More Langenbrunner

After his most productive season in the NHL, veteran right winger Jamie Langenbrunner has a chance to make his second U.S. Olympic team.

The Cloquet native and captain of the New Jersey Devils was among 34 candidates invited Tuesday by USA Hockey to attend an orientation camp Aug. 17-19 at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Ill. The camp is the first step in the selection process for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Langenbrunner, 33, a member of the 1998 U.S. Olympic team, was New Jersey’s third-leading scorer in 2008-09 with 29 goals and 40 assists for 69 points in 81 games. His previous single-season high was 60 points in 2006-07 with the Devils. Part of his success, he said, was being on a line with former North Dakota forwards Zach Parise (also an Olympic candidate) and Travis Zajac.

“They’ve made the game fun again,” Langenbrunner told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “I never used to go out early and shoot pucks. Zach kind of dragged me into that. All that is their doing. They’ve been very good for me, especially this year.”

Injuries cut Langenbrunner’s playing time in 2007-08, when he managed 41 points in 64 games in his first season as captain. He was a plus-25 in 2008-09 and was the NHL player of the month for January, which included three straight two-goal games to end the month.

In 13 NHL seasons, he has 209 goals and 336 assists for 545 points in 884 games. Langenbrunner’s mom, Patrice, of Cloquet told the Star-Ledger she saw something in her son, just in watching televised New Jersey games.

“I told him he looks like he did as a peewee player when he’d come off the ice and be so excited,” she said. “It’s just so much fun after all these years to see him enjoying himself.

“I was watching one game where he and Zach came off the ice after not scoring and they were talking and smiling. I remember he used to do that as a kid. He’d come off the ice saying, ‘How did we not score?’ ’’

Langenbrunner reached a milestone in March with his 200th career goal.

“It’s a darn good accomplishment,” New Jersey coach Brent Sutter, now with the Calgary Flames, told the Star-Ledger. “It’s something that he should be proud of. When you look at Jamie’s roles and what he’s played over the years, the type of player he is, he’s made himself better because he works extremely hard. Character guy.”

Other Minnesotans invited to the Olympic orientation camp are defensemen Tom Gilbert, Erik Johnson and Paul Martin (a Langenbrunner teammate); and forwards David Backes, Dustin Byfuglien, Kyle Okposo and T.J. Oshie. All but Byfuglien played in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Also from the WCHA ranks are defensemen Brian Rafalski and Ryan Suter, and forwards Phil Kessel, Ryan Malone, Joe Pavelski and Paul Stastny. Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is the team’s head coach.

Langenbrunner Olympic Prospect

     Cloquet’s Jamie Langenbrunner, captain of the New Jersey Devils, is among the candidates announced Tuesday for the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. More in an upcoming post on Langenbrunner, but here is the USA Hockey release:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Hockey today announced that 34 players, representing 22 National Hockey League teams, have been invited to the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Orientation Camp from Aug. 17-19, at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Ill.

The camp is designed to assist in the preparation of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that will compete at the XXI Olympic Winter Games to be held from Feb. 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Of the 34 players invited to the camp, five have previous Olympic experience, led by three-time Olympian Mike Modano (Livonia, Mich./Dallas Stars/1998, 2002, 2006). Additional Olympians include Chris Drury (Trumbull, Conn./New York Rangers/2002, 2006), Brian Rafalski (Dearborn, Mich./Detroit Red Wings/2002, 2006), Scott Gomez (Anchorage, Alaska/New York Rangers/2006) and Jamie Langenbrunner (Cloquet, Minn./New Jersey Devils/1998).

Other players highlighting the roster include 2009 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich./Boston Bruins); Zach Parise (Minneapolis, Minn./New Jersey Devils), who led all Americans with 45 goals and 94 points during the 2008-09 season; and NHL Entry Draft No. 1 overall picks Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn./St. Louis Blues) and Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y./Chicago Blackhawks).

Eight players included on the orientation camp roster played for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Bern, Switzerland, including defensemen Ron Hainsey (Bolton, Conn./Atlanta Thrashers), Jack Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind./Los Angeles Kings) and Ryan Suter (Madison, Wis./Nashville Predators), as well as forwards David Backes (Minneapolis, Minn./St. Louis Blues), Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./Los Angeles Kings), Kyle Okposo (St. Paul, Minn./New York Islanders), T.J. Oshie (Warroad, Minn./St. Louis Blues) and Joe Pavelski (Stevens Point, Wis./San Jose Sharks).

