Among the Elite
St. Cloud State has a GREAT hockey program and IS a GREAT hockey school. You know what has changed about that statement from last April till today....nothing. Granted, the world of collegiate hockey is changing, and changing in a big way. However, that does not mean that St. Cloud State's hockey program is not still among the elite. I know some of our current rivals might disagree that St. Cloud is among the elite. They may believe that the only thing we had going for us was the fact we were apart of the best, most elite conference. Gopher fans are likely to say SCSU players are Gopher rejects playing for St. Cloud only because they wanted to play in MN but could not get into the UofM. (Side note: two of this years top 10 MN Mr. Hockey finalists chose to play for St. Cloud, one chose the UofM). UND fans will say that SCSU took away their logo and nickname. Although, some (within the former administration, not the hockey program) at SCSU had a moral objection to the Fighting Sioux nickname, the NCAA took away your nickname, not us. Regardless of these opinions and regardless of the conference St. Cloud State plays in, we are an elite hockey program and will remain so.
Rich Tradition and History
I once heard that the best predictor of future outcomes is past performance; and St. Cloud has a rich past.
St. Cloud, has and does produce top notch hockey players. Whether you look at a player like Bret Hedican (17 year NHL vet, Stanley Cup winner, US Olympic teams, etc...), or current players like Matt Cullen, Ryan Malone, Matt Hendricks, or new players like Andreas Nodl and Oliver Lauridsen, St. Cloud produces not only great players, but great people. (If you have not already, please check out Bret Hedican's charitable organization Always Dream Foundation and Matt Cullen's charitable organization Cully's Kids). The ability to produce hard-working, talented players is the hallmark of elite college hockey programs.
St. Cloud State started its journey into Div. I with coaching legend Herb Brooks. Coach Brooks presence at St. Cloud State brought the hockey program instant credibility. Coach Brooks also was instrumental in getting the National Hockey Center. Following Brooks, was Coach Craig Dahl who lead the Huskies for nearly two decades and helped the Huskies get their first WCHA Final Five Championship. After Coach Dahl retired, former SCSU player Bob Motzko took over as head coach. In six years, Coach Motzko has already guided the Huskies to four WCHA Final Five appearances (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010), and three NCAA Division I tournament appearances in 2007, 2008 and 2010. St. Cloud State coaches are also highly sought after by many hockey programs as seen this year with former assistant coach Eric Rudd being selected as CC's assistant coach (possibly as a precursor to him taking over as head coach when Scott Owns retires) and former goalie coach Mike Ayers being named goalie coach for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Great coaches help create great players.
The National Hockey Center is an awesome place for a hockey game. It's atmosphere is among the nations best. St. Cloud State fills it's arena (annually the buildings average attendance has over 100% capacity--again among the nations highest fill capacity). It's concrete walls...not so great. However, at one time the building itself was also among the best. Once touted for being the first arena to have two Olympic sheets of ice under one roof, it was a thing of beauty. Twenty+ years later, it is time for a facelift. The National Hockey Center should have over $30 million worth of improvements over the next two years. Once it does, the NHC will not only have the atmosphere and fan base of one of the best collegiate hockey arenas in the country, but also the look.
On to the Future
The future is still very much in the air for the Huskies. Right now, all signs point to the Huskies continuing to play in the WCHA. It is possible that SCSU could join with the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). St. Cloud State's program is the best remaining team in the CCHA and WCHA (arguably even better than some of the teams that have already joined the NCHC) and the NCHC will be looking to get to that magic 8 team conference. Past confrontations with former SCSU administrators and hockey powerhouse UND seem to be the popular answer as to why SCSU isn't already in the NCHC. Not sure how true that is, and I am fairly sure UND will want the strongest conference possible (which one would think includes SCSU). The benefit for SCSU to join the NCHC would be playing with what is likely to become the strongest conference, possible greater TV exposure, and better recruits who want to play in the NCHC. All those things point to more money. However, if SCSU remains in the WCHA (no matter how it is configured), is likely to be the best team and a top contender every year. Which would bring more wins, more conference championships, and more NCAA appearances/championships. This could inevitably also lead to better recruiting. Again, all those things point to more money. Not that money is what I want college hockey to be all about, but given why this whole shift started (greed) we cannot ignore the significance of bringing in lots of money has.
The point of this post and (all of these pictures and links) is to remind Husky fans everywhere that no matter what happens Husky Hockey will continue. In my humble opinion, not only will it continue, but it will grow stronger. I am not saying that this major shift in collegiate hockey isn't a big deal....because it is. I am not saying SCSU should just sit by and watch what happens...they are not. I am saying that I trust St. Cloud State will be able to thrive and prosper in whatever conference it ends up in and will remain a great team to cheer for and see some great hockey players and games.