Breaking the Ice

There were only 18.9 seconds left in the game, and the game between MSU and Boston College was tied, 1-1. Just seconds before, Justin Abdelkader had rung a shot off the post, but this time, he made sure not to miss. Abdelkader snapped the tie with his game-winning goal. But this was no ordinary game: it was the National Championship, the Spartans’ first in 21 years. It had been a rocky 2007 season for the Spartans, starting off as a lightly regarded No. 3 seed, and yet, they fought their way to the top.
Once the hockey season ended, however, the media attention did not. The MSU hockey team found themselves to be extra busy during the off-season, including a parade, a rally and even a trip to the White House. “We were all extremely busy, but with good things,” assistant coach Brian Renfrew said. Besides being the best collegiate hockey team in the nation, the Spartans went about their off-time the same as any other year. “The younger guys worked on their strength and speed, while other guys worked on their weaknesses,” Renfrew said.
So where does that leave the 2007 National Champions now? Nearly 11 months after the biggest win of their careers, and in the midst of their 2008 season, the MSU hockey team is back to business as usual.
[rick] During the pre-season poll event held at the Joe Louis Arena on Sept. 25, Michigan State was picked to finish first in the media poll, but just barely missed the top spot in the coaches’ poll. Even though they had the edge in first place votes, Miami beat out MSU for the top spot by one point. “We thought we’d be picked high in the polls – we were a year ago, too,” said Head Coach Rick Comley in a CCHA media press conference. “I think it shows that there is a level of respect for the players we have on our roster and the success that we enjoyed last year.”
Coming into the 2007-2008 season, the team knew that they would be the number one target on every team’s schedule. “We have to progress every game this season, and once we get to the tournament, we have to know that it is four games,” Bryan Lerg said at the beginning of the year.
For the first game of the year, the defending National Champs went to North Dakota to play the top-ranked Fighting Sioux, in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The Spartans unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of 11,738 “hostile” fans. MSU dropped its first season opener in three years by a score of 6-0. “It was actually a good and needed game for us,” Renfrew said. “After that game, our team was able to settle down and get back to playing Spartan hockey.”
Along with the new season, a new set of captains was called to lead the team. Senior forward Bryan Lerg was voted captain by his teammates. “It’s a great honor to be named captain, but it comes with a lot of responsibility,” Lerg said in an interview with Spartan Sports Podcasts. “You have to take control of the team on and off the ice, and you always have to be there to talk to the younger guys.” Along with Bryan, junior goaltender Jeff Lerg, junior forward Justin Abdelkader, junior forward Tim Kennedy, senior forward Chris Mueller and senior defenseman Daniel Vukovic were voted as alternate captains.
With strong captains and the pride of a national title, it is no surprise the hockey team is being considered a possible contender to repeat as national champs by the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and many people in the hockey community. Fans that closely follow Spartan hockey know that the players coming back have more than enough talent to compete with the top teams in the nation. But the real question is whether the hockey team has earned the respect from the MSU student body. Is MSU now known as more than just a basketball school; one that also has a hockey powerhouse? “I don’t think there will ever be a team that overshadows the basketball team, but after winning the national championship, you can tell that the hockey team is becoming a more followed sport here on campus,” business freshman Stephen Grabowski said.
Along with the season’s additional hype, higher expectations and added pressure, higher attendance numbers usually accompany teams who win their respective championship title. As for MSU, the attendance numbers for games played at Munn Arena are pretty similar to last season. That could be because the Spartans just simply have loyal fans that come to see their team play whether they are national champions or not. However, there have been some noticeable changes at the team’s home games. “The parking lot is packed for almost every home game,” marketing freshman Phil Khozein said. “And you can tell that people are more hyped up because they are coming to the games early. It looks like the amount of cars for a basketball game.”
Although the ticket sales for home games have remained pretty constant, a great way to tell how much respect MSU has gained from other teams around the country is to compare rival teams’ attendance numbers when they play MSU, and their average home attendance numbers. So far in the season, when the Spartans come to town, the home team sells about 342 more tickets than usual. When MSU went to Ferris State to play, there was about an 850-person increase. And when MSU went up against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, the game was sold out.
