U hockey players not fazed by distractions

Michael Rand

More than three weeks after Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog was suspended for two games because he gave former player Chris McAlpine $500, the issue is still alive.
Media reports — particularly an investigative article which ran in Sunday’s Star Tribune — and an internal investigation of the hockey program (which should conclude within a week) have kept the public’s focus on the Gophers divided between the team on the ice and off it.
But one place where there doesn’t appear to be split thinking is the hockey locker room.
Regarding potential controversy, the prevailing sentiment inside Mariucci Arena is: We’re not paying attention.
“It’s not one of our big topics of conversation. Guys don’t really talk about it,” said Gophers junior Jason Godbout. “We’ve got other things to worry about, like our next opponent.”
So far, the team’s focus has been pretty sharp. The Gophers are 4-2 since the McAlpine incident became public, including a sweep of previously unbeaten North Dakota. If anything, some players think the turmoil could be a rallying point.
“I suppose it could be a distraction, but we’re not going to let that happen,” Godbout said. “He’s been honest with us, and I trust him. If he tells us there’s nothing else to worry about, then I believe him.”
Sophomore Mike Anderson added, “It isn’t any different in the locker room now than at any other time. We’re not letting something in the past affect our future.”
Anderson said he thinks the majority of hockey fans have remained on the program’s side.
“Whenever I talk to someone, it’s not like, ‘Geez, what’s going to happen to Woog.’ It’s always like, ‘Geez, that’s too bad. He tried to do something good,'” Anderson said. “The public is probably down on the NCAA, not us.”
The person most affected by the controversy in past weeks is Woog himself. He said he hasn’t been bothered professionally, but the Star Tribune article hurt him personally.
“I’m a sensitive guy. It’s obviously personally disturbing,” he said. “Innuendoes can sometimes hurt as much as actuality.”
As for his team, Woog said: “They were disgusted by the calls made and the questions asked, but they don’t seem affected (as players) by this.”
AD defends actions
In a recent interview, men’s associate athletics director Jeff Schemmel refuted the suggestion that the department knew about the McAlpine situation earlier than it was announced.
In reference to the Star Tribune article, Schemmel said, “The misconception is that there were rumors not acted upon.”
Schemmel also said that despite the fact that there is “no question we were misled and lied to” about the McAlpine incident, the University will not amend its compliance policy in the future.
“Our feeling is that if it’s an indictment of our system, then we’re guilty of trusting our coaching staff,” he said. “Our system would fail if it wasn’t based on trust.”