Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"What is keeping him up?"

Rocky just may be my favorite movie of all time, but until this week, even I found that fight between Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa a bit fakey. But then I saw this marathon slugfest between the Blues' Cam Janssen and the Devils' ridiculously hyphenated Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond. (Maybe that's what the fight was about?) Whatever the cause, this scrap is a doozy sure to remind you that you're not much of a man, no matter what you yell at your television screen.

I count 84 punches, which is 83 more than I've thrown in 23 years. (And even that one doesn't count since it was aimed at ten-year-old gypsy trying to steal my Walkman.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unpatriotic? I beg to differ.

Please add sports blogger Rob Otto to the long list of people who won't see eye-to-eye with the Commissioner. Rob's skin crawls every time he hears Blackhawk fans scream and cheer through a singing of the national anthem.

Well, Rob, my skin doesn't crawl when I hear the Blackhawks' version; it gets goose bumps. Granted, I have been busted tearing up over any compelling delivery of our country's national anthem (as well as the far superior Canadian version) but I've never heard as thrilling a rendition as the one I heard at a 1997 Blackhawks game.

Unpatriotic? Hardly. The American pride and joy that fills that building when those fans go off is simply a delight to behold. Ask any team from player standing there on the blueline if they think it's unpatriotic. Ask a veteran. Better yet, take a gander for yourself.

A close second in my heart? Thousands of Edmonton fans taking over from the tuxedo-clad opera singer to belt out a stirring version of the Canadian national anthem before a 2006 playoff game. (This just might be the coolest thing I've ever seen in a hockey game.)

God bless this sacred sport of champions.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I am not alone.

I've never met this Dan Bauer guy, but I already like him. Check out this well-written, carefully considered assessment of what needs to be done to free the Wisconsin state hockey tournament from its fetid swamp of mediocrity.

I was there, folks. The Alliant Energy Center really is as bad as Coach Bauer says it is. And no matter how good the skill level on the ice rises, prep hockey in Wisconsin will never be taken seriously by the rest of the nation until Tom Shafranski and the WIAA pull their heads from the slush that passes for the AEC's ice surface and does something.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Sometimes I think it would have been better for everyone had I taken my obsession just a few short miles west (nice catch, Mr. Moe), to a place where prep hockey truly gets its due. (I'm even willing to make an exception here and look past the befuddling capitalization in the first bit of copy in this promo; that's how moved I am.)

Sorry, Wisconsin prepsters, you deserve so much more than what the WIAA and the over-scheduled families of Madison can offer you. Persevere!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And some of you thought MJ Hammett was a homer...

Having had the pleasure of watching the vocalistic stylings of MJ Hammett and Eric Borre in person, I thought I had witnessed the gold standard in aural sports reportage. But then I found this clip.

Trasher, should MJ come down with laryngitis next February, I think we have our replacement. (P.S. I think he's a huge Altoona fan.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010 WSHSHP Rookie of the Year

Every once in a while a rookie joins this prestigious pool and truly immerses him or herself into the experience. Mark Jobson was instantly addicted to all things WHSHP-related when he first joined in 2008. And no one can forget Tracy DeLuca's rookie year trash talking, but this year Blake Feist set a new standard for rookie performance, obsession, and sexual harassment as he stormed to a surprising 5th place tie with, wait for it, Shauna Rudy.

It was a stirring run, highlighted by a nasty domestic disturbance when Blake's spouse caught him streaming MJ Hammett's Final Four broadcast on his iPod during a weekend romantic hiking excursion, leading many to conclude that Blake must be considered an early favorite in 2011. But being named Rookie of the Year is no guarantee of future success. Just ask Lucas Rudy or the mysteriously AWOL Jeff Kerrin.

Can Feist carry this momentum into 2011? Or, like the once proud alien splitfin, will this eccentric academic from the Northwest never be heard from again? Stay tuned, dear readers. I'm no betting man (except when it comes to high school hockey) but I'm leaning toward the former.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bob Hall Ignored by Commissioner; Demands His Due

It has been brought to this office's attention that the WSHSHP have overlooked the stupendously poor performance of another veteran in this year's competition. That's right, Bob "Bilge Pump" Hall tied Tracy DeLuca for third worst drop in performance this season. His 22nd to 53rd place freefall is stunningly awful enough for an honorable mention in this year's Golden Woodie Awards.