2009 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Orientation Camp Roster

Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas
Defensemen: Tom Gilbert, Tim Gleason, Ron Hainsey, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney
Forwards: David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny

Click here to download the roster.

NOTES: The 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team is under the direction of Brian Burke, general manager; David Poile, associate general manager; and Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey … The orientation camp roster includes 18 first-round NHL draft picks … Eleven players invited to the camp have been part of USA Hockey’s highly successful National Team Development Program … A total of 25 players on the orientation camp roster have played U.S. college hockey … The 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team team will be coached by Ron Wilson with John Tortorella and Scott Gordon serving as assistant coaches … USA Hockey’s international council, chaired by Tony Rossi, vice president of USA Hockey, has oversight responsibilities for all U.S. National Teams … The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will take place February 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbua.

 
 

Grandma’s Dropout Rebounds

     A couple of running notes, including Peter Gilmore, a Grandma’s Marathon dropout, and star mountain runner Brandy Erholtz, a native of International Falls:

Peter Gilmore of San Mateo, Calif., among the leaders in the 33rd Grandma’s Marathon before dropping out June 20, came back a week later to finish second in the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon on Saturday.

Gilmore, 32, a late addition to Grandma’s Marathon, was among the pacesetters in Duluth until dropping out at 19 miles. He was runner up in Seattle in 2:18:52. Kenyan Peter Omae led a field of 5,618 finishers in 2:18:17. Michele Suszek of Westminster, Colo., won the women’s division in 2:38:37.

Also, in Saturday’s inaugural Standard Chartered KL Marathon in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, three-time Grandma’s Marathon women’s winner Mary Akor of Hawthorne, Calif., was registered, but wasn’t listed among the finishers. Kenyan Frieda Jepkite Lodepa was the women’s winner in 2:40:13.

Former Minnesota Duluth athlete Brandy Erholtz of Bailey, Colo., finished second in Sunday’s USA Mountain Running Championship, at the 22nd Cranmore Hill Climb in North Conway, N.H.

Christine Lundy, 38, of Sausalito, Calif., won the women’s title in 57 minutes, 16 seconds for the 11-kilometer event which includes a vertical ascent of 2,400 feet. Erholtz was next in 57:51. The top two women helped the United States to the North American Central American Caribbean Mountain Running team championship.

Joseph Gray, 24, of Lakewood, Wash., was the overall winner in 48:37.

SEATTLE TIMES STORY

By Danny O’Neil, Seattle Times staff reporter

     Peter Omae was nearly finished when he started worrying.
     He had only a mile remaining in the men’s marathon, one last hill to run, but his legs felt heavy and his head seemed light. His pace slowed and he looked over his shoulder, fearful that Peter Gilmore was preparing to pass him.
     "I know he’s strong," said Omae, a Kenyan who lives in Mexico City.
     But by that time, Gilmore had troubles of his own.
     "I died a thousand deaths at that point," said Gilmore, who lives in San Mateo, Calif.
     Omae finished first in the men’s marathon in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 17 seconds. The 26.2-mile course, however, was the real winner at the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon. Entrants ran across Lake Washington, alongside Puget Sound and beneath the Space Needle.
     It was a day fit for a postcard — even Mount Rainier made an appearance — but it’s hard to appreciate the scenery when there’s a four-alarm fire blazing in your quadriceps.
     "It was a gorgeous course," said Gilmore, who finished second, 35 seconds behind Omae. "Of course, I was looking around a little bit less the second half of it."
     The women’s marathon was decided by a duel, with Michele Suszek of Colorado beating Leah Thorvilson in a race with three lead changes in the final 6 miles. Suszek won by 12 seconds in 2:38:37, the closest of the four races.
     The men’s marathon was more like a battle of attrition.
     Nine miles into the race, Omae and Gilmore pulled away as the course turned east onto the I-90 bridge. Kenyans David Kiprop Yego and Jynocel Basweit had been in the lead pack up to that point.
     The pace over the first third of the race gave them a shot at the state’s marathon record of 2:14:20, which has stood since 1984. But at the midway point, the pace had slowed.
     Omae pulled away beginning at the 20th mile. Gilmore tried to keep up, but while his mind said, "Go!" his body said, "No!"
     "My legs said, ‘Hey, bud, you’re going as hard as you can go,’ " Gilmore said.
     Gilmore wasn’t scheduled to run in Seattle. He ran in Grandma’s Marathon a week earlier in Duluth, Minn., but dropped out after running 19 miles at race pace. He wanted to take advantage of his training and fitness level, which led him to secure an entry in Seattle.
     Omae didn’t arrive in Seattle until Friday night.
     He raised his left hand as he crossed the finish line, reached to stop his wrist watch and then slowed to a walk. As he was handed a medal on a green ribbon that went to all marathon finishers, he doubled over at the waist, hands on his knees and head hanging as the physical toll of the race took hold.
     Omae was hardly the only one hurting after the race.
     "Maybe we should have gone out a little more conservatively in hindsight," Gilmore said.

