Season 3 Episode 16 of the Chasing MacNaughton Podcast from Tech Hockey Guide; Green Tie Affair. This week, Tim Braun, Dustin Lindstrom, Rob Gilreath and Matt Cavender were joined by the Commissioner of the CCHA, Don Lucia. With Don, the guys discussed the CCHA at the halfway point in the season, Don visiting all eight facilities, the Tech/Northern rivalry, the “safety protocol” situation at the GLI, NCAA regionals, and listener questions. Once Don left, the guys did a brief Fantasy Challenge segment.

CCHA successes and improvments

Tim started off the conversation with Don by asking about what the greatest successes and need for improvements have been for the CCHA at the halfway point of the season. For successes, Don talked about the competitiveness of the league to this point, especially the middle of the league. Tim added that Tech fans have been frustrated during some series because they are more competitive than they’d like them to be. Don then discussed his experience of traveling to all eight arenas in the league. He was in attendance at the Tech/Northern series and he loved seeing the atmosphere at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. To improve the league, Don talked about improving on the non-league games and expanding the league’s non-conference schedule to include teams outside the B1G and the NCHC.

Another success that was discussed by the guys was the quality of the streaming experience when compared to years past and other leagues currently. Rob pointed out the differences he noticed in the GLI streams, which were produced by the B1G. Don gave a lot of credit to Dominic Hennig for the streaming improvements, but also talked about the buy-in that the school Athletic Directors and coaches have had to the improvements.

Tech versus Northern series

Don was in attendance for the Tech/Northern series earlier in the season. He talked about wearing the colors of team who’s rink he’s in, and needing to borrow a green tie when visiting the Berry Event Center. The guys then discussed how important it is for CCHA teams to support each other in out of conference games and that fans should be rooting for the conference to do well too, even if it means cheering for your rival.

The “safety protocol” situation

The guys then discussed the recent events (or in this case, lack thereof) at the GLI last week. Tim asked Don what the shortest roster he’d ever played with was and whether or not he had to ever cancel a game due to being short handed. Don told a story about skating with only 15 skaters plus goalies against Minnesota State and how “it never crossed my mind that we couldn’t play”. Don then talked about how his situation gave other players the opportunity to play and feel more a part of the team. Tim shared his memories of attending the GLI when Tech would make Michigan fourth line players into stars. Don also said, “I was very surprised when I found out about what was transpiring,” and that he didn’t understand it originally. He thought that if Michigan felt they needed more rest, then they should have looked to a different solution such as having a day off in between games since none of the teams were travelling. Don added that “I don’t think it was a good look for college hockey”.

Dustin then asked if Don, as a commissioner, had a concern about this situation setting a precedent, or if he thought it was a one-off event. Don said he recently talked with Josh Fenton (the commissioner of the NCHC) about this situation and Don’s concern is that teams will use this as an “out” in order to not play games. Don added that “we want to make sure we have the integrity of the game”. He then reiterated his thought of adding a day between games if a team is short handed, and said “the kids want to play, I would assume that kids that didn’t get to play a lot at Michigan would have loved the opportunity to play Western Michigan that next night”. Matt then talked about the whole situation being frustrating, especially when the GLI is not a surprise on anyone’s schedule. Matt also commented that the cancelation did not sit well with Tech fans, and Don added that it likely didn’t sit well with Western’s fanbase either.

The guys then briefly discussed the current CCHA rules about the minimum number of skater required.

NCAA regionals and CCHA playoffs

The conversation then switched to NCAA regionals and the guys asked Don if there was any effort from the league to hosts regionals moving forward at member school. Don discussed the difficulties in making this happen, including coaches not wanting regional games to be played at campus arenas. The guys then discussed the lack of mid-sized venues in the Midwest as a major hang up to hosting regional games. When prompted, Don also added that there has been no talk within the league about bidding jointly on a site or rotating the bid and the league eating any financial losses that may happen.

Tim then asked about the CCHA playoff format as it was discussed on this week’s Joe Shawhan Hour. The first round will be a best of three series, while the semi-finals and finals will be a single game elimination, on different weekends. Don said the highest seeded teams will host the games. Don also confirmed that this is the format that will be in place moving forward and it is not a placeholder format due to COVID-19.

GoFundMe Hockey

Tim asked Don for his thoughts on the GoFundMe approach to saving some of the hockey programs around the country. Don thought that it is difficult to see how it will lead to long term success. Don brought the conversation back to earlier in the podcast and discussed how much of the success of a program is tied to the institutional commitment to the sport. Tim talked about feeling bad for the Robert Morris players and coaches, and Rob added that situations like these can only go well once.

Listener questions

There were a couple of listener questions that the guys were able to get to during their conversation with Don. The first asked if there were any plans from the CCHA to do more cross conference scheduling with eastern teams. Don talked about how that is up to each school individually to schedule those games and the league won’t dictate that to them. Don also talked about some of the difficulties in getting these games scheduled including available weekends, traveling, and more. Rob added that he has been glad to see Tech taking a stand and not accepting two-for-one games.

The second listener question asked what commitment the CCHA has made to the independent teams in hockey. Don said that there is no specific commitment other than how they fit into the CCHA team’s schedules. He said the league doesn’t encourage or discourage CCHA teams from scheduling independent teams, but also talked about how playing too many independent teams can have an effect on the Pairwise rankings.

Rob then asked if Don felt his time spent as a coach has helped him being a commissioner now. Don said that it does, and he felt that it has helped him and the league be more transparent to coaches when issues may arise. The conversation then switched to a focus on the officials, which Don praised the good job they’ve been doing this year. Tim agreed and noted that he hasn’t been frustrated at all with the officials other than one time when it was really his fault for not understanding a rule. Don talked about his monthly meetings with all the other hockey league commissioners and how they discuss officiating on a national basis.

Fantasy Challenge

This week the Fantasy Challenge returned! The theme this week was “New Blood” and featured five players and five teams that had never been featured in the Fantasy Challenge. This week the pool of players for the guys to choose from came from Cornell, Harvard, Army, Alaska, and Ohio State.

Cut for time

This week’s cut time for Patrons is approximately 26 minutes long. The guys discussed the quality of the streaming of CCHA games. There was a conversation about NCAA regional games and the benefit of them being played at campus sites. There was a lengthy discussion about whether CCHA expansion will happen. The guys discussed InStat and its lack of availability to media outlets. Two listener questions were answered: one about how the league handles complaints from teams, and the other about audio feeds for the broadcasts. The last Patron segment had to do with the players available to pick from during the Fantasy Challenge.

Learn More

For additional information and more episode liner notes, check out our episode overview on Tech Hockey Guide. To make sure we can afford all our fancy equipment we purchased for the podcast and the THG website in general, please check out our Patreon page and consider joining. Patrons at our Black Level or above receive an authentic MTU jersey patch and access to extra podcast content including extended versions of our other episodes. This week’s extended version is about 98 minutes.

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