Earlier start for Sioux

The last two years, UND only had one or two team skates (with coaches present) before the opening exhibition against Manitoba.

While the exhibition hasn’t been moved, the Sioux should be more fine-tuned for the Oct. 1 contest against the Bisons.

There is new NCAA legislation that will allow teams to practice with coaches present for two hours per week beginning in mid-September. In years prior, the Sioux were only allowed to be in groups of four when coaches were present until the first day of practice — which was usually the first or second day in October.

This is a rule change many coaches had supported because of the early start to the season.

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Analysis: You might want to wait

As my e-mail inbox became busy this week with angry Sioux fans sounding off, I couldn’t help but think back to the summer of 2004.

Dean Blais had left UND for a job in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. And once Dave Hakstol was hired as head coach of the Sioux, there was an immediate backlash by many fans who wanted to see UND hold out for Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin.

Sandelin had just led the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four, was named the head coach of the defending champion U.S. World Junior team and was the hot coaching prospect in college hockey.

Instead of holding out for Sandelin, a guy who had been a WCHA assistant for six years and a head coach for four, UND immediately hired Hakstol. Some were upset with the process. More were upset by the choice.

In the two years since, here’s what happened: Both teams had veteran squads in 2004-05 (Duluth was picked to win the conference), and both had young but highly regarded squads in 2005-06. The Bulldogs finished with losing records both years and the Sioux went to the Frozen Four twice.

The Hakstol-dissenters don’t seem to be completely gone, however. They seem to have reincarnated in the form of Dane Jackson-dissenters.

There have been e-mails, questions in my Q&A thing and a letter to the editor.

For those who have said, "Ask why Steve Johnson didn’t get the job." I have. Hakstol said he didn’t want to discuss any candidates specifically, only that he thought Jackson was the best fit.

For those who wanted me to write a story about Johnson not getting the job, I won’t. During the application process, I wrote a story saying Johnson would apply. As an objective reporter, I’m as fair as possible in my coverage. Had I written another Johnson story after Jackson was hired, I believe the Herald would have been backing a candidate.

Besides, I felt that when Jackson was hired, most fans wanted to find out more information about the new coach. What’s he been doing since he left UND? What do others who have hired him have to say? That’s what I wrote.

Did Steve Johnson have an impressive resume? Yes. Has he had success coaching? Definitely.

In 2004, did Scott Sandelin have an impressive resume? Yes. Had he had success coaching? Definitely.

At this point, looking back, Dave Hakstol seems to be the right guy for the job. And at this point, none of us know how the hiring of Dane Jackson will turn out.

But after watching so many jump the gun on Hakstol just two short years ago, I find it odd that so many haven’t learned this lesson:

Whenever there is a coaching position open at UND, there is going to be a strong field of interested people because of all the alums in the coaching ranks. Time will tell if the selected candidate was the right choice. It might be a good idea to wait before speaking. Or writing.

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The best and worst of hockey

Former UND defenseman Mike Commodore hauled the Stanley Cup around campus Tuesday, visiting familiar places and old friends.

Nearly everywhere he went, people echoed the same words to the NHL champion.

In Frank White’s Sociology of Sport class, three students separately stood up to tell Commodore what a great job he’s done representing UND and how much they respect him as a person. Commodore heard the same type of things at the Ralph Engelstad Arena event — from a former teammate, the current Sioux coach and from people in attendance.

Former UND goaltender Andy Kollar told fans how dedicated Commodore is and he even offered up the funniest story of the night:

Commodore used to lift weights with the football players, but Kollar said he stayed away — intimidated by the heavy lifters. One day, however, Commodore talked Kollar into going. While doing squats, Commodore asked Kollar to spot him — a job Kollar said he knew he would be of no help. Commodore went down and up for his first squat, as Kollar’s eyes gazed to football player Scott Schultz "who was lifting about 4,000 pounds," Kollar said. By the time he looked back, he noticed one of the weights was about to fall off Commodore’s bar. Kollar bailed.

Sure enough, the weight slipped off the bar and fell to the floor. That, of course, triggered a chain reaction. Every weight fell off the other side of the bar, crashing loudly on the floor… then went every weight on first side came crashing to the floor, too. Kollar said everything stopped in the weight room and 100 football players were all staring at Commodore (because Kollar had bailed).

Without hesitation, Commodore continued to do his set of squats with no weight on the bar like nothing had happened.

That’s the same Mike Commodore that has become a fan favorite everywhere he’s gone in the NHL. Commodore reached the pinnacle of hockey this summer, winning the Stanley Cup. And on his day with the Cup, he decided to share it with fans, much like Matt Cullen did in Fargo-Moorhead and Bret Hedican did in St. Cloud.