More Dylan Olsen

     This Sunday piece as the Chicago Tribune picks up the father-son story of Dylan and Darryl Olsen after Dylan Olsen was chosen in the first round of Friday’s NHL Entry Draft:

By Chris Kuc | Tribune reporter

Darryl Olsen lived the life of a hockey vagabond, stopping in countries all over the world to keep playing the game he loved. Along for the ride was his son, Dylan, who now is creating his own path while sharing a passion for the sport.

The Blackhawks gave Dylan Olsen a destination place Friday night when they selected the defenseman in the first round (28th overall) of the NHL Entry Draft.

"My dad played hockey all over the world, so we moved all over the world when I was young," Olsen, 18, said. "Growing up he took me everywhere with him. I’d always go to the rink with him for practices and I’d pretty much do what he did. I just had a love for the game and that’s all I wanted to do. Now being drafted in the first round is huge."

Darryl Olsen was a defenseman who was a ninth-round (185th overall) pick by the Calgary Flames in the 1985 draft. After a four-year college career at Northern Michigan, Olsen was playing for the Flames’ minor-league affiliate in Salt Lake City when Dylan was born in 1991.
 

"When my dad ended his playing career, we ended up in Calgary and I call it my hometown," Dylan Olsen said. "That’s where I’ve played the majority of my hockey."

It was while playing for Camrose of the Alberta Junior Hockey League that Olsen caught the eye of Hawks general manager Dale Tallon and his staff. Olsen’s size (6 feet 2 inches, 206 pounds), skating ability and toughness helped him record 10 goals, 19 assists and 103 penalty minutes in 2008-09.

"He’s a very smart player [and] he’s a good, solid defensive defenseman as well," Tallon said. "He has composure. He’s a lefty who can play defensive and move the puck. He fits in nicely on our depth chart."

Olsen will attend Minnesota Duluth in the fall and is expected to remain there for a year or two while his skills are refined. As the 11th defenseman picked, he is thrilled to be joining the Blackhawks.

"As a kid you grow up wanting to play for an Original Six team," Olsen said. "And then to sit in the stands and hear your name called is an unbelievable feeling. I’m very happy to be part of the Blackhawks.

"This is definitely the biggest day of my life. It’s something you look forward to growing up. You hang posters on your wall saying you have to go in the first round."

The selection met with approval from Darryl Olsen, who was in attendance at the Molson Center in Montreal when Hawks adviser Scotty Bowman announced the team’s pick.

"He’s going to an Original Six team that has a bright future," Darryl Olsen told the Calgary Herald. "They’re heading for greatness.

"To see the Blackhawks call his name, to see the elation in his face and to see him jump up the way he did, that makes it all worthwhile."After that it was a myriad of stops, including Boston, San Diego, Houston, Italy, Austria, Britain and Germany before ending his career in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 2000.

UMD’s Three Drafted Recruits

Dylan Olsen loved the idea of being selected by one of the NHL’s original teams Friday night during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal.

He went to Chicago as the 28th pick overall and pulled on a Blackhawks jersey for photos at Bell Centre, but the 18-year-old defenseman from Calgary, Alberta, said Saturday his intention is to be in a Minnesota Duluth uniform this winter as a freshman.