This office regrets the error.

And congratulations, Bob!

2010 WSHSHP Golden Woodie Award

Honoring the Most Shameful Drop in Performance by a WSHSHP Veteran

This one might surprise some people, given the embarrassing performances mailed in by the likes of Erik Moe, Brian Kobylinski, and Tim Shore. But when the numbers were tabulated, it was San Francisco's own Mark Krajan who delivered a bracket that can truly be described as inept. 

A surprising gold medal winner in 2009, Krajan saw his stock plummet an astonishing 42 places  in 2010, which just may be a record that stands for a long, long time. Krajan's hastily organized press conference responding to news of his 2010 Golden Woodie may shed some light on the reasons behind his precipitous decline.

Runners up in this hotly contested category include San Rafael's Phil Neal, who drank a little too much of the Stoughton Vikings Kool-Aid, and defending two-time champ Tracy DeLuca whose last ride around the block atop the Fondy Cardinal hay wagon proved one ride too many. It will be interesting to see what this marverick does next year, as she has a proud history of zigging while other prognosticators zag.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This has nothing to do with Wisconsin high school hockey...

...but it still needs to be shared. Why? Because the glory and fun of high school hockey knows no boundaries.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Most Improved Prognosticator

Given Annually to the WSHSHP Participant Who Shows 
the Greatest Improvement in Standings from One Year to the Next

This year, using a patented betting technique scorned by pool purists, Ed "Gloves" Middendorf saw his stock rocket higher than the Commissioner's cholesterol after a three-week binge on butter burgers. 2009 saw Ed hanging with the other WSHSHP losers and potheads in the poorly-lit hallways of 35th place. This year? Ed barely finishes out of the gold.

The secret to Ed's success? He chose the higher ranked team in every contest and then, in a shocking revelation, admitted to flipping a coin to choose winners among the final 8 teams. Is this a mockery of all the sweat, pain and research perennial losers like Erik Moe and Wayne Lee put into their brackets? Or is it brilliance of the kind not witnessed since some unrecognized designer applied a vertical striping pattern to Madison Edgewood's jerseys?

Time, and the annals of this humble blog, shall tell.

WSHSHP veteran Mark Pellegrino overdresses for the WSHSHP Awards Show. Again.
Honorable mention this year goes to the dashing attorney from Illinois, Mark Pellegrino who jumped 19 places this year and, yes, everyone's favorite Abraham Lincoln impersonator, Mark Jobson, whose 2010 WSHSHP title is the result of a 12 place jump in the standings.

2010 WSHSHP Champion Mark Jobson refuses to believe his makeup artist when she insists he has won yet another award in this year's competition.
Stand by for more awards as well as a Commissioner's recap of the leaderboard.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 Circle of Champions

Reserved for those visionaries who correctly predicted this year's Wisconsin High School Prep Hockey Champion:

Ed "Gloves Off" Middendorf

Craig "Sweet" Ness

Mark "Too Much Free Time" Jobson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Random Shots from Last Day of The Big Ice Tour

Four days before this photo was taken, Madison's legendary Smart Studios closed its doors forever. It was in this humble building that Butch Vig produced albums for then unknown bands like Nirvana (Nevermind) and Smashing Pumpkins (Gish).

Octopus Car Wash on East Washington marks the midway point between Rudy Manor and the Alliant Energy Center.

What's a little incorrect capitalization between friends?

The Wausau West band rocked; apparently Crazy Train is a favorite among the high school bands these days. I salute every one of these young men and women for their excellent taste in tuneage.

Especially this guy.

I knew Wausau West was in trouble when I saw that the players would only commit to the faux-hawk. If you really want to intimidate an opponent, you must go for the full monty, especially when you're up against a team of Wildcats sporting playoff beards (or in most players' cases, mangy patches of wispy playoff mini-beards).

Mary Berg (top) and grand-daughter Nikki (second from top) gather plus/minus ratings while Mrs. Trasher reads a book and daughter Emily eats pretzels. Everyone has a job at the WiPH suite.

The thrill of victory (can you spot the kid I wanted to punch in the neck?)...

...and the agony of defeat. (Make no mistake, friends, Wausau West's Mitch Borneman is a Warrior in every sense of the word.)