[stephen] Maybe the biggest measurement of how Spartan hockey has grown can been seen in the two biggest games of the year. On Jan. 25 and 26, the Spartans took on their archrival, the Wolverines of U-M. At the time, U-M was the top-ranked team in the country, and MSU was No. 5. “I think that because the two teams were so highly ranked, and so well-known across the country, it just added to the rivalry and made for two great games,” pre-med freshman Ian Hinton said. The Spartans took the first game at Ann Arbor in front of a sold-out crowd, winning for the first time at Yost Ice Arena in more than two years. In that game, Jeff Lerg posted a 26-save shutout, the eighth of his career.
The following night, the rivals met in East Lansing, in a game that proves MSU Hockey is finally getting the respect that it deserves. “In my five years of coaching at MSU, I have never seen Munn the way it was when we played U-M,” Coach Renfrew said. “Not only was it a sold-out game, but the fans were so heavily involved in the game.” Munn Ice Arena is listed as holding 6,470 seats, yet for the Michigan game, the number of people who attended the games was 7,072, more than 500 people over its full capacity, according to post-game coverage from the MSU Athletic site.
According to Renfrew, the first half of the season went pretty much as expected. “We beat the teams who we thought we were going to beat, and we lost to the tougher teams on our schedule.” He went on to say the only game the team felt as though they should have won was one of their two losses to Miami of Ohio. On back-to-back nights, the top-ranked Red Hawks came to East Lansing and won both games. The first game they lost by a score of 4-2, in a night in which the top-ranked Spartan power play went 0-8. The next night, the Spartans didn’t fare any better, as they dropped the game 3-1. Although the two losses to Miami were big, the mood in the locker room was still positive. “That’s the one thing about hockey; you play a lot of games and how you do down the stretch is much more important,” Comley said during a post-game interview.
The national championship title has the chance to change the face of MSU hockey in a way that has not been done in many years. MSU has always been known as a basketball school. With names such as Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves and Drew Neitzel, the team has established itself as a consistently winning program. But the success of the hockey program has started to rival this dominant sport. The last season in which the hockey team finished with a losing record was the 1990-1991 season. They have, in the past 25 years, won seven conference championships (2nd all-time in CCHA), 10 tournament championships and two National Championships. They have been to eight Frozen Fours (one of the final rounds of the NCAA Tournament) and lead the CCHA in all-time wins. And with the 2007 title under their belts, the hockey team’s campus support should start to measure up to their success.

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Dear Lou Anna

Dear Lou Anna,
My days are spent like most other college freshmen. I wake up, head to the cafeteria, go to classes, Facebook for a while: you know, the usual. And after long hours of taking notes, listening to rambling lectures and walking or biking around campus, it comes time to hit the weights. Where do I turn? Like most other students, I head to the convenient IM gyms on campus.
Intramural facilities on MSU’s campus, such as IM West, IM East and IM Circle, can be used by students, alumni and faculty. The buildings are often used for lifting weights, competing in various sports and staying active. And over the past two years, there have been vast upgrades at MSU’s IM buildings: the gyms have been completely repainted, and the weight rooms refurnished. But the questions remain. Are these changes enough? Are the MSU gyms worth the annual membership costs?
It seems as though many students have noticed and appreciated the remodeling of the IM Sports facilities, L.A., so props to putting funds toward revamps. The $5.5 million renovation at IM West has bought state-of-the-art equipment, which is up to par with any gym in the area. The cardiovascular machines – treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair climbers – received major face-lifts. The majority of the cardio machines now have TV screens and attached DVD players. Because of the transformations the building has undergone, more students than ever are now using the IM West facility.