“Coach [Joel Quenneville] seemed pleased that I was going to college and I’m pretty set on being in Duluth,” said Olsen. “If Chicago wants to me look at other things, like playing [Canadian] Major Junior hockey, then I’d look at what’s best for me.”

Two other UMD recruits were taken in the seven-round draft Saturday — recent Totino-Grace High School forward Dan DeLisle was chosen by Chicago and former Duluth East center Max Tardy was chosen by St. Louis.

DeLisle, 18, of Arden Hills, Minn., was chosen in the third round, 89th overall, and Tardy, 18, was chosen in the seventh round, 202nd overall.
DeLisle will be a freshman this fall, while Tardy will play a season with the Tri-City Storm of the U.S. Hockey League in Kearney, Neb., before joining the Bulldogs in 2010-11.

Olsen, 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, led defensemen in scoring for Camrose in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and was named a league all-star. He played for Canada in the Under-18 World Championships.

DeLisle, 6-4½ and 222 pounds, was the leading scorer at Totino-Grace the past two seasons, had 167 career points and was a 2009 Associated Press all-state honorable mention pick.

Tardy, 6-0 and 168 pounds, was the 2009 News Tribune player of the year and was East’s scoring leader with 35 points and 26 assists for 61 points as the Greyhounds advanced to the Minnesota Class AA tournament.

DeLisle was projected to be taken in the fifth round, or later, but got a surprise.

“My elite team coach, Chris McAlpine, is in Montreal and he called me, saying I went in the third round. The announcement on the NHL Network is on a delay so I had to wait to make sure it wasn’t a joke,” said DeLisle. “I’m kind of in shock.”

Tardy also was watching the draft proceedings on TV with his mom, Addy; dad, Mike; and hockey-playing older brother, Weston, 25, who was a defenseman with the Nybro Vikings in Sweden the last two seasons and has signed with Idaho in the East Coast Hockey League for 2009-10.

“I was extremely thrilled to be drafted. It’s why you play hockey, to have a chance at being in the NHL,” said Max Tardy. “If everything goes well in Tri-City, and I improve, then the next step will be UMD and I hope to keep taking steps forward.”

Olsen is the second first-round draft pick from UMD in the past 30 years, following defenseman Matt Niskanen of Mountain Iron, taken by Dallas in 2005.

Olsen and DeLisle said they were offered congratulations by former UMD defenseman Norm Maciver, who has been Chicago’s director of player development for the past year and lives in Duluth.

All three draft picks will attend prospect camps starting July 6.

Other players with college connections taken in the draft’s first round include defenseman Nick Leddy of Eden Prairie, Minn., by Minnesota, 16th overall, heading to the University of Minnesota; forward Louis Leblanc by Montreal, 18th overall, to Harvard; forward Chris Kreider by the New York Rangers, 19th overall, to Boston College; defenseman John Moore by Columbus, 21st overall, who has signed with Colorado College; forward Jordan Schroeder of Lakeville, Minn., by Vancouver, 22nd overall, the 2009 Western Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the year at Minnesota; and forward Kyle Palmieri by Anaheim, 26th overall, to Notre Dame.

Chicago gets Second UMD Recruit

    UPDATED: Former Totino-Grace forward Dan DeLisle, a Minnesota Duluth recruit, was taken in the third round (89th overall) in Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft. Chicago took Bulldog defenseman recruit Dylan Olsen of Calgary, in Friday’s first round. Also Saturday, other Minnesotans taken — in the second round, forward Zach Budish of Edina, by Nashville (41st); and in the third round, forward Ben Hanowski of Little Falls, by Pittsburgh (63rd); forward Josh Birkholz of St. Louis Park, by Florida (67th); and defenseman Troy Hekseth of Minnetonka, by Edmonton (71st).

DeLisle, 18, is listed as 6-foot-2 and 222 pounds.

ALSO, recent Duluth East graduate and UMD recruit Max Tardy, a center, was picked by St. Louis in the seventh ground (202nd overall).