Everyone took photos with the Cup and many got autographs from the 6-foot-5 star.

It was the best of hockey — someone reaching the top the right way and handling himself in a generous manner once there.

It’s a far cry from the outrageous story of David Frost.

The former NHL agent — best known for being the target of a murder-for-hire plot by St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton — was arrested this week and charged with 12 counts sexual exploitation.

To fully understand this unbelievably bizarre story, I highly recommend checking out the features that CBC has done in the past. They are long (40 minutes), but worth watching. Go to this site and click one of the tiny cameras on the right side below where it says "Watch the Fifth Estate online." The November 2005 story is the original piece the network did. In April, CBC did a follow up and rehashed much of the original piece at the beginning. So if you only have time for one, check the April one out.

If you have time for neither, the Toronto Globe and Mail tried to capture some of the story here.

Hopefully this story is a wake-up call to some that things like this are capable of happening. And hopefully it’s the last time we have to read about a situation like this. Lets stick to the Commodore stories.

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Chat with Dane Jackson

Dane Jackson, who was named assistant coach at UND this week, is in the process of moving from Rochester, N.Y., to Grand Forks. Jackson said he hopes to be in town by next week. Here’s what he had to say about the new job:

You’ve got to be pretty excited to have the opportunity to come back to UND.
"There’s no question about it. I grew to love the North Dakota program and the city. To be able to come back is pretty special. I definitely have strong feelings about the program. I’ve kept in touch with a lot of people. I actually got back there around Christmastime and saw one of the games of the Harvard series. It was my first time ever getting back, because I’ve been so busy playing and coaching. It was fun to get back.

A lot has changed in that time — of course the arena is a big change.
That’s a beautiful facility and it’s a great thing for the North Dakota program and the university.

What type of coach would you say you are?
Jackson: I have a lot of energy. I’m a very passionate and very positive guy. I think I’m going into a very positive program and I like how well things are being done there. I feel that I’ve been a student of the game. I’ve had some great coaches and I tried to learn things from them. I learned a lot from John Tortorella (current Tampa Bay Lightning coach). I was the captain of his 1995-96 Rochester team, which won the Calder Cup. He was a huge influence on me. He’s a really interesting fella’. He was very gracious in taking his time and letting me pick his brain. I still talk to him today.

What things did you try and take from Tortorella?
He really preaches an attacking style — creating turnovers through skating and pressuring the puck. That’s something I believe in. When you’ve got high skilled guys, you want to utilize their talents. You still have to be very cognizant and aware on the defensive end, but when you have guys that talented, give them an opportunity to skate and make a play.

You’ll be working with a good friend in Dave Hakstol, who was a teammate of yours for three seasons.
He was a great teammate and he was well respected for his work ethic. He’s always been a friend. And Cary (Eades)… he recruited me. I always have had a close relationship with him. Cary is a British Columbia guy like me, he’s a big winger like me, and he really took me under his wing and taught me a lot.

Brad Berry became known for his work with defensemen. What responsibilities do you anticipate having at UND?
I’ll be doing recruiting and I’ll work closely with Hakstol on the penalty kill, but the thing he wants me to do the most is special skill development — taking guys aside and working on individual skills during and after practice — more focus on individually bettering themselves. I’ll grab guys and take extra time to teach the finer points of the game and make them well-rounded players.

What do you know about this year’s UND team?
I did a lot of research on them when I was applying for the job. I learned that North Dakota lost some good players but in typical North Dakota fashion, there are a lot of good, young players. Some guys will have different roles, and they’ll be ready to step up and take more minutes.

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Hockey’s Holy Grail

The most famous trophy in sports will be in Grand Forks this evening.

Former UND defenseman Mike Commodore is bringing the Stanley Cup to Ralph Engelstad Arena, and there will be a short program beginning at 7 p.m. Highlight videos will begin at 6 p.m., which is when doors open.

Here are a few facts about the Cup:

*****To have one’s name engraved on the Stanley Cup, certain requirements must be met. A player must have at least 41 games played with the club or one game played in the Stanley Cup Finals. However, in 1994 a stipulation was added to allow a team to petition the Commissioner for permission to have players’ names put on the Cup if extenuating circumstances prevented them from being available to play.

*****The Cup is the only trophy in professional sports that has the names of winning players, coaches, management and club staff engraved on the silver chalice.

