Friday, October 5, 2018

Review: NCHC.TV's "The Season '18" - Episode 1: "New Beginnings"

Something I yearn for is more coverage of the inner workings of the UNO Hockey program — or any collegiate hockey program, for that matter. 

Sure, I’ve attended all the home games, made a number of trips to see the Mavs on the road, and filled in the gaps watching the team on TV and online. 

Watching the games — however you may do it — is merely one gear in the clockwork that makes a sports program tick. 

Because collegiate hockey is a fairly niche sport in the United States, there is scant coverage available that delves into the nitty gritty as it regards training, recruiting, and the administration of the programs we loyally follow each season. 

As a result, I’m always pleased to have the opportunity to watch any available “behind-the-scenes” content. I’ve mentioned before what a big fan I am of the online series “The Penn State Hockey Story” (produced by that school’s athletic department). Even though I have no connection to that program, I feel like I have a better understanding of that program. 

I am pleased that NCHC.TV and STX are presenting a new offering this year called “The Season ‘18” — a 6-chapter web series that goes inside the Miami RedHawk Hockey program. 

The first episode is titled “New Beginnings.” As the opening frames roll, we see Coach Enrico Blasi driving to work on Aug. 28. He mentions that he is starting his 20th season at the helm of the Miami program. 

Bridget and I met Coach Blasi in 1999 at the Badger Showdown in Milwaukee. 

We were standing in the elevator of our hotel with a guy wearing a RedHawk jacket, who looked to be our age (I was 27 at the time). He noticed our UNO gear, struck up a conversation with us, and asked if we also followed the Omaha Lancers organization. 

Never in a million years would I have assumed we were talking to the coach of one of our CCHA foes — young, short in stature, he looked more like a player than the head honcho.

A couple days later — on the morning after the tournament ended — we were eating breakfast at the Holiday Inn. Coach Blasi and his assistants were at an adjacent table. 

As they went to leave, Coach Blasi tapped Bridget on the shoulder and said, “See you guys in Omaha.” 

Sometimes fans get all wrapped up in the on-ice battles during the grind of the conference season. Be that as it may, I try to remind myself that these are programs like UNO, with good fans and good people working to present a top-notch product on the ice.

The first episode of “The Season ‘18” shows the coaches and players working to get ready for the coming season at Miami’s Goggin Ice Center. (We were treated to a “behind-the-scenes” tour when we visited Oxford, OH, with a group of UNO fans in 2006.)

During the course of the debut episode, we learn a bit about “The Brotherhood,” hear the team talk about some of the program’s recent disappointments, and watch the team as it participates in offseason training. 

Listening to Coach Blasi talk, you get the sense he has some of the same philosophical underpinnings guiding UNO Coach Mike Gabinet. 

“My expectation is that every day we come to the rink, every day we do anything — off the ice, on the ice, in the classroom — we do it to the best of our ability and we push ourselves to be better, and we hold ourselves accountable,” says Blasi. 

Fans new to the world of college hockey might not realize Blasi took the RedHawks to eight straight NCAA tournaments, two Frozen Fours, and one national championship game (losing in OT to Boston University in 2009) in the years leading up to the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. 

Outside of the 2014-15 season (when the team made the NCAA tournament), the Miami program hasn’t been above .500 since they began play in the NCHC. 

It illustrates that premier programs — despite a history of success — can fall on hard times. Puck fans always hope it won’t happen to their team, but the “hockey gods” are fickle beings. 

I also know UNO fans feel chapped about former UNO assistant Peter Mannino leaving the program last spring — taking UNO recruits with him. 

The first episode has Blasi talking about the new assistant, and shows Mannino working with the Miami goaltenders. 

While “The Season ‘18” might not dive into all the pieces churning in the Miami program, it is nice to have this behind-the-scenes look at one of our conference foes. It’s also nice to have the opportunity to understand the teams we play a little bit better — and not just judge a program on stats and on-ice exploits. 

To learn more about "The Season ‘18", visit the website. 

The first episode of “The Season ‘18” runs 13 minutes and can be viewed below:

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