ALSO, there’s been some speculation already about Olsen attending UMD or deciding to play Canadian major-junior hockey. Olsen said from Montreal on Saturday afternoon that he plans to attend UMD and that the Blackhawks are encouraging that right now….but if the team wanted to talk about playing Canadian Major Junior Hockey, he would listen. Here’s what the Chicago Tribune listed in Olsen’s biography box in today’s editions:

Outlook: Will likely spend a year or two in college at Minnesota Duluth. A big, physical player who can skate, Olsen replenishes the Blackhawks’ defensive prospects. 

UMD’s Olsen to Chicago

     Minnesota Duluth recruit Dylan Olsen of Calgary, Alberta, was selected in the first round, 28th overall, by Chicago in Friday night’s NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound defenseman played the past two seasons with Camrose in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Selected earlier were forwards Nick Leddy, a recent Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School graduate and the 2009 Minnesota Mr. Hockey, No. 16 to Minnesota; and University of Minnesota freshman Jordan Schroeder, the 2009 WCHA rookie of the year, No. 22 to Vancouver. Olsen’s dad, Darryl, a defenseman, was a 1985 draft pick of Calgary. It was just the second No. 1 pick for a UMD recruit in the last 30 years following Matt Niskanen of Mountain Iron, in 2005 to Dallas.


Dylan Olsen

This from the Chicago Tribune

By Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune

With the present already pretty bright, the Blackhawks took a step toward ensuring the future is as well.

The Hawks selected defenseman Dylan Olsen of Camrose of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the 28th overall selection of the 2009 NHL entry draft Friday night in Montreal.

"It’s unbelievable," Olsen told NHL Radio. "Chicago has a great team. It always has been my dream to play for an Original Six team. This is only one step along the way.

"You see they have a young team and good team chemistry. I’m just so excited right now."

Olsen had 10 goals, 19 assists and 123 penalty minutes in 53 games with Camrose last season.

"We have so many good defensemen on the big club we had to replenish the coffers a little bit," Hawks general manager Dale Tallon told NHL Radio. "We’re trying to rebuild the back end and you have to do it through the draft to be successful. We like his size and mobility."

The 28th pick was the Hawks’ latest first-round selection in the 46-year history of the draft. Last year they took winger Kyle Beach at No. 11.

Only the first round was selected Friday and the draft will continue Saturday with the Hawks having picks 59, 89, 119, 149, 195 and 209.

Expansion with Quotes

     Two coaches from Northeastern Minnesota are returning to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with the announcement Friday that Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha are joining the league in 2010-11.

     Tom Serratore, 45, of Coleraine was an assistant at St. Cloud State for two years before taking over at Bemidji State in 2001-02, while Dean Blais, 58, of International Falls was head coach at North Dakota for a decade through 2004 and was named Nebraska-Omaha coach two weeks ago.

     A nearly unanimous vote of WCHA faculty representatives Friday afternoon concluded a busy week of negotiating for commissioner Bruce McLeod, the lead player in the league’s first expansion league since Minnesota State-Mankato entered in 1999-2000. The league will grow from 10 to 12 members.

     “We’re very humbled to part of the WCHA, and to be among the other Division I teams in Minnesota is an honor,” said Serratore, who played at Bemidji State. “It’s been a long haul for us, but we’ve hung in there.”

     Bemidji State badly needed a new conference. The Beavers are part of the four-team College Hockey America, which will dissolve after the 2009-10 season because of dwindling membership. Before Thursday, Bemidji State was the only school to officially apply to the WCHA after a moratorium on expansion was lifted in January.

     Omaha was comfortable in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association after 10 years, but was the main target of the WCHA, which sought to add two schools to allow easier scheduling.

      There was talk that Blais was promised a move to the WCHA if he took the Omaha job.

     “It didn’t really matter to me which league [Omaha] played in, they’re both good, but deep down, I wanted to be in the WCHA,” said Blais, who won two Division I titles at North Dakota.

     While Bemidji State wanted in, Omaha needed some convincing and some perks, which were offered by McLeod in talks that began in a trip to Omaha on May 29.

     It’s believed negotiations centered on three points — a reduced fee to join the league, an immediate share of playoff revenue and competing in the WCHA by 2010-11

     When Minnesota State-Mankato joined the WCHA, it paid the league $40,000 per year for three years, and didn’t share in WCHA playoff revenue during that time, according to the Mankato Free Press. WCHA teams each earned about $91,000 from the 2009 league playoffs, said McLeod.

