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Tears Of Unfathomable Sadness, Volume 18: Notre Dame Feels Like A Hockey East Outsider

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Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Every volume of the Tears is enjoyable, but there's something a little extra special when the subject at hand pertains to the Fighting Irish. And this week we have a real treat for you all, courtesy of a UConn fan, of all people.

We have before us an incredibly whiny piece from The Observer, Notre Dame's student newspaper, which, naturally, has a history of giving self-serving dopey Domers an outlet to express how #blessed the world is with Notre Dame in it and how tough it is to be them because academics or whatever.

To refresh your memory, The Observer is run by people like This Guy:

Anyway, Notre Dame. They can never provide too much material. What do we get to check out this week?

Carson: ND left on outside in Hockey East

All aboard the WHAAAAMBULANCE.

On Oct. 5, 2011, Notre Dame officially joined Hockey East. It was touted as a great move for the Irish program — I surely heard the phrase "the nation’s premier hockey conference" thrown around enough by the athletics department — and one that would put the team’s influence at a national level. But despite Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick’s reassurances that Notre Dame fit well in the conference, it was clear from the start that the Irish were going to be outsiders in this new league.

Well let's just say this right off the bat re: Notre Dame: We don't want you here. We didn't want you here from the beginning. Hockey East had a good thing going with its 10-team bus league but Notre Dame needed a home with the CCHA dissolving, and Lord knows the one thing Hockey East needed was some good ol' smarmy Irish condescension.

It all starts with geography and goes from there. Notre Dame is the only school in the conference not located in New England.

We know.

Every time the Irish play a road conference game, a somewhat lengthy plane ride awaits them.

Few things here:

  1. Hockey East gave Notre Dame special rules allowing them to avoid home-and-home conference games (with the exception of the UConn games this year, which, why?) so that every weekend, they either host two home games or go to one destination for two road games.
  2. Please, it's a three and a half hour flight to Boston, you'll live.
  3. I know it's Maine, but even if they could read, they wouldn't be writing articles about how hard it is to be them given that Boston is a three and a half hour bus ride. Hartford is five!
  4. I assume the point here is that Notre Dame would have been better served joining the NCHC? If that's the case, outside of the hour and a half jaunt up to Western Michigan, you'd be looking at a 4 hour bus ride to Miami (OH) and a flight to everywhere else.

It's obviously not a hockey-specific problem but maybe you shouldn't have built a university in the middle of a cornfield.

When the Irish joined Hockey East, Boston College was the only school against which they really had any sort of competitive sports history, and in the 18 months since, they've yet to establish anything that resembles a second rivalry in the league.

It's been EIGHTEEN MONTHS! But that aside, what were you expecting? People to be lining up just because of the Fighting Irish name?

...Actually, yes, come to think of it—that's pretty much exactly what they were expecting. I certainly recall plenty of quotes dropped to the press about how Hockey East was a great fit because the huge Notre Dame fanbase on the east coast would turn out in droves to see their Irish play Hockey East teams. Like the 2,744 who cared enough to see Notre Dame play UMass, or the 2,983 to see ND play Northeastern in downtown Boston. On the whole, an average of 4,820 fans came out to see ND play on the road last season, significantly behind BC, Lowell, and New Hampshire. It's almost as though people would rather watch teams local to the region and don't really give a crap about Touchdown Jesus. Odd.

This is college hockey. Welcome to the show. The 30-year-old yokels with mustard stained jerseys lining the front of UNH's student section don't take too kindly to that kind of attitude.

And just take a look at the Notre Dame roster. An astounding 17 players come from the Midwest. How many come from New England? One.

If you aren't in New England, don't have many players from New England and don't have rivals in New England, what made anyone think this arrangement would work?

Sorry, I lost focus. You were talking about UMass-Lowell, right?

  • 17 players from the midwest or western Canada
  • One player from New England
  • Who is their big rival? UMass? Merrimack? Serious question.

They seem to make it work. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now we really start to have some fun.

On WSBT Radio's Sportsbeat broadcast Monday, Jackson told host Darin Pritchett that he was concerned the Irish were still treated as an "outsider" in the league and that there was a "double standard" in play against the team.

...Go on? You mean like the double standard wherein conference scheduling rules are bent for their convenience?

We have been seeing it on the ice now, too, specifically from the guys wearing the white-and-black striped shirts. The Irish were denied an opportunity at overtime Friday when Northeastern directly benefitted from a missed slashing call in the final two minutes of the game. This non-call came on the heels of a conference game earlier this year when the Irish were denied a win against UMass Lowell after officials failed to review a missed offside call. Jackson asked for a review, the correct process in this situation, but none happened.

Let's make this perfectly clear, Notre Dame. You are nothing special when it comes to Hockey East's non-traditional refereeing style.

Add these incidents to the growing list of referees' decisions that have baffled the Irish coach over the past two seasons, and it's not hard to see a trend developing.

You're right, you can definitely see a trend developing.

2013-2014 conference games: 5th most PIM per game (12.7 PIM/gm)
2013-2014 non-conference gms: 4th most PIM per game (13.4 PIM/gm)

2014-2015 conference games: 10th most (!!!) PIM per game (9.5 PIM/gm)
2014-2015 non-conference gms: 7th most PIM per game (10.5 PIM/gm)

Since joining Hockey East, Hockey East officials have called fewer penalties on the Irish than non-Hockey East officials. And not only that, but this year they are toward the very bottom in penalties.

It took me thirty seconds to look that up.

That said, props to Jeff Jackson for keeping up the whining. Working the officials through the media seems to be part of his M.O. He's really filled the void that Angry Jack left upon retirement.

When Notre Dame joined Hockey East, it did it alongside the announcement of an agreement to air Irish home games on NBC Sports Network. That agreement got underway last year—Notre Dame's first in the league—and puts the Irish on national television as much as any other college hockey program.

Does that happen if Notre Dame went independent or joined the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), the other league the Irish considered?

Yes, of course it...

Probably Not.

What?!

FLASHBACK:

As Notre Dame continued to mull invitations from the NCHC and Hockey East, it was negotiating its own television deal, which it could then bring to the respective leagues to see which would be OK with it.

Notre Dame had a preference for the NCHC because of its Western footprint, but the NCHC ultimately decided it didn't want to accept Notre Dame with its TV deal in tow.

Notre Dame negotiated its own television deal, which almost forced the program to go independent except for the fact that Joe Bertagna was so starstruck by Notre Dame that he let them in.

Notre Dame going independent sounds great at first glance to your typical Notre Dame football dudeguy, but that would have been Not Good for the Irish hockey program.

Had the Irish gone independent, it is likely that they would have struggled to find quality opponents late in the season.

Yeah, no shit.

This weekend, Vermont and Penn State are the only teams playing a non-conference contest. The following week, it's just Northern Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth.

With such uncertainty in scheduling, it's easy to see why NBC might not have been interested in such an arrangement.

As for the NCHC? It's hard to say. At face value, NBC might have preferred the Hockey East teams to a slate headlined by Miami (Ohio) and North Dakota. Besides, it's difficult to say if the conference would have let the Irish negotiate their own TV contract because it already has an agreement with CBS Sports Network.

Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope you are wrong. The TV contract was the baggage that came along with Notre Dame. The conference choice mattered zilch. This was a decision entirely made by Notre Dame officials, to prioritize their self-selected TV arrangement over joining a conference that would actually be a good fit for their program. Any whining and complaining can be directed toward your own athletic department.

It's left them in a conference where they're outsiders in almost every way. And I'm not sure that will ever change.

We could have told you that from the beginning.