The Circle of Life – Hockey East Style

              As I sit here listening to Remy and Orsillo quip back and forth in the broadcast booth at Rogers Centre, I am reminded that spring is fully upon as. It was just days ago that the Boston College Eagle Dynasty claimed their 5th NCAA National Title (4th in the Jerry York era) by way of a 4-1 victory over a mettlesome Ferris State (CCHA) team in Tampa. Unlike most professional sports, the sad truth is that college hockey players who are transitioning to the pro ranks are typically whisked away in brisk fashion; sullying any opportunity to bask in the glory. Carpe diem? … I don’t think so – at least not when it comes to the business of ELC’s and Tryout Contracts as NHL teams prepare for the playoffs, or in some cases, solidifying their future for the upcoming season.

                BC held its day of celebration this afternoon on campus to honor the 2012 Champions that included esteemed alumni including Ben Smith (Chicago Blackhawks) and Cam Atkinson (Columbus Blue Jackets). Although it seems like yesterday that the college hockey season began, it is time for programs to begin preparation for next season. Jerry York is always quick to point out, as he did earlier this week on the NHL Sirius radio morning show, that “there is no off season.” Although seasons change and personnel change, York makes it very clear that “once an Eagle always an Eagle.” It’s a testament to the character and appeal of coach York that all of these NHL players and BC alums would take the time out of their professional schedules to come back to Chestnut Hill.

As BC was honored at the Heights today, key elements of the juggernaut 2012 squad that won 19 straight to close out the year, were busy signing professional contracts as they move to the next stage in their respective careers. Imagine Zdeno Chara signing a free agent contract to play for another NHL team during the Bruins 2011 victory parade; kinda sad really. I know BC fans can take comfort in the fact that they achieved the ultimate prize and went out on top which will make the departure of these integral parts much easier to digest. Plus, as we all know by now, BC doesn’t rebuild, they simply reload so we should expect big things next season as well.

Twitter was abuzz with all of the free agent signings, departures and speculation surrounding several BC players. The glib nature of Twitter, although addicting and enjoyable – no doubt, often times defames the character of professional journalism. When any yahoo blogger -and yes I am one of them – can claim to break a story, it can have detrimental implications that affect people’s lives. Let’s let the professional journalists whose primary job is to cover a team handle the ‘breaking of stories’ and ‘inner dealings’ the way they were professionally trained to do. I for one have a real day job and enjoy writing articles on my free time offering ‘my take’ and delving into all that pertains to this great league; but I have no false allusions of ever ‘breaking a story’….but, I digress.

The worst kept secrets in all of college hockey was the explicit fact that BC’s Chris Kreider (Boxford, MA) and Brian Dumoulin (Biddeford, ME) were all but gone once the

Former BC Eagle D - Brian Dumoulin signs an ELC with Carolina

Former BC Eagle D - Brian Dumoulin signs an ELC with Carolina

season came to an end. As anticipated and expected, the 20 year old Kreider inked a 3 year ELC with the #1 seed New York Rangers and Dumoulin signed a 3 year, 2 way, entry level deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The NY Times Slapshot blog had a great piece offering the New York perspective on the Kreider deal as many wonder- Is the BC center indeed NHL playoff ready? Kreider will join a Ranger team rife full of former collegiate talent (GM Glen Sather undoubtedly prefers more developed NCAA prospects) including fellow BC Eagle alum Brian Boyle (Hingham, MA).

From Kreider’s perspective, he is best served suiting up for the Rangers in their quest for their first cup since 1994 for several reasons. First and foremost, if he plays even one second of playoff action, he will earn his year one paycheck and simultaneously burn the first year of his 3 year deal. Because he is older than 19, his ELC will not slide if he fails to appear in 10 NHL games this year. This means only a two year wait until the ‘big bucks’ come his way when the speedy center signs his next deal. Secondly, Kreider, should the blueshirts win the cup, would complete one of the most epic seasons in hockey lore – Beanpot, HEA regular season and tournament, Frozen Four and potentially, the Stanley Cup. Add this to his already substantial hardware, that includes an IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal, and you have quite the resume for a mere 20 year old kid.

Senior captain Tommy Cross was also made headlines on ‘Celebration Monday’ as he went from one championship organization to another just down the road. Bruins writer Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reported the specifics of the deal today as the B’s signed Cross (2007 2nd rd pick) to an entry level deal. Cross will report to the Baby B’s in Providence as they begin their final weekend of play in the AHL season.

BC will have some big shoes to fill beyond just the ‘stars’ who left the program this week, some of the character types also transitioned to the pro ranks. Weymouth native, Paul Carey, will be heading to the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL (Colorado Avalanche) and fellow senior, Barry Almeida (Washington Capitals product) will report to their AHL affiliate in Hershey, PA.

In our ‘what have you done for me lately’ society, HEA programs have nary a second to bask in the success of a given year. Once the curtain falls on the 2012 season, coaches and staff must begin ushering in the next generation if they wish to compete in ‘arguably’ college hockey’s most prestigious league. As the ‘circle of life’ perpetually trudges on, past champions are quickly forgotten as new expectations are set.

As Kreider and Dumoulin begin their professional careers, a number of talented, young High School prospects – who rest in the same enviable position as they were just a few years ago – make their commitments to various college hockey programs. Mike McMahon was the first to report of two key ’13 UMass Minutemen commitments today as the so called ‘next generation’ continues to identify itself in HEA. As we emotionally say goodbye to some of HEA’s most prolific and memorable names, we welcome in some new life, full of hope and promise.

And speaking of ‘new life’, UMass welcomed 5ft8″ 160lb winger Mike Iovanna (Malden Catholic) to Amherst along with Salisbury Prep defenseman, Mark Hamilton (Winthrop, MA) today to fill its seemingly scant recruit pipeline. Iovanna was the Mr.

Collier's MC linemate, Mike Ivanno, has committed to UMass

Collier's MC linemate, Mike Ivanno, has committed to UMass

Irrelevant (although according to most scouts he is VERY Relevant) linemate on the highly touted MC first line that included BU’s Brendan Collier ’13 and BC’s Ryan Fitzgerald. I will be interested to get Fear The Triangle’s take on these new additions as he has been verbose in his concern over the lack of numbers UMass has committed to the program over the next several years. Hamilton and Iovanna join C/W  (5ft9” 160lb) KJ Tiefenwerth who committed to UMass back on March 22nd. Tiefenwerth scored 30 goals for the Boston Jr. Bruins of the EJHL this past season and was named their MVP.

We will keep an eye out as the Hockey East rosters take shape for the 2012-2013 season. We will also keenly follow some HEA alumni playing prominent roles in the NHL as the ever exciting Stanley Cup playoffs drop the puck this Wednesday…stay tuned!!!!

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