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Published: Tuesday, 3/11/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

SPORTS COMMENTARY

It’s time to flash a smile, Northview

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

It has been four days. Hopefully, someone on the Northview hockey team has cracked a smile by now.

A state championship is something to cherish. Smile and take a bow, Wildcats.

The team picture snapped on the ice in Columbus after last Saturday’s title game showed the sourest, dourest group of champions any of us has ever seen.

Of course, there was an extenuating circumstance. After the unranked Cats went seven overtimes against No. 1-rated Cleveland St. Ignatius, Ohio High School Athletic Association officials pulled the plug, declared the 1-1 tie final, and ordered another trophy.

The stated reason for the decision was player safety, and I have no problem with that.

Had an athlete been injured in the eighth or ninth OT, or however long it took, because fatigue didn’t allow him to defend himself against a hard check, or if someone had become seriously ill from lack of hydration or nutrition, there would be the same howling we’re hearing but for far more serious reasons.

No, the decision isn’t the problem. The problem is that it had to be made.

The problem is that OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross was a man with no plan.

Is this type of contest rare? Sure. Is it unprecedented? Nope. In the 2008 Michigan high school finals, Marquette and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s were declared co-champions after skating to a 1-1 tie through eight overtimes.

The all-timer on the high school level was an 11-overtime affair between Minnesota schools in 1955. That one was played to the finish.

That’s how it is supposed to be in hockey. The sport engenders a different type of mentality, a suck-it-up-and-play mentality, especially in a championship game.

Get cut by a stick or blade? Get stitched up and head back to the ice. Take a puck to the mouth and get a tooth knocked sideways? We’ll deal with it tomorrow. It is a mano-e-mano sport.

In high school, of course, these are not men. They are boys, some who may not yet shave or drive. To hold them to the same standards we might hold NHL players to in a marathon game would be wrong.

So it is the adults who must make the decision. But it would have been better had the adults actually had a plan, a protocol for determining a champion in this type of scenario.

There will surely be an OHSAA plan in place by this time next year, but hockey purists will howl if it includes a shootout. That’s a gimmick started in the minor pro leagues almost 30 years ago that since has been absorbed by the NHL for regular-season games only. It is entertaining, and it assures fans a winner and a loser for the price of their ticket.

But you’ll never see it incorporated into the Stanley Cup playoffs. That it has become an Olympic staple is bad enough.

The best bet is shrinking the skaters to 4-on-4 and then 3-on-3 as the OT sessions mount to open the ice and give offenses a chance, although it might not have made any difference against Northview goalie David Marsh. The ice was tilted all afternoon, and he was magical with some timely, dramatic help from posts and crossbars.

The man with no plan let the kids down. It shouldn’t happen again.

In the meantime, Wildcats, no matter how hollow you feel, smile. You played a game for the ages.

You’re state champions.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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