[Note: As part of BostonBruins.com's promotion of the upcoming Hockey East Championships at TD Banknorth Garden, former HockeyEastOnline.com scribe John Bishop penned this commentary]
Hello college hockey fans!
How great it is to be able to take a few seconds and reminisce about my first love -- Hockey East Association hockey.
Most specifically, it's great to be able to write about the Hockey East Tournament, coming up this week in a college rink near you, with the Semi-Finals following next week, March 16th and 17th, in the TD Banknorth Garden.
I am almost a full season into writing content for BostonBruins.com and a couple of days ago, I was remembering my hockey writing beginnings on this very website.
So, in a fit of hubris, I asked if I could throw a short piece up on HockeyEastOnline.com, just for old time's sake.
Joe Bertagna and crew obliged.
When I started writing this the other day, I had a little moment of pause when I realized that I attended my first Hockey East Tournament, at the old Boston Garden, 13 years ago this coming week.
I guess I should dispense with the "A little moment of pause" junk and be serious here. It has been THIRTEEN YEARS and I am feeling old.
But thankfully, when the Hockey East Tournament comes around, everyone, including this rapidly aging hockey scribe, has a chance to feel young again by remembering great times with friends and family at the best college hockey conference tournament in the world.
The rest of the world can take their basketball March Madness, I won't begrudge them that, but I would happily trade all the roundball tickets in the world for a couple of nice tickets for the Hockey East Championship game.
My first introduction to the tournament, back in 1994, was fantastic -- if only because of the future NHLers I would eventually cover, peppered into the championship rosters.
In the championship game that season, UMass Lowell, led by Dwayne "Rolli the Goalie" Roloson, who led the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, battled a Boston University Terriers squad highlighted by future Boston Bruin and New York Islander Shawn Bates. A young Jay Pandolfo, who would later earn Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils, was also on that team and helped the Terriers earn the Hockey East Tournament title.
Thinking about Batesie and Jay Pandy got me to thinking about what a showcase the Hockey East Tournament has become -- not only for schools involved, but also for all the amazing players who wear their Hockey East Association patch with pride.
A quick glance at this season's Hockey East media guide tells the story of a growing number of NHL stars that have graced both Gardens' ice previous to their ever signing a professional contract. Going back to the first HEA tourney, back in March 1985, Chris Terreri, who would later join former Providence College coach Lou Lamoriello with the New Jersey Devils, was one of the first future NHLers to play for the HEA title.
Since then, you could fill out a couple of pretty good NHL rosters with Hockey East Tournament alumni.
So why not give that a try. Off the top of my head, here is my squad:
1st Line: Tkachuk - Kariya - Amonte
2nd Line: Stevens - Drury - Guerin
3rd Line: Janney - Gionta - Young
4th Line: McEachern - Cullen - Grier
Defense #1: Leetch, Weinrich
Defense #2: Poti, Aucoin
Defense #3: Allen, Alberts
Goalie #1: DiPietro
Goalie #2: Dunham
Goalie #3: Snow
Extra Skaters: Tom Fitzgerald, Jay Pandolfo, Chuck Kobasew, Mark Mowers
Extra Defensemen: Jim Fahey, Thomas Pock, Dan McGillis, Freddy Meyer
Coach/GM: Lou Lamoriello.
By the way, save your letters. This took all of 10-minutes and, admittedly, I left a ton of awesome players off the list. And yes, I did go to undergrad at BU and graduate school at NU, so there is a preponderance of Terriers and Huskies.
You'll also notice, for self-preservation's sake, I made sure to include four current Boston Bruins, whom I cover every day. And lest the diploma police be dispatched, that also accounts for the number of BC Eagles on this list.
In any case, I urge you to get to the Garden next week. And if that is not in the cards, make sure you watch the games on NESN.
You'll never know which future hockey superstar is taking his first strides toward superstardom and on-ice glory at the TD Banknorth Garden.