As great as all of this is, L.A., there are also many downfalls to the new building. The students who buy a membership are now paying off the $5.5 million that was sunk in to remodeling. Now, this doesn’t seem quite right. The IM West building is obviously nice, but the costs seem to be too much for the average student. Currently, the minimum cost to use the IM West weight room is $135, and the deluxe package, which includes access to the pools and various classes, is another $50. As for MSU’s faithful alumni, they have to pay anywhere from $360-$390 for two semesters. The MSU faculty pays $160, and that is for the two fitness rooms only. “The price compared to [any other gym in the area] is actually pretty fair,” no-preference freshman Pat Guysky said. “But the IM buildings should be free because of the amount of tuition that we pay.”
L.A., with the cost of tuition being at an all-time high, and things not getting any better, the main “knock” on the IM weight rooms is they are too costly. MSU is one of the only universities in Michigan that charges for their IM facilities. At both Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, the cost of a 12-month membership to their recreation centers (the equivalent of our IM buildings) is free for students and staff. MSU, CMU and GVSU all rely heavily on state funding. Therefore, if these other institutions can offer free weight rooms and recreation centers, MSU should do the same.
At Western Michigan, students who go to school full-time do not pay anything for their recreation buildings. And in Bronco country, part-time students only have to pay $37.50. Now, that is a steal, L.A.: this is nearly four times cheaper than the cost at Michigan State for a full-time student.
Even U-M, our arch-nemesis, has a much better plan. Instead of paying for their recreational buildings, and then paying for the IM sports and other things, U-M students pay a “student activity fee,” one catch-all payment. Instead of paying $185 to use the fitness building, and then paying $55 for IM football and $35 for IM basketball, they just pay a one-time fee. Keep in mind, L.A., this fee is still cheaper than the price we pay here for just the IM weight room. [josh]
Another downfall with the IM buildings is the wait times for equipment. Even though the weight room at the IM West building is fairly large, due to the hours that they post, it is overcrowded at most times. “I think that the weight room is nice, but it is always busy,” secondary education sophomore Josh Wrinkle said. “There isn’t a time that you go in there and don’t wait for a machine.” The last thing most students want to deal with when they are working out is waiting in a line to use a treadmill, but this seems to constantly be the case at MSU’s IM gym facilities. A main reason for this is the facilities’ limited hours.
The weight room is open until 11 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, and until 12 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday. On Sundays, IM West is only open until 9 p.m. The hours at IM East are slightly different than at IM West – they are an hour shorter every day except for Thursday and Friday. And on Saturdays at IM East, they are only open until 8 p.m.
The IM Circle building stays open the least amount of hours. On Saturday and Sunday, it is only open until 4:30 p.m. IM Circle stays open until 10 p.m. for the rest of the week, but closes early on Friday, at 8 p.m. So to put this in perspective, the students who pay the same amount of money to use the IM East building aren’t getting the same hours. On the plus side, there is just one cost for the IM West and East buildings, and students can use either facility with a membership purchase.
The IM sports facilities should do a better job of catering to the busy lifestyles of most college students, offering more flexible hours. U-M’s recreation center, for example, is open past midnight. Many competing gyms in the area are open 24 hours, which cuts down on overcrowding.
If students don’t have the means or motivation to venture to local East Lansing and Lansing workout facilities, many choose to avoid the IM buildings by working out in the dorms. Many dorms have their own weight rooms in the basements of the buildings. Although these weight rooms are usually lower in quality, some people choose to use them over the IM facilities. Pre-nursing freshman Loren Evola thinks if the IM West would cut its membership cost, she would work out there. “I just settle for the weight room that the dorm has, because it is a lot cheaper,” she said.
Along with the building being very crowded, IM West has a few other downfalls. “The building is really hot and very humid,” biology sophomore Mike Armstrong said. Because of the tremendous turnout each day, the weight room is smothering hot – most weight room users would probably agree that a few fans in different areas of the room wouldn’t hurt.
[marx]L.A. I understand that MSU has faced financial stresses over the past year, and I recognize there should be some sort of a fee in place to use these IM buildings. Because of all of the work that has been put into rooms, and all the money that has been embalmed in the equipment, the university needs to make that up in some way. But instead of charging an enormous amount of money just to use the building, MSU should take a look around and borrow some ideas from other schools in the state, such as paying a one-time student activity fee.