*****It takes 13 years to fill the ring of the Stanley Cup with names of winners. Once a bottom ring is full, another one of the same size is removed from the top of the base and retired at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

*****As a player, Henri Richard has won the most Stanley Cups with 11. Overall, no one’s name appears on the Stanley Cup more than Jean Beliveau. He has 17 — 10 as a player and seven as management.

*****There have been several names misspelled on the Cup that never have been corrected. Jacques Plante’s name has been misspelled five times, (including "Jocko," "Jack" and "Plant"); Bob Gainey was spelled "Gainy" when he was a player for Montreal in the 70s; Ted Kennedy was spelled "Kennedyy" in the 40s; New York Islanders was spelled "Ilanders" in 1980/81; the Toronto Maple Leafs was spelled "Leaes" in 1962/63; the Boston Bruins was spelled "Bqstqn" in 1972. Adam Deadmarsh was spelled Deadmarch — but later was changed; the only misspelled name to be corrected.

*****There is a second version of the Stanley Cup that remains in the Hall of Fame, which never travels, and is used for display purposes only at the Hall when the Stanley Cup is traveling; this Cup is perfect and has no misspells.

*****Places that the Stanley Cup has visited include the Czech Republic, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Japan, Switzerland and the Bahamas. It also has climbed Mt. Elbert in Colorado, which stands at 14,433 feet.

*****It travels approximately 250 days per year, and has logged more than 400,000 miles in travel during the past five seasons.

*****The Cup was temporarily lost in 2004, when baggage handlers in Vancouver determined it was too heavy to fly.

*****Commodore is the eighth UND player to have his name engraved on the Cup. The complete list is:

2006 — Mike Commodore, Carolina Hurricanes
2000 — Brad Bombardir, New Jersey Devils
1999 — Rick Wilson, Dallas Stars*
1999 — Ed Belfour, Dallas Stars
1999 — Tony Hrkac, Dallas Stars
1999 — Craig Ludwig, Dallas Stars
1996 — Troy Murray, Colorado Avalanche
1992 — Jay Caufield, Pittsburgh Penguins
1991 — Jay Caufield, Pittsburgh Penguins
1986 — Craig Ludwig, Montreal Canadiens
*Wilson was an assistant coach.

Remember, if you go, take your personal camera along to get a picture with the Cup. But if you are a junior hockey player with intentions of someday winning it…. keep your hands off!

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Quick updates

Some updates from Siouxland:

****Senior forward Erik Fabian has begun skating. Fabian is recovering from ligament tears in his knee suffered in March. Coach Dave Hakstol said it’s hard to tell whether he’s ahead of schedule to return by October 1, but the fact that he’s skating is an important step.

****Sophomore defenseman Brian Lee isn’t expected to miss any time with his knee injury. He was unable to participate in the U.S. World Junior evaluation camp earlier this month, but the injury isn’t expected to sideline him for long.

****Although walk-on defenseman Todd Alexander is transferring, don’t expect to see any walk-ons join the Sioux this fall. Of course, school and practice haven’t started yet, so that could change. But don’t expect it to.

****Former Sioux defenseman Mike Commodore had his first day with the Stanley Cup on Sunday. Today, it will be with Cam Ward. Then, Commodore will be bringing it to Grand Forks on Tuesday. It will be at The Ralph at 7. Doors at 6. For those attending, bring your cameras.

****Look for Dane Jackson to be announced as the new assistant coach either today or Tuesday.

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New coach to be hired

As promised, UND and coach Dave Hakstol moved quickly in hiring a new assistant coach. Less than a week after collecting all the applications, UND offered the job to former assistant captain Dane Jackson [read story here].

An official announcement will probably come on Monday or Tuesday.

School begins at UND on Tuesday and Hakstol surely wanted to have a coach in place by that time.

There was a lot of speculation to what UND might be looking for in a coach.

Someone with a lot of ties to the junior and midget leagues? The best fit might have been Steve Johnson, who has coached in the USHL for 11 years.

A defensive specialist in the same mold of Brad Berry? In that case, Dane Litke may have been the best bet, as he was the most experienced defenseman to apply.

Someone with a lot of pro experience? Jackson appears to be the leader there, having played for more than 10 years and coached for three.

When it’s announced, we’ll see what qualities led Hakstol to picking Jackson. Some of them are bound to parallel what Barry Melrose saw in Jackson when he hired him in January.

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New home

Welcome to the new home of the Herald hockey blog.

The move is part of the transition from former Herald owner, Knight Ridder, to the new owner, Forum Communications Company.

FCC owns the blog host, areavoices. Therefore, the Sioux hockey blog will be here instead of blogspot now. So, change the bookmarks.

Hopefully this site will be easier for non-bloggers to comment on.

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