Big Ten Media Day invaded Joe Louis Arena Wednesday -- preparing the legendary home of the Detroit Red Wings for March's Big Ten Conference Championship.
Lots was learned and even some fun was had along the way. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the day:
(On a bigger non-conference schedule...)
Tom Anastos, Michigan State: ...I think it's a neat part of the experience for the players. We can find a balance and play some traditional opponents that we had in the CCHA for years, and yet at the same time play schools like BU, BC, we're at UNH this year, guys get to go on a campus at an Ivy school and play Princeton. We're going into markets where we have alums, which is always a nice way to be able to connect with our Michigan State alums across the country...
(On building a community and fan-base...)
Guy Gadowsky, Penn State: I think the guys have done a great job, but really the credit goes to Penn State University. The student body, they’re very excited to support anything, and they love hockey. So that hasn’t been a tough job. It’s just happened naturally. They’ve really taken to it. The atmosphere is tremendous, and I think probably the biggest factor is how much fun everybody had when they were in the building. They say incredibly high-quality hockey. They had a great time doing it, and I think that’s the biggest factor.
(On if the league's gap has closed...)
Guy Gadowsky, Penn State: We’ll see this year. I think that’s something that we’ll see. I can’t answer that yet. I hope that you will see it a lot closer this year, but that still remains to be seen. We want to get better, we’re improving, but so is every other program. We all have the same goal, to get better. As we improve, so will other programs, but I hope it’s going to be a lot closer than it was last year.
Mike Eaves, Wisconsin: It seems to close every year, doesn’t it? Like if you take a look at year-end stats and the numbers, you’re going to say, well, there’s a space there. But if you had watched those games and played in those games, they were fought tooth and nail until the end. I think it’s just going to be even tighter this year. The parity in all leagues, whether it’s professional, college, we keep talking about it every year, can it get tighter, and it just seems it does. Between the coaching that the players get, the training the players get, the difference in the season in terms of wins and losses can come down to a bounce of a puck, a great save, so the parity is there and I think this year in the Big Ten it’s going to be better.
Steve Rohlick, Ohio State: …Like I said earlier, on the other side of it, what the Big Ten means is you’re forced to be better. You’ve got five other fantastic programs, and I think at the end of the day, that’s they key. It’s forcing us all to be the best we can be.
(On the history of Joe Louis Arena...)
Steve Rohlick, Ohio State: It’s certainly some good memories walking back here, walking in. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but as you know, we’re all getting a little bit older. But just talking to my guys driving up here, the tradition and the history of this building is pretty impeccable. You think about the players that are on the wall behind us, and for us, we’re very fortunate as a group to have our Big Ten Tournament here, and for me it’s obviously special. It’s one of the biggest games of my career, to be able to hoist that trophy.
You know it’s going to be fun, and again, it’s not about me, it’s about our team, and it’s about coming up here, but certainly the experience of being up here, it’s something that we can talk about.
(On staying in college hockey instead of turning pro...)
Don Lucia, Minnesota: …Here’s a scenario if you go, here’s a scenario if you stay. If you’re going to go, don’t look back, and if you’re going to stay, don’t look ahead. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is if kids are going to stay they have to make sure they both feet in or it doesn’t work…I think Red (Berenson) said it best years ago, if a kid is ready to play in the NHL, I’ll be happy to drive them to the airport and you go. But also you have to recognize that you don’t have to be in a hurry to leave college unless you’re ready for the next step, and you have to be ready mentally, you have to be ready physically. There’s not a set timetable that’s going to fit every individual.
Red Berenson, Michigan: …You just can’t fast forward your body or your maturity or your strength, your confidence, and all those things take time, and that’s the one great thing about college hockey. I can name you half a dozen players that I’ve seen in our league or our team that had they not played their senior year, they never would have made it, but they made it because they played their senior year, and really took that step. I know everybody is on an individual situation, but I think these kids, the longer they can stay in school, the longer they have a chance of making a living in hockey.
(On schedule toughness...)
Mike Eaves, Wisconsin: No, it is tough, and we talk about it as a staff as we looked at creating a schedule, do we want to push it to the side of being less challenging or more challenging. We decided as a staff that we wanted a more challenging schedule because the only was you get better is much like that of chemistry term osmosis, you get drawn up to a higher level. You’re playing better teams, you get drawn up to that level of play, so it was a conscious decision to do that.
(On high expectations of program...)
Red Berenson, Michigan: Well, I think all these programs have high expectations, and when you don’t meet them, obviously that’s a challenge. And for me it wasn’t about whether we made the tournament, it was whether or not we deserved to make the tournament…I mean, I had no complaints about not making the tournament. Our team didn’t’ deserve to, and yet we nearly did if you remember…That’s college hockey, and I think college hockey is better now than it was 10 years ago. There’s more good teams, more good programs.
More highlights to come throughout the day.