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Chuck Murray
12-08-2015, 01:26 PM
Author's preface - I'm hoping this will be the first of several similar posts, in which certain "What if?" scenarios are discussed and explored, in the hopes that genuine discussion and debate will follow about how things might have played out, had certain landmark events reached the proverbial "fork in the road", and gone in another foreseeable direction?

Further topics are under development, so any ideas, feedback or suggestions for similar future threads are welcome. As a final disclaimer ... having been known to have strong opinions on this topic and some of the other candidates for future discussion, I want to make it clear in posing the topic question for discussion, I'm doing so only to foster some genuine discussion and debate, and (although I may include certain playful references here and there) there is no intent to defame the subject(s), or deny the subject's accomplishments. With all that said, I present "Chapter One" of Hockey East "What If?" for everyone's enjoyment and consideration (apologies for any overlap with previous discussions) ...

In the 30+ years of Hockey East history, it's hard to think of anyone who made as significant an impression on the league as none other than late UMaine head coach Shawn Walsh. The man who would eventually become known to many on this forum as the "Downeast Dark Prince" or the "Human Lightning Rod", and to others simply as "Walshy" had his D-1 college hockey roots far away from Orono at Bowling Green University, where as a 3rd string goalie, he eventually put away the pads and served as a volunteer assistant during his time as an undergrad. After being hired by his future father-in-law Ron Mason to a full time assistant's position upon completion of his undergrad studies, Walsh would follow Coach Mason to Michigan State in the late '70's, where they transformed the MSU program from an also-ran to a national contender.

At the tender age of 29, Walsh was hired as UMaine head coach in time for the inaugural '84/'85 Hockey East season, succeeding Jack Semler, who had coached the UMO program since its relatively recent rebirth in '77/'78, but had really never established the program beyond being an also-ran in the ECAC. After two nondescript transitional seasons, Walsh gave the program its first taste of what was to follow with the first two of many trips to the NCAA Tourney before making what may have been the all-time greatest single assistant coach hire in Hockey East history with Grant Standbrook, who came over from a similar role at Wisconsin to become the right-hand man in Orono for the next 20 or so years.

During the first five seasons of the Walsh/Standbrook partnership, UMaine made it to five (5) consecutive HE Finals and took home the tourney trophy three times, and in '92/'93, they oversaw what was arguably the greatest team in Hockey East (if not entire D-1) history amass a 41-1-2 record on its way to the D-1 title. Keep in mind Walsh was still only 37 years old when the Black Bears took that D-1 title.

To say the events of the next few seasons have been previously debated at length on these pages in years gone past would be an understatement of epic proportions, and at the very least introduced the USCHO universe to murky concepts not often encountered in the world of D-1 hockey, including the infamous "retroactive financial aid". Certain actions led to certain penalties, and Walsh not only had to step away from his job for a year (split over two seasons IIRC?), but certain restrictions were also placed on his program. Nevertheless, the '94/'95 Black Bears competed for another National Title, but came up short. It would be their last appearance in the D-1 tourney during this period.

Despite widespread speculation about Walsh's future in Orono, he stuck around and worked through the period of time where the NCAA restrictions on the program gradually expired. And the Walsh/Standbrook team didn't waste their time. as they returned the program to the D-1 pinnacle in '98/'99 with the 3-2 OT win over archrivals UNH, answering critics the best possible way - winning on the ice. Things were again looking rosy for UMaine's continued presence at or near the top of D-1 ... which is where fate sadly intervened. Shortly after UMaine had won another HE Tourney in March 2000 and got themselves to the Frozen Four, in June 2000 Walsh was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He would coach most of the following season - qualifying for the NCAA's yet again - but he would tragically pass away in the offseason at age 46.

"What if ... Coach Walsh beat cancer?" He certainly had strong teams lined up for the foreseeable future, and with Coach Standbrook continuing in his support role under Walsh's hand-picked successor Tim Whitehead through the end of the last decade, the program returned to the NCAA Finals in '02 and '04, and made two more FF trips in '06 and '07.

* Would UMaine have won at least one more D-1 title - certainly with Walsh's players in '02 and/or '04?
* Would Walsh have stayed at UMaine, or would he have answered the call to the next level in the NHL?
* If Walsh stayed ... would he still be there (aged 60 now), and would Standbrook also have continued?
* And IF Walsh beat cancer AND stayed ... does his program then deprive BC of some of its recent glories?

With the passage of time, it seems the transformative accomplishments of the Walsh era have only taken on more shine, considering where the program began, and where it has since gone. And for detractors (like myself) who point to what happened around the time when the UMaine program was on the rise ... the events from '99 and after (when scrutiny of the program would have been intense) shows a coach who knew how to find the right players, and then get the best out of them on a regular basis ... all under the brightest of lights - just the way "Walshy" enjoyed it most.

