Editor’s Note: At ESPN, we are all sports fans, but we come in a wide variety. Today’s featured fan base is mad for March, attends almost every game inside an arena, but prefers stick-handling to dribbling and power plays to out-of-bounds plays. They are college hockey fans. As the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship gears up for Sunday’s Selection Show on ESPNU (Noon, ET), Front Row sat down with ESPN.com’s Senior Director of College Sports David Albright to discuss his passion for the sport and what it has meant to work on the event for over a decade:
You have an obvious love for the sport, but the Frozen Four in particular, how did that all begin?
I attended my first Frozen Four in 1992 at what was then known as Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, N.Y. Lake Superior State beat Wisconsin (5-3) for the title and the atmosphere was electric. From there I was hooked. Like many NCAA sports, there’s a passion associated with college hockey and its fan base that needs to be experienced in order to be truly appreciated – and that makes for an environment that’s hard to replicate.
What’s your hockey heritage?
I grew up in Chicago and have been a lifelong Blackhawks fan – a mostly painful existence until 2010. But I have great memories from going to games at Chicago Stadium. That was a great old barn and you still have an opportunity to experience that type of classic atmosphere in college hockey as there are still a few rinks with that type of feel to them – places like Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena and Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse.
With a long list of Frozen Fours experiences – you’ve covered every one since 2001 – what are some of your favorite moments?
There’s nothing like extra hockey with a trophy on the line. To me it’s the ultimate sports definition of the joy of victory and the agony of defeat.
I’ve been fortunate to see five overtime college hockey championship games so that’s what first comes to mind. And the best non-OT finish was in 2004 in Boston. Denver won 1-0 and survived a 5-on-3 Maine power play in the final minutes that turned into a 6-on-3 when the Black Bears pulled their goalie in the final minute of the game.
What coverage of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey tournament can fans expect from ESPN.com?
ESPN.com will have the bracket and analysis immediately following the Sunday, March 18, Selection Show (ESPNU, Noon ET). There will be a live scoreboard once the games begin on March 23. The site will also provide previews of the entire tournament and on-site coverage from the regional round and the Frozen Four in Tampa. And, with any luck, the 2011-12 season will extend beyond the scheduled 60 minutes of play on Saturday, April 7.
Full details on ESPN’s plans for the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship here.