Monday, April 28, 2014

Win Or Go Home, Are You a Pessimist or Optimist, CHL Championship 10 years Ago Today

- To say the team practice today at 10:00 am (open to the public by the way) at the Allen Event Center kicks off the most important week of the season for the Allen Americans would be a gross understatement. After all the Americans have not one, but two win or go home games on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you are a pessimist you might be thinking about the fact that no CHL team has won back to back championships since 2003 when the Mississippi River Kings accomplished the feat. However, if you are an optimist you are thinking about the fact that Allen has never lost a playoff series at home. And as fate would have it the only other time in team history the Americans were down in a series 3-2 and needed to win two games at home it was against Mallard's coach, Terry Ruskowski. The very first playoff series in team history back in 2010 the Americans played the Laredo Bucks who were led by Terry Ruskowski. Current Mallard defenseman Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel was a player on that team. After losing game five to Laredo 5-1 on the road and being down in the series 3-2 the Americans came home with the task of winning two games. Allen won game six 3-2 and in the series deciding game seven goals by a whose who of Allen Americans hockey (Nino Musitelli, Tobias Whelan, Jordie Benn and Bruce Graham) propelled Allen to a 4-1 series victory.

- Whether you are a pessimist or optimist really doesn't matter at this point as it is up to the players to show what they are made of and perform to their potential on the ice. As coach Martinson said on the bus ride home from Quad City, "It's the playoffs, not horseshoes, you don't get any credit for being close and outplaying a team. There are no more mulligans, it is time to play or go home."

- I have gotten to know this team pretty well this year and there is no doubt in my mind with all of the experience and leadership they have in the locker room they will be ready on Tuesday night and will be prepared to "empty the tank" in game six. If you are in the DFW area make plans to attend on Tuesday night as it will be a good one.

- Based on some of the traffic on the message boards and social media the Quad City and Denver fans are already making plans to visit each others arena, asking about places to stay and eat. A little premature at this point. Credit to one Mallard's fan when asked on line about where teams stay, "I'm not going to answer this until we know for sure who is in the finals."

- On Friday I included the story of the 2004 CHL championship in which the Terry Ruskowski coached  Laredo Bucks won the Presidents' Cup on a controversial goal in overtime of the seventh game. The referee in that game was Steve Cruickshank.  As it turns out, today is the tenth anniversary of that famous game and Roy Lang III  ( has just posted an update on that famous game and the impact it had on the losing team, the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs.

April 28, 2004 - It could have been the greatest night in the history of the Central Hockey League. As if Game 7 of the Presidents Cup Final wasn’t enough, the evening provided the league’s first Game 7 overtime. The NHL hasn't had Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final go to overtime in 60 years. Not only were folks hanging from the rafters of the Laredo (Texas) Entertainment Center, thousands were gathered in a parking lot watching on makeshift TV screens. “It was everything you want in a series,” said Brad Treliving, then the president of the CHL. The all-or-nothing affair featured organizations from strangely hockey-crazed markets – the Mudbugs from Shreveport-Bossier City and the host Bucks. “The intensity. The scene there – of all places, Laredo, Texas,” Steve Mears, then the voice of the Mudbugs said. “You can see Mexico from the parking lot. It’s a non-traditional venue, non-traditional area, if I’m not mistaken, an extremely dangerous place right now. And they were playing another team from a non-traditional market – a place where people wouldn’t think hockey existed. And it was thriving at the time.” In the midst of the tension, momentum swings and electrifying moments – everything you’d expect from a Game 7 – the evening suddenly turned chaotic 8:43 into the overtime session exactly 10 years ago. A shot from Laredo’s Dion Hyman from the right circle slipped past Bossier-Shreveport netminder Ken Carroll. The closest person to the Mudbugs’ net beside Carroll, referee Steve Cruickshank, emphatically waved no goal. But after the puck careened back at Hyman and play continued toward the Laredo end, Hyman threw his gloves in the air in celebration and the LEC erupted. The red light had come on. That man at the trigger? Then-Laredo resident Rufus Lopez, a volunteer off-ice official. Although Laredo goaltender David Guerrera could be seen pleading for his teammates to carry on (he’d presumably been watching Cruickshank), play was stopped. There were fireworks. Confetti. Margaritas were thrown onto the ice. “We have a mess on our hands,” Mears told his radio audience. After a brief conversation with his linesmen, Cruickshank followed what the CHL dubbed its “protocol” and conferred with Lopez. “When the confetti started falling from the ceiling, I knew we were done,” Mudbugs captain Forbes MacPherson recalled. “There was just no way under those circumstances there was any type of resolution that league could come up with in that timeframe to make a hard decision, a right decision. We’d gone past the point of no return.” Thirty-three seconds later, and despite the fact not a single paid official saw the puck go in, Cruickshank pointed to the Mudbugs’ net. The game was over. But the story had just begun. The Times has reached out to many of those involved to detail that incredible night. To many, 10 years later, the controversial goal is simply a footnote to what the night produced. Chaos reigned in the immediate aftermath. There was a champagne celebration and expletives the devil couldn’t invent. In one locker room, there was devastation. The other, jubilation. There were heroes and villains. A pair of ring ceremonies and death threats. But the 2003-04 Mudbugs team may have accomplished more in defeat than in victory. The loss highlighted the incredible love affair with the fans and incited support rarely seen in Northwest Louisiana. The evening will forever link a group of more than 20 men that learned, through heartache, how much they were alike. How much they cared about each other. The CHL consequently changed its protocol following the calamity. Did the puck go in? It doesn’t even matter anymore. “If a little bit of disappointment is all it takes to bring out the compassion and thoughtfulness like we were shown year after year I would do it all over again,” said Quade Lightbody, a defenseman for the Mudbugs from (2003-09).

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Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The Quad City Mallards have not made it to the championship finals since 2003 when they were part of the United Hockey League (UHL). However, the Mallards franchise is historic in several ways. They never missed the playoffs while playing in the UHL from 1995-2007. The team has won three league championships and became the first hockey team in the minor or major leagues to record 6 straight seasons of 50 or more wins. In the 1997-1998 season the team's average attendance exceeded over 8500.

1 comment:

  1. There has been a trend of the DFW playoff teams' fortunes rising and falling together, lately. However, since the Americans are playing two days after the Stars bowed out, I'm confident that they'll buck the trend.