2006 CIS men's hockey championships
Previewing the preview
Previewing the preview
I've got myself locked in a little room this weekend, making calls and putting together something to preview the men's university hockey championships that start Thursday in Edmonton. (If you happen to play for one of these teams and I've left you a message, please friends, call a young reporter back.)
CIS hockey is an underrated entity in Canada, and one of the few leagues that really under-draws in terms of attendance relative to talent level (aside from in a place like Thunder Bay, Ont., where the Lakehead University team represents the highest level of hockey played in the city). Many of the guys playing in this tournament have recent pro hockey experience, but gave up the AHL/ECHL grind in order to receive scholarship monies and play hockey at Canadian schools.
Not a bad choice, if you ask me.
Given that the players are, in general, a few years older than those playing NCAA hockey, it's perhaps no surprise that the best CIS teams — like the 11-time champion Alberta Golden Bears — could easily wipe the floor with their American competition. (The running rumour is that NCAA teams all decline to play the Bears for fear of losing handily and — the theory goes — persuade fewer Alberta-area kids to go the American college hockey route.)
Still, these guys really don't get much respect up here. (And Making the Cut didn't help — aside from Lethbridge Pronghorns grad James Demone who has found fame and fortune in the AHL.)
What the CIS needs, more than anything, to gain more widespread interest is a few more guys like Steve Rucchin, Cory Cross and Mathieu Darche making the jump directly from CIS hockey to the NHL. And, as time goes along, I expect that's exactly what we'll see.
A look at the 'Final Six' teams and their seedings (The Globe posted a preview here):
1. Alberta Golden Bears
2. Acadia Axemen
3. Lakehead Thunderwolves
4. McGill Redmen
5. Saskatchewan Huskies
6. Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
The host Bears obviously come in as the favourites as the defending champs, but since it's a one loss and you're out setup, anyone could fathomably come out on top.
I have no idea what the interest level is in this tournament, but considering how I've followed the CIS season so closely, I figured I might as well offer some thoughts on the tournament as it goes along.
And, speaking of the CIS, I'll be watching the men's basketball semi-finals tonight: (7) Cape Breton Capers v. (3) Carleton Ravens and (4) St. FX X-Men v. (1) Victoria Vikes. (I suspect, however, that Mr. Young and I may be the only fellows crazy enough to spend their Saturday nights in such a fashion.)