     Bemidji State, in particular, was pushing to begin WCHA play as soon as possible. Bemidji State wasn’t in favor of playing an independent and likely weakened schedule in 2010-11, the same season it moves into the new Bemidji Regional Events Center.

     “I’m excited, happy and proud about the future of our league with these additions,” said McLeod., a former Minnesota Duluth player and athletic director “It took a lot of work and sometimes it’s a small miracle when things work out. In my heart I believe it’s the best situation for all of us.”

     McLeod, however, wouldn’t specify an expansion membership fee, or when the new additions would share in post-season revenue, or if the terms were different for each school.

     The expansion process seemed to be stalled after a conference call with WCHA athletic directors Wednesday night, but picked up steam Thursday with the lobbying help of St. Cloud State athletic director Morris Kurtz, said McLeod. The ADs were called again Thursday night and agreed in principle with the negotiated deal. Faculty representatives voted 9-0 in favor of expansion, with one abstention.

     “We needed to do something to solve the plight of Bemidji State, and geographically this was a good fit and philosophically a good fit,” said Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, chair of the WCHA structure committee.

  
     While Omaha’s Trev Alberts, hired as athletic director six weeks ago, said the school was thrilled to be part of the WCHA, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association wasn’t taking the news well.

     Commissioner Tom Anastos said in a statement: “We are disappointed to hear of UNO’s decision to leave the CCHA as they have been a very good member of our league. We have an excellent league, with a very strong membership, and we will continue to focus all of our attention on being a great conference and a leader in helping to shape the future of college hockey.”

     Omaha (15-17-8) tied for seventh in the CCHA in 2008-09. After the season, Alberts moved Duluth native Mike Kemp from coach to associate athletic director and hired Blais. Bemidji State won the 2009 College Hockey America regular season and playoff titles, and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time, losing to Miami of Ohio in the semifinals. Bemidji State finished 20-16-1. The women’s WCHA already has Bemidji State as a member.

     With Omaha leaving the CCHA, it’s believed the league will replace the Mavericks with Alabama-Huntsville of College Hockey America. Huntsville has applied for CCHA membership and received a site visit by the league earlier this month.

     UMD has played Bemidji State every year since the Beavers moved to Division I in 1999-2000. The Bulldogs hold a 13-7 mark during that period and are scheduled face Bemidji State next season, on Jan. 22-23, in a home-and-home series. UMD last met Nebraska-Omaha in October of 2001 in the Maverick Stampede, beating the Mavericks 5-2 in Omaha.

Expansion View With Quotes





Two coaches from Northeastern Minnesota are returning to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with the announcement Friday that Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha are joining the league in 2010-11.

Tom Serratore, 45, of Coleraine was an assistant at St. Cloud State for two years before taking over at Bemidji State in 2001-02, while Dean Blais, 58, of International Falls was head coach at North Dakota for a decade through 2004 and was named Nebraska-Omaha coach two weeks ago.

A nearly unanimous vote of WCHA faculty representatives Friday afternoon concluded a busy week of negotiating for commissioner Bruce McLeod, the lead player in the league’s first expansion league since Minnesota State-Mankato entered in 1999-2000. The league will grow from 10 to 12 members.

“We’re very humbled to part of the WCHA, and to be among the other Division I teams in Minnesota is an honor,” said Serratore, who played at Bemidji State. “It’s been a long haul for us, but we’ve hung in there.”

Bemidji State badly needed a new conference. The Beavers are part of the four-team College Hockey America, which will dissolve after the 2009-10 season because of dwindling membership. Before Thursday, Bemidji State was the only school to officially apply to the WCHA after a moratorium on expansion was lifted in January.

Omaha was comfortable in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association after 10 years, but was the main target of the WCHA, which sought to add two schools to allow easier scheduling.

 There was talk that Blais was promised a move to the WCHA if he took the Omaha job.

“It didn’t really matter to me which league [Omaha] played in, they’re both good, but deep down, I wanted to be in the WCHA,” said Blais, who won two Division I titles at North Dakota.

While Bemidji State wanted in, Omaha needed some convincing and some perks, which were offered by McLeod in talks that began in a trip to Omaha on May 29.

