Bemidji State's big-time wins good for American sports
BEMIDJI - One of the most gratifying things about the Bemidji State men's hockey team winning the NCAA Midwest Regional and advancing to the Frozen Four was that Beaver hockey was being seen as a model program for other small universities in the nation.
Immediately after the Bemidji State 4-1 regional final victory on Sunday night, Cornell coach Mike Schaefer said university hockey programs should look at Bemidji State and see that major success is possible.
"It's tremendous in college hockey right now," Schafer reported. "(Bemidji State) played great and deserves to go to the Frozen Four.
"An even bigger statement, looking at the college hockey skyline, and in these tough economic times, BSU legitimizes people who make the right decisions.
"Some presidents and athletic directors are looking at their teams and they can say, 'BSU got the job done here.' They did things right and now they have the opportunity to go on and compete for a national title.
"It's a great win for them and College Hockey America."
That was quite a statement, especially considering the economic challenges which faced Bemidji State and its athletic program only three years ago. At that time, the very future of the men's hockey program was in doubt.
As part of University wide cost cutting measures, the Beaver men's hockey program was required to come up with major sums of money in order to assure the program's future viability.
The dollars were raised and the sport was allowed to continue.
Three years later Bemidji State has advanced to the college hockey world's highest peak -- a berth in the Frozen Four and the opportunity to compete for the NCAA Division I national title.
Asked what the win meant to the BSU program, Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore instead looked at the big picture. "I think this win is great for college hockey," he said. "This is what college hockey is about and what sports in general are about.
"We're not a BCS school - you take a look at college hockey and it is predominantly a bunch of mid-major institutions. That's the beauty of college hockey, there is a small margin for error in games and there is a lot of parity among all the teams- you could see that in (this tournament)."
Serratore wasn't talking only of BSU's stunning ride in becoming the first No. 16 seed to advance to the Frozen Four. He was also referencing the upsets in all four regionals this year which resulted in only one No. 1 seed advancing to the Frozen Four.
"It gives everybody out there a good feeling that it can be their day -- if not next year than in two years or three years," Serratore reported. "(A win like this) is healthy; it's good for college hockey and it's good for sports.
I don't want to sit here and recite Rocky Balboa in 1976 about the land of opportunity. But, you know what? This is America and that's what's great about it.
That's what sports need ... it's special. I don't know what it means for our program, but it's great for sports."
In a national teleconference Tuesday, Serratore continued the theme that having "unknown" schools in the Frozen Four is a good thing.
Serratore was asked about the "improbable" make up for the Frozen Four that has a pair of number four seeds in Bemidji State and Miami, along with Vermont as three seed and Boston University the only number one seed.
"It's great for college hockey," he said. "It's boring to have the same teams in there all the time. There's something special about BSU advancing. People across the country are asking, 'who is Bemidji State?' It creates a buzz.
"It's good for the game. Everyone who plays the game realizes it can be their time some day."