Hey, Wildcats, may I suggest you be very, very careful. When you combine ice with trophy carrying, bad things happen. Trust me on this one.

A final photo with the people behind the Best Hockey Publication in Wisconsin.

18 days and 1,956 miles later, The Big Ice Tour reaches the end of the line. Good bye, my sweet, sweet PER1NE. My well-warmed ass shall never forget you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Commissioner In Transit; Stand By for Final Recaps and Awards

As the dust settles on another thoroughly enjoyable WSHSHP tourney, your humble Commissioner is jetting back to his family with a contrite heart and three suitcases full of dirty laundry.

Stay tuned for several more posts. There are some final recaps to be shared as well as a season-ending awards ceremony and a tribute to this year's champion, Mark Jobson.

God Bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My People

The WiPH Brain Trust (L to R): Trasher Trzinski, MJ Hammett, attention-hog Bill Berg, and Eric Borres. 
I will admit to a little nervousness about meeting the legendary Trasher Trzinski and his WiPH crew face to face at this year's state tourney. We've been pen pals for a couple years now and given that he is one of a handful of human beings who shares my obsession with Wisconsin high school hockey, I wasn't sure how I would take it if he turned out to be some sort of kook or worse, a dick.

I am happy to report that Trasher is neither, nor are MJ Hammett, Bill Berg or Eric Borre, the rest of the WiPH team I met this weekend. Even better, their families are awesome and welcomed me into their crowded suite at the Alliant Energy Center like I was Don Corleone returning from Sicily. After almost 1900 miles of lonely travel and three weeks away from my wife and kids, spending two days with the WiPH crew was the perfect way to end my Big Ice odyssey.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how the WiPH magic gets made:

That dulcet voice you hear from your cube in San Francisco, the one that can't hide its disappointment when USM scores or its joy when Rapids does the same? That's MJ Hammett (left), the voice of the Janesville Jets. Seated next to him is Eric Borres, who did a great job filling in for Coach Pete Susens, who this year found himself down on the bench with his star-crossed Wausau West Warriors.

While MJ and Eric babble to the world via the miracle of the Interwebs, Bill Berg stays busy behind the glass updating the live blog on the WiPH website. (His wife, Mary, and granddaughter Nikki, are seated up front, keeping plus/minus statistics.)

So what does Trasher do during all this? Well, he's in charge of team morale. And occasionally politely asking the head of the WIAA to sit down so that the WiPH team can see the action on the ice. (He also works as an executive producer, flesh-presser, hockey ambassador and journalist, chasing down interviews and providing on-air commentary when needed.)

Eric needs a hug? Trasher's on it.

A between periods confab as the producers try to figure out if putting the Commissioner on the air is really worth the risk.

Nikki, Emily and Mason, a kid who might just match my son Griffin's penchant for pottie humor. (And that's saying something.)

After another 12-hour day doing what you love for free, what says "Good job!" better than a cold slice of pizza and a warm Milwaukee's Best Ice? Nothing. Not one damn thing.
These are good people, folks, working really hard for nothing more than a shared love of a great game. Remember that next time they're asking for a donation to help cover their costs.

More details tomorrow.

Random Shots from Notre Dame Academy vs. University School Game

Two jerseys, two designs. Why?

One helmet color away from getting it right, at home and on the road.

This is what happens when a private school with 366 students qualifies for state.

I didn't see the official stats, but it looked like USM dominated face-offs. 

Notre Dame's Will Woodward (21) becomes a believer the hard way.

Notre Dame time-out late in the third period.

Much to their detractors' dismay, USM seems to revel in the knowledge that they're not the most popular girl at the dance. Here they form a frenzied dog pile in front of their small but obnoxious student section after the final buzzer. The poor refs don't stand a chance.

Friday Recap: University School 4, Notre Dame Academy 3

M.P. King/Green Bay Press-Gazette

Me thinks Notre Dame underestimated USM's ability to stand up their trademark physical (some might say "chippy") play Friday night. The Wildcats matched them hit for hit much of the game, which put this reporter in the very uncomfortable position of rooting for them. But then I'd pass one of their dads in the hallway wearing a ankle-length Burbury trenchcoat and a February tan and my sanity would return.

