I spent this last weekend in South Bend doing the radio broadcast for the series between the Irish and my alma mater, Ohio State. I luckily got a chance to sneak my head into the new home for the Irish, The Compton Family Ice Arena and from what I did get to see, it looks like a gem. 5,000 seats with all the niceties you would expect from an arena built in 2011. The one thing that I saw about the structure that should prove to be a home ice advantage for Notre Dame is how the seating is right on top of the ice surface. It should make this place an intimidating challenge for road teams and give the Irish a major boost of adrenaline.
So as I said before, I did cover the games this weekend and unfortunately they were played at the Joyce Center as the new barn was still a week away from completion. As anyone that has been to the Joyce would know, it is one of the worst rinks in college hockey. It will not be missed by many if any at all. But what I did take from this weekend was how good of a state the college game is in. I watched two teams that are on different paths so to speak this season play two quality hockey games that as in many contests, a few breaks here and a few there and both night's outcomes could have been different. A young Buckeye team challenged the Irish in every way and came out of the weekend with a series split. At no time did the Buckeyes look intimidated and at no time did the Irish look as if they were taking the Buckeyes for granted. Two teams that are separated by a lot in the rankings just showed me how competitive the college game can be no matter where people may think they belong in the pecking order.
NHL Injuries...The Laundry List
I went on ESPN.com earlier and of course the first headline is the NHL power rankings, which I bypass simply because they don't matter in October, but good for you if you're ranked number 1! What I did stop and notice was the that almost every headline other than that was about an injured player. Most teams are roughly five games into their seasons and the list of injuries to quality players is getting ridiculous. Tyler Kennedy with a concussion, Jason Blake with an arm laceration and Drew Doughty put on the injured reserve. Those are just three names, others include Andy Mcdonald, David Krejci, and Dustin Penner. Hockey is a dangerous sport but it is not football. I mean is it crazy to ask the question, is the game getting to fast?
We all know that playing the game at a high level has become a 12 month a year deal. Players take very little time off and are almost always trying to find better ways to become stronger and faster in the off season. It is a full time job and know one is telling these guys to slow down, certainly not myself. But it is alarming to see how many guys are going down this early in the season and it has to be concerning to players, team executives and the fans. The NHL is doing a great job with the rules and cracking down on illegal hits but with the speed of the game reaching new heights, at some point there is not going to be any new rule to slow the injuries down. We just have to hope for the best that most players can remain healthy.
On a positive injury note, my former college line mate Ryan Kesler will be making his season debut tomorrow night. After having hip surgery in the summer, which looked to have slowed him in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Kesler will only have lost 5 games of the season to that injury.
And while pouring on some good news, I am sure most of you heard that Sidney Crosby was cleared for contact in practice late last week. A good sign for the NHL's best player as he gets closer to game action. But in my opinion, nothing will be known until he sets foot on the ice in a real game. I mean if you are a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins and in practice you see Sidney Crosby coming down the wing, are you gonna be the guy to test that 'cleared for contact' status and lay a hit on him? I'm thinking most guys are gonna at best give him a small rub off. So to me if he is cleared to get hit, he should start playing in games or else he is gonna have to supply all of his own hits in practice to test his head. Tough spot for the team but a good sign that he is clearly feeling really good and that is the first step.