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MGoBlue.com

Most sports fans love a Cinderella story.

I've found an athlete who played the role twice.

Last year, Michigan’s men’s hockey team was in danger of breaking its

record 19-straight appearances in the NCAA tournament – a streak that started before many of the current players were even born.

They were picked to finish first in the league, but they finished a disastrous seventh. 

The only way they could keep their streak alive was to win six straight playoff games to get an automatic bid.

The University of Michigan men's hockey team fell in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in last night's NCAA championship game.  The Associated Press reports: 

NCAA.com

How’s your bracket look?

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is over, but the men’s hockey tournament is still going

And the Wolverines are in the final

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Unfamiliar foes Michigan and Minnesota Duluth will face off for the NCAA hockey championship.

Paul Nicholson / Flickr

Will the real next Spartan hockey coach please stand up?

After conflicting reports, it seems as if the job may go to CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos. From WILX-TV:

Former Spartan Tom Anastos will be announced as the next Spartan hockey coach at a 4 p.m. press conference at Munn Ice Arena. Anastos played for Ron Mason at Michigan State from 1981-85 scoring 60 goals and 143 points in his 4-year career.

Over the last 13 years he has served as the commissioner of the CCHA. He currently serves as the president of the Hockey Commissioner's Association. They created College Hockey Inc. which is responsible for growing the sport of college hockey.

Anastos was the head coach at the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1987-1990. He was then as assistant to Mason at Michigan State from 1990-1992. The 46-year old will be just the 6th coach in Michigan State history.

Anastos emerged from a field of approximately twenty candidates, including Danton Cole, a former Waverly High School hockey star, who many believed was set to replace for MSU's hockey coach Rick Comley.

Comley guided the Spartans to a national championship in 2007, and is the fourth all-time winningest coach.

Derek Hatfield / Flickr

Bob Probert was known as an "enforcer" in the game of hockey. The guy who had your back.

If an opposing player started something, Probert was there to exact a penalty on the other player with his fists.

He played in the NHL for sixteen seasons, including a long stint with the Detroit Red Wings.

Probert died last year at the age of 45 after suffering chest pains.

The New York Times published a piece this morning on the discovery that Probert suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a brain trauma disease that has also been found in many former NFL players.

After learning about CTE, Probert told his wife he wanted his brain donated to researchers.

Probert's widow, Dani Probert, is quoted in the Times article:

"I remember joking with him, ‘Wouldn’t your brain make a nice specimen?’ ” she said. “He started questioning whether he would have it himself. He told me that he wanted to donate his brain to the research when he died. Who would have thought that six months later it would be happening?"

His brain was donated after his death last year.

Researchers at Boston University said they found evidence of CTE in Probert's brain.

One of the researcher's noted they couldn't isolate where Probert's exposure to head trauma came from:

“How much is the hockey and how much is the fighting, we don’t really know,” said Dr. Robert Cantuco-director of the Boston University center and a prominent neurosurgeon in the area of head trauma in sports. “We haven’t definitely established that the skills of hockey as a sport lead to a certain percentage of participants developing C.T.E. But it can happen to hockey players, and while they’re still relatively young.”

Probert's wife believes it came from all the checking and hits in the game itself. She did note that in his last years, Probert did show signs of "behavior uncharacteristic to him, especially memory loss and a tendency to lose his temper while driving."

Wherever the brain trauma came from, the NHL will likely take a closer look at protecting its players, the same way the NFL has been creating new rules to cut down on head trauma in its sport.

If they're successful in better protecting their players, the sports have reporters from the New York Times to thank.

Times reporters, like Alan Schwartz, have been exposing the effects of head trauma in sports for the last several years.

Hockey net.
Dean Michaud / Flickr

Whenever I talk to a high school coach who quit, they always say the kids were great, but the parents drove them crazy.

It doesn’t matter what sport.  

But when I coached the Ann Arbor Huron High School hockey team, I was lucky.

Yes, getting to know the players was the best part, and now, seven years after I stepped down, I’m going to their weddings.

What I didn’t expect, though, was becoming lifelong friends with their parents, too.  

"The Cold War" ice hockey game at Spartan Stadium
wikipedia user grosscha

Tomorrow, more than 100,000 frozen fans will watch Michigan play Michigan State at the Big House. Not in football, which happens every other year - but in hockey, thus setting the record for the biggest crowd ever to watch a hockey game - anywhere.

The Big Chill logo from the University of Michigan
University of Michigan

More than 109,000 hockey fans are expected to be on hand for Saturday afternoon’s outdoor game at Michigan Stadium.  Its being called the Big Chill for a reason.

The Michigan Wolverines will skate against the Michigan State Spartans in a game that will likely break the all-time attendance record for a hockey game.

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