Looking up

By Matt Stacionis

With the over 1,000 sports games I have played, covered and watched in my life, memories tend to run rampant.

My favorite: When I was hit by an 80-year-old lady at an NIU hockey club game. True story & the grandmother of one of the Bradley players swung back and let her cane go right into my shoulder.

Grandma decided to take officiating into her own hands, and I didn’t even do anything to deserve it. Her middle-aged daughter also decided that she was going to take on the task of calling the park ranger rent-a-cops into her hands. Four of Rockford’s finest came and showed me exactly why they weren’t real police officers. In the time they escorted me out of the Riverview Ice House, several parking meters probably went overtime with no one there to write a ticket.

The NIU hockey club team has been ripped off by the American College Hockey Association. Despite finishing first in their division, the team has no chance to go to the national tournament. An injustice of American athletics? Oh, believe.

Hockey has been noted as a very political sport, and furthermore, can get even more political with no governing body like the National Collegiate Athletic Association to really control it. There is still a governing body, but it’s not held in as high regard as the NCAA.

In NCAA basketball, if a team wins its conference, it gets an automatic bid into the tournament. Same with women’s basketball. Football teams are given a bowl bid and so on. Club hockey doesn’t think it needs to run that way, though. Even if NIU was to win the playoff and finish first in their division, it wouldn’t get an automatic bid into the tournament.

So in the end, I guess NIU gets the big “Thanks for coming out?”


Of the thousands of games, this was the pinnacle of my athletic career.

Covering sports can take away any ambition to become a fan.

After watching high schoolers and college kids playing basketball, wrestling and swimming five days a week, the word “fan” disappears from your vocabulary. Pro games, which once provided hours of entertainment, are now reduced to quick flips on the remote.

It’s hard to watch something for fun when your job is to analyze it everyday. But then again, the NIU hockey club isn’t exactly ordinary either. Three of my roommates don the cardinal red and black jerseys to play every week. Through them, I started to watch a sport I once thought was reserved for figure skaters with sticks. Through them I got slap shot into the world of hat tricks and board checks. I was also thrown into a world of “Thanks for coming outs” with a mix of “believe.” A group of players who will pay over $600 a year to play just because they want to.

The team, who is coached by captain Mike Smigiel and player Will Thorn’s dads, will start the playoff quest Feb. 16 at Darien, Ill. It’s the only sports team around that is enjoyable for me to watch. I love covering NIU, but I don’t have the same amount of fun that I have at hockey games. It’s not just a simple fact of them being good or winning games, it’s fun because I get to watch my friends out on the ice. Nothing beats cheering for your roommate as he decides to get in a fight with the entire opposing team at once. And even though he decides to cause some sort of ruckus in every game I see, it never gets boring. It’s part of the game and part of the reason it’s fun to watch.

I didn’t want the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls series to end or see this season’s NIU football team to stop playing, but I accepted it when they did. This is something that I really don’t want to end. This is the last run for the majority of the team, and this is probably the last time in my life I will get to be a part of something like this.

Most parents get to become athletes when their kids are able to live out dreams for them. Not me. It’s over with the final whistle and I see the person who will be the best man at my wedding and carry my coffin end his playing days. And those days are coming at a rapid rate.

After some mid-season additions, the team has qualified for the playoffs. Of the biggest mid-season additions came with Billy Karr. Last season’s captain didn’t come out during the first semester for personal reasons, but has returned to guide the Huskies right into the playoff picture. The way things have been going, NIU could have a shot at winning their division. But it won’t really matter when it comes down to it.

Thanks, ACHA.