Here are a few hockey gifts I’d like to see under the Christmas tree:
To Adin Hill: A return ticket to Tucson
The young goaltender has already appeared in 12 games for the Tucson Roadrunners, building an impressive 8-2-2 record and .910 save percentage. It is no boast to say that Hill is one of the most important reasons that Tucson has bolted out of the gate so well in its inaugural season. He’s been a revelation in goal.
On most hockey teams, in most leagues, that would mean even more ice time, making the hot goaltender a fixture between the pipes. When you have a winning goaltender you ride him for as long as possible. Hill has instead been given a trip down to the Roadrunners’ ECHL affiliate, the Rapid City (South Dakota) Rush.
There’s no nefarious subtext or dissatisfaction going on here. The Roadrunners are simply bloated with three goaltenders, and the organization needs to see more of Mark Langhamer and veteran Justin Peters on the ice. So Hill will get his continued ice time and seasoning in the ECHL and will surely be back in Tucson to resume his stellar AHL season.
Christmas in Rapid City is a little, um, different than in Tucson, so my present to Hill is a return ticket ASAP to the sunny Old Pueblo.
To Arizona State’s Division I hockey program: A few more wins
Wildcats fans must really think I’ve gulped too much spiked eggnog if I am wishing more success for ASU’s hockey team. But simmer down, pot roast — I’m talking about the school’s NCAA Division I team, not the ASU club squad that continues to play the Arizona Wildcats in the ACHA.
The NCAA team is led by coach Greg Powers, a longtime friend and a good hockey man. He has guided his team all the way to their first full season in D-I, and predictably they are taking their early competitive lumps. The Sun Devils are just 7-13 this season, but are slowly becoming more competitive .
ASU will host its own holiday tournament, starting Dec. 30 in Prescott Valley. The other teams are St. Cloud State, UConn and Brown. I wish the Sun Devils well.
ASU’s schedule gets even more difficult in the second semester, as they take on traditionally ranked powerhouses Denver and Ohio State on the road. The tilt on Jan. 14 against the Buckeyes on ESPNU, could provide a snapshot of ASU’s progress, though I suspect it will reveal instead their growing pains.
See Wildcat fans, the Christmas spirit has not overwhelmed me.
To old-school fans: Lots of AM radios
Back in the old days — you know, circa 1999 — many hockey fans would bring their AM radios and headphones to the TCC to listen to my radio call of a UA hockey game as they watched it live. Hearing all the stats and observations from the press box, while watching a game from your seat, can be great fun.
Since the beginning of this Tucson Roadrunners home season some old-school fans, with Walkman-styled radio and headphones in tow, have stopped by the broadcast booth to ask me when they’d be able to hear the AHL games on radio without a delay. Many radio and TV stations that broadcast “live” put a several-second delay on their broadcasts so they can cut out any bad language that might slip through, before it reaches a listener. Hockey fans at the TCC, trying to listen and watch a Roadrunners game in real time, were experiencing a delay in the broadcast.
If you want a water-torture-like experience, watch a hockey game and then hear the call of the game a few seconds later. It will drive you crazy.
But 1450-AM, the Roadrunners’ radio station partner, doesn’t put an intentional delay on its signal. What gives? After weeks of investigation, the culprit was found: an old bit of cabling at the broadcast tower, left over from a previous technology, caused a considerable delay in the broadcast. It was removed recently, and presto — fans at the TCC can now listen in real-time to the golden tones of the Roadrunners’ voice Tom Callahan and my musings about how some minor penalties should last 40,000 minutes.
(FYI: There will always be a delay if you listen on your smart phone or computer, because the radio signal takes several seconds to be encoded into a streaming audio file.)
I hope to see lots more AM radio sets in the stands after Christmas. Don’t forget fresh batteries.
To Tucson: A new ice rink
Commercial partners and the Rio Nuevo tax district continue to negotiate for the construction and operation of a public ice rink facility that can serve many Tucson users and relieve the pressure for ice at the TCC. Tucson remains the largest city in North America without a public ice rink. Get it done, folks. Now.
To Craig Cunningham: All the love in the world
The Tucson Roadrunners’ beloved captain is slowly gaining steam in rehab as he continues to recover from a series of major cardiac surgeries. What caused his heart malfunctions isn’t exactly known, even now, after more than a month of hospitalization. But he is getting stronger day by day, and that is such wonderful news when you consider that just a few weeks ago I thought I saw him die, at center ice, before a game.
Well wishes have poured in from around the hockey world for Craig, and I hope all that positive energy propels him forward, small step by step. Happy New Year, captain.