Overall, the newly remodeled IM West building is equipped with the best of the best, yet compared to other universities, it has some of the worst prices. “A few fans and better hours would improve the weight room a ton,” accounting freshman Kevin Jasonowicz said. As a freshman coming into MSU, I love the IM West building. I enjoy the weight room, and all of its amenities. Compared to gyms around the area, it is adequate in terms of available equipment. Yet, I am beginning to see how expensive college is, L.A., and the extra cost to work out doesn’t help.
If the hours could be more flexible to suit the needs of an everyday MSU student, and the cost could fit better into a college student’s budget, then the remodeling that took place two years ago would finally be complete.

Fit N. Broke

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Soccer vs. Futbol

The press has been hyping it up for weeks, and now it is finally here – one of the biggest games of the year, between two rival teams. The pubs and bars fill up hours before the starting whistle blows, as the fans indulge in their pre-game ritual. Meanwhile, the athletes of both teams sit anxiously in their respective locker rooms, awaiting their coach’s pep talk. As each player pulls his jersey over his head, a sense of pride for his team envelops him. Tensions are high, and each team is bidding for the title of victor. No, it’s not the MSU versus University of Michigan football game. Instead, it’s the most popular sport in the world: soccer. [Soc1]
Soccer is the one sport that unites the rest of the world, just like baseball or football unites American sports fans. Even though the world has adopted soccer (or football as it’s commonly known internationally) as its global pastime, the U.S. has never really caught on. Many Americans believe soccer is not physical enough, it’s too slow and not enough points are scored. “Compared to American football, soccer just isn’t physical enough for most people,” supply chain junior Derek Dycio said. “To be honest, most people, including myself, just feel like the game is too slow (paced) and simply doesn’t have enough action.”
[dyci]However, in recent years, soccer has become increasingly popular around the U.S. While it has yet to reach the status of “America’s most popular sport,” soccer is beginning to be a factor in professional, high school and college athletics. So how does MSU fit in?
Heading into their 51st season, the MSU men’s soccer team is looking to build off the previous season’s success. After finishing the 2006 year with a 10-7-2 record, the Spartans are geared up for a promising 2007 campaign. Already, the team has made history. In his 31st year as the Spartans’ head coach, Joe Baum has captured his 300th career victory.
Meanwhile, the women’s soccer team is returning 10 of 11 starters this year, having only lost one player. Head coach and MSU alumnus Tom Saxton is in his 16th year. The women’s soccer program is heading into their 21st season, and is looking to become the third team in MSU women’s soccer history to become an NCAA Championship qualifier.
Currently the teams play at Old College Field, and they continuously fill up the bleachers. “The seating that they have is always full – it is hard to find a seat,” criminal justice sophomore Dan Whelan said. Whelan is also a part of the club soccer team, and he believes that because of the recruiting classes MSU brings in, the soccer team is increasing in talent. This recruiting, in turn, continues to fuel an increase in attendance numbers. Another factor in the increase of the MSU soccer teams’ exposure is the newly created Big Ten Network. This station is devoted to Big Ten sports, including soccer, and the network just recently struck a deal with WideOpenWest (WOW) cable company. The extra coverage is making an impact on the popularity in the collegiate level.
And the university seems to be paying more attention to soccer at MSU as well, aiding its increase in popularity. Next season, the teams will be playing on a new field, about 60 yards away from the current field. “The building of the field will start next year, as soon as the weather breaks,” Baum said. “The stadium is being funded by private contributions.” One of those contributors is red-shirt junior Doug DeMartin’s uncle. He has contributed nearly $750,000. “The contributions were made in memory of Doug’s grandfather, and therefore the stadium will be called the DeMartin Soccer Stadium,” Baum said.
