Gopher Hockey: thoughts from a completely uneducated mind

I grew up in the State of Hockey. Hockey is a sport that I like, but I don't really understand, which can make it pretty difficult to follow.

Here's what I think I know...

-I think I might understand what icing is, but sometimes I see the goalie put his glove up before the ref calls it, and I don't know how that's related.

-I mostly feel like I kind of understand what off-sides is.

-I know I like to watch the little black thing bounce around on the ice skaters sticks.

-I know what it means if a goalie is "standing on his head."

-I know what a "line" is.

-I know that if there is a penalty on a player whose team doesn't possess the puck that the ref will hold his hand up and the penalty won't be assessed until the team of said player touches the puck... I also know that because of this, the team that isn't going to get penalized may pull their goalie and send in another player.

-I know a win in regulation is worth 2 points, and a win in overtime is worth 1, but I'm not sure what happens when there's a tie.

Here's what I know I don't know...

-I have no idea what cross-checking is.

-Nor do I know what constitutes boarding.

-I almost never understand, in a non-penalty situation, why the ref blows the whistle and calls for a face-off.

-I have no idea how the players know when to substitute, or who is substituting for who... but I find the coordination of it to be fascinating.

-There is something, I believe it's some kind of strategery or something, called "the backcheck" (I think), but I have no idea what it is.

Every year for the past few years I've made a declaration that I was going to try to "get into" hockey. The nice thing that I've found, for me anyway, is that following college hockey is a bit easier than following the pros because college hockey is only played on the weekends (I think).

So I've been trying to watch more Gopher hockey, and I've been trying to keep up on some of the developments. I read Gopher Puck Live, and follow them on Twitter, as well as @GopherState.

When I watch Gopher Hockey one of the things I like best is that most of the team is from Minnesota, including three of the more exciting players on the team: Kent Patterson (Plymouth), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine) and Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie). Bjugstad and Rau are the top two goal scorers on the team, while Patterson already has the most shutouts in a season for a goalie in Gopher Hockey history.

Here's something else I don't quite understand. Somehow Bjugstad and Rau have both already been drafted by an NHL team (the Florida Panthers), so that team owns the "rights" to them when they enter the NHL, but they don't have to enter the NHL right away. As a fan, should this concern me? Not because I have a problem with them already being drafted by an NHL team, but because doesn't that mean they could leave at any time?

Rau is only a freshman, while Bjugstad is a sophomore, and while I'm not a great hockey mind by any means, it seems to me that both of them could do well in the NHL almost right away. I realize that players leaving early is simply part of college sports, but as a fan of Gopher football, I'm not exactly used to having to deal with the fact that our best player might be a short-timer.

The other thing I've been hearing a lot about is how the B1G is adding hockey to the conference slate because Penn State is adding hockey, so the Gophers will no longer be in the WCHA. As I've said, I don't have as much history with the Gophers as a lot of you, so I don't have any emotional attachment to the WCHA. But, I do think it's a shame that it sounds like we won't be playing teams like UND, UMD, St Cloud and Mankato quite as much, if at all. Those are some fun and heated games.

Having said that, I think it will be kind of cool to be able to build stronger rivalries with the other B1G schools. We already have a good hockey rivalry with Wisconsin, but adding yearly, conference rivalries with Michigan, MSU, Ohio State, and possibly someday Illinois, will be fun.

In any case, these are my very elementary thoughts on Gopher Hockey as a man trying to learn to understand the sport. What I know without question is that I like to see Gopher teams win, and the Gopher Hockey team does a fair amount of winning.

I may give more hockey thoughts throughout the season, but I'm no Jeffrick. Jeffrick is a 10-foot tall beast man who grew up in Canada and still plays "shinny" to this day. I'm just a guy who likes sports, who loves the Gophers, who appreciates college athletics slightly over pro sports, and who wants to do a better job of filling the void that college football is about to leave in my life.

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