The Frozen Four, the NCAA Division-I Hockey Championships held in Columbus, Ohio April 7-9, was an experience different from all other sports championships, collegiate or professional.
The Denver Pioneers won their second consecutive national championship, beating the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota 4-1. Yet, the score of the game, nor the scores of the two earlier semifinal games, were the story of the tournament. The stories of the tournament were the players and the teams, stories that illustrate why college sports, and college hockey, are unparalleled in the sporting world.
Hockey, in its own right, is a very unique sport; it takes an unusual level of dedication to play, even from a young age. Players are forced to be awake at ungodly hours just to practice. To succeed at a high level, almost every hockey player has to leave home to further pursue their dream of continuing their career past high school, creating a team unity and chemistry not found in any other sport.
It is this uniqueness that contributed to the essence of the Frozen Four.
The North Dakota Fighting Sioux were of course yearning to hoist the trophy at the end of the weekend, yet their focus was not the glory and immortality that would come with the win. Instead, they were striving to win the championship for a fallen teammate, Robbie Bina, who had weeks earlier broken a vertebrate his neck in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Conference Championships.
Now this alone is not unique to hockey or the Frozen Four; many sports team will dedicate a championship run to a fallen comrade. The unique part about the "win one for Robbie" mantra was that EVERY team in the Frozen Four had his number on their helmets or jerseys, and every player involved in the tournament was trying to win for Bina. Rarely, if ever, do athletes who are heading into the biggest games of their lives, want to win a championship for a member of another team. At the Frozen Four, they did.
The same day, the leading scorer of the Colorado College Tigers skated onto the ice for the biggest game of his life. Junior Marty Sertich did not skate around the ice, banging his stick and punching his teammates in the head to get "focused" for the game. Sertich instead chose to skate to the glass, wave at his family, and give a big smile to his mother, who is terminally ill with cancer. Sertich realized that although the game was incredibly important, his mother's and family's presence was the true victory of the day.
The next day, Sertich received the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the best player in college hockey. In any sport, winning the most outstanding player award assures the individual a level of immortality, and in some, like football and basketball, a huge pay raise for the next year. For Sertich, who will assuredly play professional hockey in the NHL if it ever revives itself, there were no thoughts of dollar signs or signing bonuses, no thank yous to future agents. When he was given the award, Sertich simply took hold of the trophy, humbly thanked his teammates and turned towards his mother, and said,
"Thank you for everything, I love you so much."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is college sports at its finest– no money and no arrogance — only a love for the game and a love for the people who make it possible. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Frozen Four.
Jake Blumberg is a freshman technical journalism and political science double major.