It’s believed negotiations centered on three points — a reduced fee to join the league, an immediate share of playoff revenue and competing in the WCHA by 2010-11

When Minnesota State-Mankato joined the WCHA, it paid the league $40,000 per year for three years, and didn’t share in WCHA playoff revenue during that time, according to the Mankato Free Press. WCHA teams each earned about $91,000 from the 2009 league playoffs, said McLeod.

Bemidji State, in particular, was pushing to begin WCHA play as soon as possible. Bemidji State wasn’t in favor of playing an independent and likely weakened schedule in 2010-11, the same season it moves into the new Bemidji Regional Events Center.

“I’m excited, happy and proud about the future of our league with these additions,” said McLeod., a former Minnesota Duluth player and athletic director “It took a lot of work and sometimes it’s a small miracle when things work out. In my heart I believe it’s the best situation for all of us.”

McLeod, however, wouldn’t specify an expansion membership fee, or when the new additions would share in post-season revenue, or if the terms were different for each school.

The expansion process seemed to be stalled after a conference call with WCHA athletic directors Wednesday night, but picked up steam Thursday with the lobbying help of St. Cloud State athletic director Morris Kurtz, said McLeod. The ADs were called again Thursday night and agreed in principle with the negotiated deal. Faculty representatives voted 9-0 in favor of expansion, with one abstention.

“We needed to do something to solve the plight of Bemidji State, and geographically this was a good fit and philosophically a good fit,” said Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, chair of the WCHA structure committee.

Twelve teams will alter the look of the WCHA playoffs. McLeod said there likely will be six first-round home series with six winners advancing to the league final round in St. Paul.

While Omaha’s Trev Alberts, hired as athletic director six weeks ago, said the school was thrilled to be part of the WCHA, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association wasn’t taking the news well.

Commissioner Tom Anastos said in a statement: “We are disappointed to hear of UNO’s decision to leave the CCHA as they have been a very good member of our league. We have an excellent league, with a very strong membership, and we will continue to focus all of our attention on being a great conference and a leader in helping to shape the future of college hockey.”

Omaha (15-17-8) tied for seventh in the CCHA in 2008-09. After the season, Alberts moved Duluth native Mike Kemp from coach to associate athletic director and hired Blais. Bemidji State won the 2009 College Hockey America regular season and playoff titles, and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time, losing to Miami of Ohio in the semifinals. Bemidji State finished 20-16-1. The women’s WCHA already has Bemidji State as a member.

  With Omaha leaving the CCHA, it’s believed the league will replace the Mavericks with Alabama-Huntsville of College Hockey America. Huntsville has applied for CCHA membership and received a site visit by the league earlier this month.

Minnesota Duluth has played Bemidji State every year since the Beavers moved to Division I in 1999-2000. The Bulldogs hold a 13-7 mark during that period and are scheduled face Bemidji State next season, on Jan. 22-23, in a home-and-home series. UMD last met Nebraska-Omaha in October of 2001 in the Maverick Stampede, beating the Mavericks 5-2 in Omaha.

Official WCHA Release

    Here’s the official release from the WCHA, welcoming Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha into the fold:

MADISON, Wis.  – In what will rank among the most significant days in the storied, 58-year history of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, the membership today voted to admit both Bemidji State University and the University of Nebraska Omaha into the Association family beginning with the 2010-11 season. This marks the first expansion of the WCHA since Minnesota State University, Mankato was admitted as a 10th member for the 1999-2000 season and eighth time overall the league has expanded since it’s founding in 1951.

The admission of Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha will bring the league membership to 12 teams. The current 10-team membership of the men’s WCHA is comprised of University of Alaska Anchorage, Colorado College, University of Denver, Michigan Technological University, University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State University, Mankato, University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University and University of Wisconsin.

“I am extremely pleased to announce that the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is expanding to twelve teams,” said WCHA Commissioner Bruce M. McLeod. “With the addition of Bemidji State University and the University of Nebraska Omaha the WCHA solidifies and positions itself to maintain and expand upon the excellence that is the WCHA.

“This is certainly a defining moment for the WCHA and we are proud to add Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha to our already strong organization.

