That's why the hiring of Trev Alberts could be the best thing for UNO athletics since Don Leahy and Del Weber resurrected the dream of hockey at UNO. After some initial success, UNO hockey has seemed to be stuck in neutral in recent years. There has seemed to be a feeling that hockey should be treated like just one of UNO's other programs: no more or no less important. But Alberts declared an end to that perception yesterday:
That declaration changes the dynamic of UNO athletics, and it seems to have the support of the other coaches. Is this finally a change in the mindset at 60th & Dodge?
"We're a hockey school. Is there anything wrong with that?"
In any event, the charge is clear: hockey needs to lead the way for the Mavs, and needs to have the resources to be as successful. Trev gets it. To Alberts, hockey is to UNO what football is to Nebraska-Lincoln.
UNO hockey is at a crossroads. Alberts came out and said yesterday that Mike Kemp is the hockey coach for 2009-10, ending the speculation from the Chancellor's declaration last fall. I have mixed feelings on this; I like Kemp, but the era of bouncing around between fifth and eighth place is getting old. Top four in the conference should be the standard for UNO, and nobody should be happy until UNO gets there consistently.
But which conference is that? UNO's conference membership is now up for discussion, as it seems that the WCHA is now looking for another member to accompany Bemidji State. Northern Michigan turned down the WCHA today, which makes UNO the likely target. Trev Alberts is going to need to make a decision soon on this one.
Don't forget about the long term vision about where UNO should be playing long-term. Don Leahy jumped into the debate last week by raising the pathetic idea of UNO playing at the Civic Auditorium again. Perhaps Alberts can finally bury the horribly stupid ideas such as remodeling the Auditorium or playing in a cornfield in west Papillion, and finally start the ball rolling on a UNO athletic complex with a 9,000 seat arena.
Alberts seems to be thinking long-term and strategic, at least in his initial press conference. That's already an improvement over his predecessors, who struggled with articulating any sort of vision. I don't know if Trev Alberts is going to be able to deliver, but the fact that he's thinking along these lines is already a sign of progress for UNO.