In comparison to last season, the average number of fans at men’s soccer games is right on track with last year’s numbers. The one main difference, however, is that MSU has yet to play a ranked team this season, which will naturally bring in more fans. This is not quite the case for the women’s team. Their attendance numbers are noticeably higher than last season. There is one common theme for both teams – they both expect their attendance to go up and for fans to catch on and begin to follow soccer here at MSU. [Soc2]
Similarly to MSU, attendance at professional soccer games around the country is on the rise. Major League Soccer (MLS) debuted in the U.S. in 1996, featuring 10 teams. In its inaugural season, the league experienced promising attendance numbers, but in seasons following, the numbers dwindled. However, in 2006, the MLS had the highest attendance numbers to date.
As a former high school soccer player and super fan, accounting junior Dave Lucio explained, “Soccer is getting more exposure through things such as YouTube. People can see big time players making big time plays.” He added players such as Ronaldinho, a soccer player hailing from Brazil, have transformed the game, and because of players like him, soccer is broadening its horizons.
Other students agree that famous names and faces, like French player Thierry Henry, help promote the sport abroad and, more recently, at home. “I feel that soccer is big in Europe because of all the famous faces that are connected to it,” business freshman Matthew Golling said. “The United States likes baseball so much because of all the famous names such as Alex Rodriguez. Soccer has guys like that, too, but people just don’t bother to find out who they are.”
The MLS is hoping to change that with their newest recruit from Europe, David Beckham. Americans have been closely following his hairstyles and are now taking notice of his powerful athleticism. He began his soccer career with Manchester United, moved to Real Madrid, and now plays for the L.A. Galaxy. Due to well-known stars such as Beckham, American’s may not have to wait too long to see soccer in the U.S. reach a different level. There is no doubt that because of the hype that Beckham has brought to the sport, the 2007 season will see some of the highest attendance numbers yet. “With David Beckham coming to the MLS, it just shows how the sport is growing,” said Spartan soccer player Spencer Thompson, a no-preference junior. However, Beckham suffered a sprained right knee in a game on Aug. 30, sidelining him for at least a month. This injury may cause interest to dwindle, but just for now; soccer fans will undoubtedly be eagerly anticipating his highly-publicized return.
Another contributing factor to the increasing popularity of professional soccer in the U.S. and at MSU was the 2006 World Cup. Because it was televised on ESPN, many people that had never seen a professional game were exposed to soccer, especially on its highest plateau.
[golling]There are several factors, however, that continue to restrict soccer’s growth in the U.S., which, in turn, affects its recognition at MSU. For instance, if a fan wishes to watch a premier league (European League) game, or any other league besides the MLS, they would have to pay extra to get the Fox Sports World channel. This puts soccer at a real disadvantage when it competes against other more accessible sports. “If soccer were to air on a station such as ESPN like baseball or football does, then more people would begin to learn of the big names that the sport has to offer,” accounting junior Chris Zilli said. “When people can relate faces to the sport, then they will take more of an interest in the sport.”
Beyond accessibility, many Americans simply don’t understand the sport of soccer, especially at the international level, because it is set up quite differently abroad. The Premier League is based mainly on a point system. A win counts as three points, a tie one, and a loss zero. In any given league, the bottom three teams in the standings will move down a league (a lesser skilled league), and the top three will then move up. This system allows for the creation of new rivalries, and every game is immensely competitive.
This kind of competition will be prevalent right here on campus, as the men’s and women’s soccer teams move into Big Ten play and teams will seek vengeance for past losses and the right to claim victory over lesser opponents. The Big Ten Network will certainly help exposure of the game locally, and many soccer devotees will have easy access to MSU match-ups as the season goes on. As interest in the sport grows, major television networks may take a cue from the desires of soccer fans and begin broadcasting more international matches, in addition to more MLS games. [Soc3]
With attendance numbers up all over the world, including here in the U.S. and at MSU, soccer is becoming more than just a game, but a lifestyle. Fans across the world live for the game. “I believe that the next generation will be the ones to continue playing soccer, and therefore increase the level of popularity in the U.S.” Golling said. Whether it is a European, MLS, college or simply a youth team, one thing is for sure – the world of soccer is slowly expanding and gaining popularity throughout the world. It seems as though “the beautiful game,” as many call it, is here to stay.

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