“This is a happy and proud day for me,” continued McLeod. “I’m happy because I think this is such a win-win circumstance for the WCHA, our new members and collegiate hockey in general. I could not be more proud of the way our WCHA members have handled this very complex circumstance and have been able to look beyond their own backyard and do what is best for college hockey and the WCHA.

“The WCHA is proud of what they’ve put together in 58 years (2009-10 will be the league’s 58th season) and I think this day will go down as a watershed day. I fully anticipate what we’ve done today will make us even better. I’m excited about the future and can’t wait to get going.”

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is home to a collegiate record 36 national championship teams since it’s founding in 1951, a record 13 Hobey Baker Memorial Award Winners, some 400 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League and some 725 NHL Draftees, more than 150 alums who have played on various Olympic hockey teams, and more than 40 players and coaches who have been part of Stanley Cup (NHL) winning clubs. In addition, the WCHA has drawn in excess of 1,500,000 fans in each of the past seven seasons and in excess of 1,000,00 for 16 consecutive years and annually conducts one of college hockey’s premier post-season tournaments – the Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five held annually at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The Final Five drew 82,065 fans this past March.

“The pieces are all falling into place for Bemidji State hockey,” stated BSU Director of Athletics Dr. Rick Goeb. “Beginning with the efforts to elevate our hockey programs to the NCAA Division I level and having the women’s program join the WCHA over 10 years ago, to our partnership with the city to see a world-class venue like the Bemidji Regional Event Center come to fruition, and now the men’s hockey program being approved for membership into the elite conference in all of college hockey.
    “We want to thank the city of Bemidji, our dedicated fans and the student body who have supported Bemidji State hockey. These outstanding hockey fans and partnerships have made membership into the WCHA a reality.”

Said Bemidji State men’s hockey coach Tom Serratore, who took his team to the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in April of this year, “This is a great day for the Beavers.“

“First, I want to thank the WCHA for this opportunity. It is truly an honor to be a part of the greatest hockey conference at the Division I level and we feel privileged to come along side the other Division I hockey programs in the state of Minnesota as members of the WCHA.

“Beaver Hockey reaches far beyond this campus so that makes today’s announcement a dream come true for our alumni, many in the community and many in the region. This is a proud day for all involved with Bemidji State.”

Said University of Nebraska Omaha Director of Athletics Trev Alberts, “The WCHA is an outstanding conference with a long history of excellent players and coaches. When we were approached about admission, we took a long look at all aspects of a move to the WCHA. In the end, we felt there were many long-term benefits to our program. We’re excited about becoming a part of the WCHA’s rich tradition of outstanding hockey.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Alberts continued. “We have had a fruitful ten-year affiliation with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. It is a very well-run conference, and its member institutions have been outstanding partners. We know the CCHA will continue to thrive after we depart.”

“I was happy to hear that we would be joining the WCHA in a year’s time,” said Dean Blais, UNO’s new head coach. “I’m obviously very familiar with the league as both a head coach and assistant coach for 19 years and as a player. It’s a league with a great tradition and excellent coaches, and I’m looking forward to competing against them.”

Founded in 1951, the original seven members of the WCHA – then known as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League – were Colorado College, University of Denver, Michigan Tech University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota and University of North Dakota. In 1953-54, the league changed it’s name to the WIHL, or Western Intercollegiate Hockey League, and then in 1959, the league became known as the WCHA.

The first expansion of the league membership occured effective with the 1965-66 campaign, when the University of Minnesota Duluth became the WCHA’s eighth team. In 1969, the membership rose to nine teams with the addition of the University of Wisconsin for the 1969-70 season. And then in 1971, the WCHA increased its membership to 10 teams with the admittance of the University of Notre Dame for the 1971-72 season.

The WCHA remained an Association of those 10 teams through the 1980-81 playing season, when Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame left the fold to join the CCHA, or Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The WCHA then remained a six team league up until 1984-85, when Michigan Tech returned to the Association and the league welcomed Northern Michigan University as an eighth member team.

Then in 1990, the WCHA again grew to nine teams with the admittance of St. Cloud State University for the 1990-91 campaign and on to ten teams again when the University of Alaska Anchorage was admitted for the 1993-94 season.

In 1997, Northern Michigan opted to leave the WCHA to join the CCHA, again giving the WCHA nine teams before Minnesota State University, Mankato joined the family for the 1999-2000 campaign.