Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Blais Era Begins

Tomorrow night, the second chapter in the brief history of UNO hockey begins with an exhibition game against the Lethbridge Pronghorns, a Canadian university. I'm not expecting a competitive matchup...or at least it shouldn't be. UNO typically dominated these exhibition matchups against Manitoba when UNO was decent to good, and I expect nothing different from Lethbridge.

Competition is not the reason for this game; this is simply the first peek at what a Dean Blais team might look like. I use the term "might look like" because it's a work in progress; official full practices just started on Saturday, so it's way too early to evaluate anything at this point.

I'm going into this season with low expectations for the early part of this season. The Blais style is probably a 180 degree switch from Mike Kemp's scheme and I fully expect things to go slowly early on. Not that I expect Blais or the team to be accepting of mistakes early, but I will, much like the transition for Nebraska football in 2004. Unlike with Bill Callahan, Blais has a track record of succeeding over time, so while I expect some issues in October and November, I think local sports fans should be excited come January and February.

So all of the promise of this offseason starts to be realized tomorrow night. I'm reminded of what the folks in North Dakota said when Dean Blais took the Maverick head job:
"which will come first-blais winning his third NC or his hand picked successor(sp) Hak winning his first?"
"The upgrade in effort on the ice his first year at UND was unmistakable. I'm sure the fans in Omaha are in for a similar treat."
"I will predict that he'll have UNO in the Frozen Four within 3 years though."
Those are heady thoughts for UNO, and certainly not what Maverick fans thought at the end of last season. UNO found that win/win solution, and it's all due to the hiring of Trev Alberts as athletic director back in April. Since then, just about everything UNO has done has gone right. Well, just about everything.

One negative development was that UNO's Blue Line Club decided to start their own web site and fan forum. While I'm not sure that a second forum is necessary along side the very popular, that's certainly their right to try. The problem isn't so much the competition, but rather the divisiveness in the fan base the second site seems to promote. In an effort to draw awareness to their new site, the administrators of "SpamMania" followed the advertising practices of penny stock promoters and "male enhancement" marketers - mining e-mail addresses from the "other" web site and spamming the user base via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. After complaints, the Blue Line Club distanced themselves from "SpamMania", which seems to be struggling in developing a following to this point. We'll see where it goes, but it's off to a very rocky start so far. It's a shame that with so much positive activity and excitement happening around Maverick hockey that a small group of individuals decided to bring divisiveness into the mix.

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