Petty jealousies aside, I really like to watch this team play hockey. USM took it to a heavily favored Notre Dame team, 4-3. You can't get away with a slow start against these guys. Sadly, the Warriors of Wausau West didn't get the memo.

Random Shots from Eau Claire Memorial vs. Wausau West Game

Just in case anyone needed a reason to root for Wausau West (other than the fact that they were playing University School), Warriors Coach Pete Susens, the well-dressed man in the middle, has been chasing a state title for 31 years! 31 years! Sigh. That's hockey.

My father always said that if you leave it on the ice, you have nothing to be ashamed of. These Old Abes have nothing to be ashamed of.

One more reason why hockey is the greatest sport in the world. (And I'm not just talking about Wausau West's helmet design.)

Shauna, if you are reading this post, all I want for Christmas is this t-shirt. (Size XXL, please.)

One of the highlights of the afternoon was meeting Zach Campbell, the scrappy kid from Rapids I wrote about yesterday. A nice kid who was more than willing to pose with the WSHSHP trophy. But then again, who wouldn't be? Thanks, Zach!

Friday Recap: Wausau West 4, Eau Claire Memorial 3 (2 OTs)

Andi Stempniak/Eau Claire Telegram

MJ Hammett said it best. Everyone knew this game was going into overtime. The Warriors and Old Abes could have saved everyone a lot of effort (and the scoreboard operator further humiliation) had they just agreed that the first one to score from the get-go wins.

But then everyone would have missed a fantastic game, truly one of the better ones ever played on The Big Ice. Kudos to both teams for reminding all of us what Wisconsin prep hockey is all about.

Jobson Wins! Jobson Wins!

Details to follow after I figure out a way to sneak onto the Big Ice.

Tales from the WiPH Suite

Trasher regaling room with tales of sneaking across the road construction last night at 3:30 AM to snag a big bag of Kettle Cooked Lays potato chips and a Jack Links Extreme Beefstick from the PDQ, then returning to his hotel room to eat them in the bathroom so as not to wake the missus.

These are my people, friends. I'm never coming home.

Wausau West's Borneman Won't Surrender, Awesome Goal Pulls Warriors Within 2 With Plenty of Hockey to Be Played

He wrote, optimistically.

Hate USM All You Want But This Team is Awesome

Goal from Simon Leahy. 4-1, USM.

Kudos for the total totally nonchalant goal celebration, Mr. Leahy.

(There, I said something nice about USM, Stephens. So there.)

Hold Off the Gourmet Cheese Platter; Wausau West on Board

Nice tip in goal from Borneman breathes some life into the Wausau West bench.

3-1, USM

USM Pouring It On, Just to Piss Off Commissioner

9 from 24.

How many times have we seen those numbers on the scoresheet?

Good gravy.

USM is red hot, folks. 3-0 with five to go in the first.

Simon Leahy Scores Purty Power Play Goal on Rebound; Then USM Scores Again as I Type This

2-0 USM.


This Just in: Wausau West Sporting Faux Mohawk Hair Cuts; USM Players Sporting Playoff Beards (At Least the One Who Can)

And Then There Were Two; Knezevic and Jobson Square Off for the 2010 WSHSHP Title

Mark "Jobwich" Jobson reacts to news that he is one game away from the 2010 WSHSHP title.
For weeks readers have been speculating about the identity of the Jobwich character who has been obsessively posting on this site. Some thought it might be the Commissioner using a pen name, rightfully surmising that there could not be another man out there with apparently more free time on his hands than one Peter Rudy.

Well, I am here to set the record straight. Jobwich is none other than Mark Jobson, a WSHSHP veteran whose under-the-radar game plan has worked to perfection, or at least a spot in the title fight for this year's crown. While others is the pool have hogged the spotlight with the gusto of Trasher hoarding a six-pack of Milwakee's Best Ice, Mark has silently crept up the standings and now stands to win the whole caboodle should University School continue its incredibly hot run toward the title.

Ivo Knezevic keeps it cool and aloof on the outside, but inside his bowels are churning faster than a cream separator at the International Cheese Technology Expo.
If Wausau West wins, the title goes to 2006 champion Ivo Knezevic. It's that simple, folks. I'm sprinting over to the Alliant Center right now, hoping to meet up with Trasher and the boys to figure out how all those empty beer cans ended up in PER1NE's trunk.

Stay tuned.