It’s been a crazy last few months for everyone. No one would blame anyone for letting some lesser sports news fall through the cracks in the last little bit. So as a service to you, our esteemed readers, we will try and recap some of the news and notes that have occurred in the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey world since the season ended right before the Gophers were set to take on Penn State Nittany Lions in a Big Ten semifinal.
Bob Motzko B1G Coach of the Year
When the Big Ten finally announced their award winners in May—nearly two months after the abrupt end of the season, the Gophers took home one of the major awards. Gopher head coach Bob Motzko was named the Big Ten coach of the year in his second year at the helm of the Pride on Ice. Motzko helped the Gophers to a second place finish in the Big Ten regular season standings after the preseason coaches predictions had Minnesota in fifth place. Earlier in the season he won his 300th career victory making him the third Gopher coach besides Don Lucia and Dough Woog to crack the three century mark.
Stu Bickel to Lead the Minnesota Magicians
After two seasons on the bench as an undergrad assistant coach as he finished up his degree, former Gopher and NHL defenseman Stu Bickel was hired by the Minnesota Magicians of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). After leaving the Gophers in the spring of 2008 Bickel would play 75 career NHL games for the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild. He returned to the U to finish his degree and get some coaching experience under Bob Motzko the last two seasons. He now moves onto one of the more successful junior hockey teams in the state of Minnesota who play out of Richfield.
Don Lucia named CCHA Commissioner
Former Gopher head coach Don Lucia was named the commissioner of the new version of the CCHA which will begin play in 2021-22. The CCHA will consist of seven of the current WCHA teams including Bemidj State, Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State. Lucia will play a large role into adding a 8th team in the league, and they have a strong lead on one in newly Division I St. Thomas.
Gopher Hockey Celebrates 100 Years
The U of M has begun to celebrate what will hopefully be the 100th season of Gopher Hockey in 2020-21. The Gophers kicked off the celebration 100 days before what will hopefully be the first game of the 100th season by releasing this video:
Minnesota has also been listing 100 communities that have helped develop the last 100 season of Gopher hockey with one per day. Notable towns listed so far include Eveleth (the home of arguably the two most important Gophers of all time (John Mayasich and John Mariucci). Bloomington, and Mississauga, Ontario (the home of both Mat Robson and Jack LaFontaine).
The Gophers are taking votes for a all-100 year team and have several plans for fun activities associated with the season....again assuming there will be one. There will surely be more information on this as the year goes on.
About that season...
It’s still a very big looming question whether or not the season will actually get played. Minnesota has already seen some changes occur to their schedule with the postponement of the early season Icebreaker Tournament that was to be held in Duluth October 9th and 10th. Minnesota was set to play Minnesota-Duluth on the 9th with a season game against either Minnesota State or Providence to follow on Saturday. Unfortunately for Minnesota fans the Gophers will not be able to play in the tournament in 2021 as they already have a pair of games scheduled for the new weekend for the tournament on October 2021 in Duluth.
It may be just the beginning of a schedule overhaul
as it’s sounding quite likely that Minnesota will find a way to get out of a series in the Boston area over Thanksgiving weekend. ***EDIT 9:15 Thursday*** According to The Rink Live and Jess Myers the Gophers Thanksgiving weekend trip out to Boston is officially off and the Gophers will play one game at Bemidji that weekend. The Beavers are set to open the season at Mariucci on October 3rd with a single game. Maybe.
Many other schools are quickly editing their schedules as well. North Dakota postponed their Hockey Hall of Fame Game clash against Penn State in Nashville a year earlier this week. UMD was originally set to play a series against one of the Boston schools and they canceled that series and added an easily bussable trip to Northern Michigan on the schedule. Wisconsin has done the same canceling a series with Denver and adding a series against Michigan Tech. The Ivy league has canceled all sports prior to January 1st which affects several eastern hockey teams including Harvard, Yale, Brown, and last year’s #1 team when the season ended in Cornell.
Whether any of these games will take place with any fans in the stands...or even at all is of course a unanswerable question at the moment.
One Season That Will Happen......Probably
The NHL is restarting their season with a 24 team playoff in Toronto and Edmonton in a couple of weeks and the teams are back in training camps getting ready for the playoffs. The Gophers lead all NCAA teams with 19 players in the 24 team’s camps. NHL teams were allowed to bring 31 players with them to camp and then to the various cities where they will be bubbled which allowed some Gophers who spend the majority of the season in the AHL to get the call up. The 19 Gophers and their NHL teams who are still playing hockey are:
Jake Bischoff (Vegas Golden Knights), Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals), Hudson Fasching (Arizona Coyotes), Alex Goligoski (Arizona Coyotes), Erik Haula (Florida Panthers), Justin Holl (Toronto Maple Leafs), Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche), Phil Kessel (Arizona Coyotes), Nick Leddy (New York Islanders), Vinni Lettieri (New York Rangers), Ryan Lindgren (New York Rangers), Aaron Ness (Arizona Coyotes), Rem Pitlick (Nashville Predators), Kyle Rau (Minnesota Wild), Mat Robson (Minnesota Wild), Nate Schmidt (Vegas Golden Knights), Nick Seeler (Chicago Blackhawks), Brady Skjei (Carolina Hurricanes) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets).
Games are slated to begin in Canada the first week of August and if teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals—will play into early October. Good luck to the 19 Gophers trying to see their name end up on the cup!