now, but I think the Friday AA semis drew 19,8??, more than the 19,??? that saw the Friday semis in 2008. I recall at that time that the record was announced as the largest crowd to see a hockey game in state history. But at the X Friday I don't recall the attendance being annouced at all, much less that it was the new record for attendance at a game in Minnesota.

Did anyone hear or read any references to this. That is really a huge crowd, and I wouldn't have thought it would be that big.

I'm just glad I was able to be a part of both crowds, as were my Pioneers. People love to hate us (and that's fine by me), but they also love to come out to see us. Not at all suggesting that was the only part of the attraction either time.
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MNHockeyFan



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 4921

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

19,893 according to the official box score. I did read in the Strib that it established a new attendance record, topping the 2008 number when Edina beat BSM in OT. I don't have that exact figure, but I believe it was 19,700 and change.

http://www.mshsl.org/mshsl/showgameinfo.asp?game=554711
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mulefarm



Joined: 09 Jan 2008
Posts: 1198

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You nailed it!
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keepyourheadup



Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 985

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First thing, awesome Karl..just a wonderful essay, I wish I could write as eloquently as you do.

As for the crowd, my son came home after the tourney and said "dad, we broke two records ", "Oh really" I said, "ya, we played in front of more people than any other high school team ever". "Wow that's cool" I responded, whats the other one. "we got beat worse than any team in state semi final history". I just couldn't help but giggle.
It occurred to me right then just how much pressure the hounds were under and how loose and relaxed our team came in without all those expectations East had heaped on them. Your admiration and heart felt sympathy for your team is very understandable..thanks for all the hard work you put in Karl, we all appreciate it.
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East Side Pioneer Guy



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 393

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was quite a weekend, a tournament much more memorable than most. The way the upsets just kept coming on Thursday. The first three with without any question, they way the seeds were dominated. No cheap goals, no bad calls effecting the outcome. No controversy. The Duluth East-Eagan game getting relocated to Mariucci. A rare two and out for Edina. A 10-1 semifinal.

When seeding is debated in the future, this year will get mentioned. "Yeah, but remember that year all the top seeds lost?" We all remember it now, but some day it will be a trivia question on the scoreboard and people will scratch their heads and marvel that it happened.

I think Maple Grove will be state champions, but not until close to the end of the decade. These things take time. Just ask Elk River. or Eden Prairie.

It was tough to see the Pioneers come so close. Losing championship games is always tough, whether the score is close or not.

The Hounds were on a mission all year, only had one goal for the season. It can come to an almost violent stop. A lot of teams like that don't bounce back the next day. Consolation can be extremely small consolation when you've set your sights so much higher.

Good Summary, Karl
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goldy313



Joined: 05 Mar 2002
Posts: 2365

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was a darn good tournament, BSM rolls to a victory in the final 2 games but everyone forgets that Edina had a powerplay with 3 minutes left in a tie game with the Red Knights, a shot by a Hornet player missed the net and came out of the zone where a BSM player picked it up, went down and scored. Really the Red Knights were outplayed and not the better team on the ice much of that game, that's how close teams are at that stage.

Head contact was an issue. The MSHSL really, in my opinion, dropped the ball on this back in January and on the biggest stage chose the cowardly way out. The rule states "No player shall make contact with the opposing player's head or neck in any manner." I disliked the new rule but it was a rule and shouldn't have been ignored if saferty was the determining factor in its implimentation which is what we were told. Teams were penalized in the regular season and sections then the rule was forgotten at the state level, teams that learned to play by the new rules were now forced to watch as one team laid hit after hit to the head and not be penalized. The wording is specific and the rule was meant to take any disretion out of the call, it didn't work out that way, probably by design. The MSHSL made a proclamation to the hockey world and it's players with a profound change of the rules mid season, then reneged in front of the hockey world.

Sportsmanship continues to be on the decline, the MSHSL uses the word sportsmanship in its beleifs and purpose statements. The look at me celebrations and chirping continue to go upwards and still nothing is done. The MSHSL needs to come down on this hard, what is a no question 15 yard penalty in football and a technical foul in basketball is just boys being boys in hockey. It's not and we all saw the ill will not cracking down can lead too, even from good kids.

On Friday night I saw the least amount of empty seats I can remember and given we had three smaller schools and one with no band that was darn impressive.

The fact the MSHSL didn't allow Jablonski on the ice was a terrible decision, many of the people stayed to see him. I know there are kids in many schools who suffer terrible injuries or worse in many ways both athletic and not, as a gesture to them and their families the MSHSL should have been more inclusive.
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O-townClown



Joined: 10 Oct 2007
Posts: 2786
Location: Typical homeboy from the O-Town

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

goldy313 wrote:
BSM rolls to a victory in the final 2 games but everyone forgets that Edina had a powerplay with 3 minutes left in a tie game with the Red Knights, a shot by a Hornet player missed the net and came out of the zone where a BSM player picked it up, went down and scored.


I sure haven't forgotten. Watching online, I noticed the same Edina kids were out for the whole PP and then had trouble getting off the ice. I'd love to see a breakdown of shift lengths that led to the goal. Pretty sure I saw what I thought I saw...those Edina kids were on spaghetti legs at that point and Benilde managed to shift up a couple when they went by the bench.
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karl(east)



Joined: 17 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all of the kind words--I really do appreciate them.

According to the program, the previous attendance record was 19,547, so we broke it by a decent margin. If you read this forum often enough you see plenty of posts worrying that the sky is falling, so that sort of turnout is a pretty good sign of this tournament's health in spite of it all. We can't take it for granted, but the tournament's resilience is pretty impressive.

The past two tournaments have probably been some of the most memorable in years. There's something that sticks out about just about every tournament, but all of those OT games last year and the Besse/Jablonski/upset storylines this year really rise to the front in my mind. To find something comparable you might have to go back to 1995 and 1996, with Spehar's show one year and East-Apple Valley the next.

I'm still adjusting back to daily life after four days of nonstop hockey...
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HappyHockeyFan



Joined: 30 Nov 2008
Posts: 737
Location: Eagan

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 2:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

karl(east) wrote:
Thanks for all of the kind words--I really do appreciate them.

According to the program, the previous attendance record was 19,547, so we broke it by a decent margin. If you read this forum often enough you see plenty of posts worrying that the sky is falling, so that sort of turnout is a pretty good sign of this tournament's health in spite of it all. We can't take it for granted, but the tournament's resilience is pretty impressive.

The past two tournaments have probably been some of the most memorable in years. There's something that sticks out about just about every tournament, but all of those OT games last year and the Besse/Jablonski/upset storylines this year really rise to the front in my mind. To find something comparable you might have to go back to 1995 and 1996, with Spehar's show one year and East-Apple Valley the next.

I'm still adjusting back to daily life after four days of nonstop hockey...
I know the feeling Karl, always takes about a week after 3 months of hockey and 4 days of the Tournament. But this warm weather sure does have me thinkin about fishin... Cool
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