Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New passion discovered at UMass

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Photo courtesy of Cameron MacDonough

Photo courtesy of Cameron McDonough

I have a confession to make.

Yes, you read that right. I’m going to make a confession in my senior column. Now it’s not a major confession by any means, but here I go – before I started covering the Massachusetts hockey team, I didn’t know much about hockey.

There, I said it. It’s been eating at me for a while, too. You see, my family was strictly a baseball family while I was growing up and hockey consumption was nearly nonexistent.

So when I was called into the Collegian office during my junior year after a sports staff meeting by co-Sports Editors Stephen Hewitt and Stephen Sellner and was told that I would be covering the University of Massachusetts hockey team, I was both excited and nervous.

On one hand, this was my big break and I was excited for that. But I also knew that I had a lot of reading to do if I was going to understand the game well enough to write about it. I can’t remember how many times I tried to get my hockey-loving friend, Cameron Larocque, to explain the game to me so I didn’t look like a fool trying to write about it, but I’m sure it was up there.

But a funny thing happened along the way as I slowly started to grasp the game –I’ve come to not only appreciate the game of hockey, but I also now love the sport. I attribute this change in me, which I believe is for the better, completely to my experiences covering the UMass hockey team, which were some of the best experiences of my life.

I got to work with some great people along the way in Nick Canelas and Patrick Strohecker and I got to meet some great hockey media members, like Dick Baker, who helped me and always kept me entertained. Trips to the Hangar after a UMass game became a tradition with the one and only “Dickie Bakes.”

Canelas (who was the best partner in crime you could ask for throughout my two years of covering the team), Strohecker and I had the time of our lives covering the team my junior year and we got to travel to arenas that we had never seen before. I will always remember heading back from a trip to Northeastern when Strohecker, whose fandom is legendary for its confusing nature, all of a sudden threw his hands up in the air and started slamming his car’s ceiling while he was driving and screaming with joy. His Florida State had just beaten a 6-6 Georgia Tech team in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game after all.

I also learned some very important things: never ask Minutemen coach John Micheletto about must-wins (sorry Harry, I couldn’t help myself), Strohecker was right about the NHL Lockout, never be in a car with Canelas when there is traffic and UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin has the greatest accent in the world.

I think the best way to describe how much I enjoyed covering the UMass hockey team, though, came this season. I had some seniority at the Collegian and essentially could have picked any sports team to cover in the winter. It was a pretty safe bet that the UMass men’s basketball team was going to be a contender for the NCAA Tournament and that I could cover a huge story like that. But I only entertained that thought for a second or so, because I knew I wanted to cover the hockey team again. As it turned out, basketball did make the tournament, but I still wouldn’t have picked them over hockey.

One of the main reasons is because of the comfort I felt in talking with the players and coaches. It’s safe to say that anyone who has covered hockey knows what I mean about how great of an interview hockey players are.

But at the end of the day, my work wouldn’t have meant much if there weren’t great UMass hockey fans like Fear the Triangle and Fight Mass to read my work. And I couldn’t have gotten the access that I did without the great Jillian Jakuba and all of her hard work.

It finally hit me when I went to the Mullins Center for Senior Day that it was my Senior Day as well. But those emotions quickly turned into all smiles once I started remembering all of the great memories I had covering this team.

I’m so thankful to the Collegian for having this opportunity and now I can say that I am finally a hockey fan at heart.

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.

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