Had fate taken a different turn in '00/'01 ... what impact do you think it would have had on Hockey East not only for the past decade, but possibly right up to the present??

all bear
12-08-2015, 01:50 PM
Your weird obsession with Walsh continues Chuck. :rolleyes:

mookie1995
12-08-2015, 02:17 PM
UMO would have vacated approximately 150 wins and removed 2 banners

(*)

Chuck Murray
12-08-2015, 03:07 PM
Your weird obsession with Walsh continues Chuck. :rolleyes:

Do you disagree that he was the most influential personality in the history of the league?

Would you have been more receptive to the concept if I started it with another (lesser) subject?

I intentionally left out potential UNH impacts, but I can think of two obvious examples.

Does Minnesota win back-to-backs? Ditto Denver?? BU in 2009???

So many possibilities ... so I pick Walsh (deservedly) first above all others ... and you clam up?

Not saying you have to play along if you're offended/it's too sensitive. I'll get to the living subjects later ...

joecct
12-08-2015, 03:17 PM
Sean Walsh made Hockey East a competitive conference. With his success at Orono, he forced every other HEA team to step up recruiting / coaching or be left behind.

And his teams were fun to watch.

Happy
12-08-2015, 04:58 PM
he would be much more controversial as time went on. the ability for a hockey fan to go and read the NCAA report on his activities weren't around in the mid 90's, but they were later, so there would always be opposing fans bringing up some aspect of his recruiting and other things he did that just blew off the NCAA rules.

Chuck Murray
12-08-2015, 06:44 PM
Sean Walsh made Hockey East a competitive conference. With his success at Orono, he forced every other HEA team to step up recruiting / coaching or be left behind.

And his teams were fun to watch.

Agree 100% with the first part. On the second part, it was fun watching them beat BC (can you say "Niko Dimitrakos"?) and it was great to see UNH beat them in the original "White Out the Whitt" homestanding weekend at the end of the '99 HE regular season, which felt like more than it was at the time, simply because it involved beating Walshy's team. In retrospect, not so much ... and of course, that glee lasted all of about a month before Walshy got the last laugh. But I digress ...


he would be much more controversial as time went on. the ability for a hockey fan to go and read the NCAA report on his activities weren't around in the mid 90's, but they were later, so there would always be opposing fans bringing up some aspect of his recruiting and other things he did that just blew off the NCAA rules.

Good point to a degree ... but rest assured, that report was out there and available on-line even back in the time you cite, and was often brought up and linked in some of the *discussions* that would often break out on these forums. Heck, I had that sucka linked :D and I'm 99.99% certain I wasn't the only one in my small town, much less the entirety of cyberspace. Seeing how things went in '99 and the next two seasons after, it seemed like Walsh had wrestled those demons down, and I personally think so long as he avoided repeating the same mistakes, he had already gotten past the worst of it.

Short of what actually did transpire, I always figured the big question would be whether he would have accepted an offer from the NHL when (not if) it came - after he'd navigated the NCAA issues. Winning in '99 seemed to cement his good standing with the UMaine-iacs, and it's not silly to assume the call from the NHL would eventually come, seeing that BU's Coach Parker rebuffed a similar offer circa '97, roughly the same time period. Thoughts? :confused:

e.cat
12-08-2015, 07:54 PM
Chuck, if you open up a bucket of worms with the U-maniacs you might instead find yourself up to your arse in alligators!

Patman
12-08-2015, 09:01 PM
Your weird obsession with Walsh continues Chuck. :rolleyes:

sounds like love to me... anybody check his shovels for dirt? :p

Chuck Murray
12-08-2015, 09:39 PM
sounds like love to me... anybody check his shovels for dirt? :p

More *love* on its way then ... if you've got a free hour on your hands, worth the watch if not for the subject matter, then for the time capsule quality of the footage. Really shows the last gasp of the pre-Internet age, a full year before ground was broken for The Whitt ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3JcZ2-_o2A

Hammer
12-08-2015, 09:43 PM
Chuck, if you open up a bucket of worms with the U-maniacs you might instead find yourself up to your arse in alligators!

Now, you and I both have been around here long enough to know that something like that doesn't bother Chuck in the least.

I'm just glad to see something out of WIS Productions after all these years. :D I miss those days.

Yuppie Scum
12-08-2015, 09:51 PM
He could have killed Baby Hitler.

Tipsy McStagger
12-08-2015, 10:02 PM
What if Maine had never used ineligible players?

The NCAA began investigating the school in 1994 and after 18 months uncovered 71 violations -- 60 by the hockey program. Violations ranged from recruiting to the use of ineligible players to extra benefits -- such as host families, --not available to all students.
http://articles.courant.com/1998-12-21/sports/9812210376_1_black-bears-shawn-walsh-hockey-east

Happy
12-08-2015, 10:43 PM
What if Maine had never used ineligible players?

The NCAA began investigating the school in 1994 and after 18 months uncovered 71 violations -- 60 by the hockey program. Violations ranged from recruiting to the use of ineligible players to extra benefits -- such as host families, --not available to all students.
http://articles.courant.com/1998-12-21/sports/9812210376_1_black-bears-shawn-walsh-hockey-east

what if Maine had cooperated with the NCAA investigation?

walrus
12-09-2015, 05:42 AM
Chuck, if you open up a bucket of worms with the U-maniacs you might instead find yourself up to your arse in alligators!

if you look at the amount of posts on here by Maine fans its nothing compared to what it was when Walshy was alive. Heck its a generation ago now, most of the younger fans barely know who he was. The comments so far in the thread have been made by senior citizens.

Walshy was who he was, ain't no denying what happened. Also ain't no denying he was a great coach who could get players to come to Orono and skate thru walls to win.

Snively65
12-09-2015, 06:44 AM
My guess is that Maine would have won the 2002 NC had Walshy been there, although Maine should have won anyway, had the NCAA not assigned Piotrowski to ref that game. That OT call against Schutte was ridiculous. I really thought that Maine had the game won when Robert Liscak circled the rink shushing the 18,000+ dejected Gopher fans after his go-ahead goal with less than five minutes remaining.

Chuck Murray
12-09-2015, 07:28 AM
My guess is that Maine would have won the 2002 NC had Walshy been there, although Maine should have won anyway, had the NCAA not assigned Piotrowski to ref that game. That OT call against Schutte was ridiculous. I really thought that Maine had the game won when Robert Liscak circled the rink shushing the 18,000+ dejected Gopher fans after his go-ahead goal with less than five minutes remaining.

When we were leaving the arena that evening, my friend turned to me and said basically the very same thing. All I could imagine would have been Walshy standing up on the players' bench (as he so often would in his "pay attention to me!" mode) and giving it to Piotrowski in bucketloads. Wonder if Piotrowski would have even had the *guts* to make that call if he knew he'd get that withering earful? Not to mention I'm sure Walshy would have used it to further motivate the troops by reinforcing the "everyone's against us" theme of playing a D-1 final for all intents and purposes on the opponent's home ice (and yes, I know *technically* that wasn't the case, but ... ) etc.

Walsh's teams were exceptional in late-game scenarios. The 2002 Finals was the first clue just how much he'd be missed in Orono, and then even more so the 2004 Finals in Boston. Even if Walsh wins one of those two, he's got 3 of the really important trophies on his CV, and it's hard to foresee how he doesn't continue at or around that level for a few more years anyway ... unless he leaves/has already left to try his hand in the NHL. And if he does ... does Standbrook go with him? If Walsh/Standbrook leave circa 2002-2004, the Whitehead era likely never happens OR if Walshy still picks him AND Grant isn't there to back him up ... does UMaine get to its present state sooner??

Calling all "senior citizens" (good call, wally :) ) ...

e.cat
12-09-2015, 08:29 AM
if you look at the amount of posts on here by Maine fans its nothing compared to what it was when Walshy was alive. Heck its a generation ago now, most of the younger fans barely know who he was. The comments so far in the thread have been made by senior citizens.

Walshy was who he was, ain't no denying what happened. Also ain't no denying he was a great coach who could get players to come to Orono and skate thru walls to win.

True enough on the "senior citizen" aspect. I still hold Walshy close to my heart because my son attended his last camp upta Orono and was voted MVP of the camp that summer! Sad set of circumstances:(


Now, you and I both have been around here long enough to know that something like that doesn't bother Chuck in the least.

I'm just glad to see something out of WIS Productions after all these years. :D I miss those days.

Good point and ditto on the WIS Productions!

Felger
12-09-2015, 08:33 AM
My guess is that if Walshy had survived, him and Dick would have done some more of those tv commercials.

Happy
12-09-2015, 09:31 AM
My guess is that Maine would have won the 2002 NC had Walshy been there, although Maine should have won anyway, had the NCAA not assigned Piotrowski to ref that game. That OT call against Schutte was ridiculous. I really thought that Maine had the game won when Robert Liscak circled the rink shushing the 18,000+ dejected Gopher fans after his go-ahead goal with less than five minutes remaining.

So, are you saying that because a different coach was behind the bench, a very blatant, very dangerous, clearly scoring chance denying penalty right in front of a ref was not going to be called? Oh, and Robert deserved to lose after that, too.