From the Desk of Athletic Director Glenn Hofmann
This is the third edition of "From the AD's Desk" for 2010-11
Another fall sports season is complete at Merrimack, and as most of our student-athletes get a chance to return home for a couple of days to spend time with families (and gear up for finals), here in the athletic department after a day off on Thursday we are getting ready to host a hockey battle between two nationally ranked teams – Boston College and Merrimack.
It’s the first time in school history that our hockey team has been ranked nationally in Division I, and it represents yet another achievement for head coach Mark Dennehy, who we recently signed to a six-year contract extension. While we are only in November of this season I do think it is worth celebrating this achievement because it should represent a source of pride for all Merrimack students, faculty, staff and alumni and in particular those alumni who played hockey.
As we are all stuffing ourselves with turkey we should feel good that the small Catholic school north of Boston is proving that it can play with the big boys who have bigger budgets and bigger buildings than us! I’ll take our partially renovated rink (the completion will come after Christmas) and its loud crowd noise and student section that now regularly arrives 30 minutes prior to faceoff. Attendance is up 18% overall and student attendance is up over 30%.
But hockey isn’t the only sport that has been ranked nationally this year at Merrimack. Our women’s soccer team was ranked as high as 16th in some polls this year before finishing with the program’s best record since 2003. Incidentally congratulations are in order for head coach Gabe Mejail. Gabe won the 400th game of his coaching career which ranks him number one in all of Division II women’s soccer. The men’s soccer team was also nationally ranked for a time this year, and the men’s basketball team earned a national ranking of 22 in preseason polls. National rankings are important not only to our teams and department, but also to the school for they provide an opportunity to get the Merrimack name out into areas that might not necessarily know about our school.
In my December “Message from the A.D.”, I will update you on all of the analysis we do after each sports season and try to give you some insight into some of the future plans (and there are many!) that are in store for Merrimack Athletics.
And while all of the analysis is useful and helpful in reaching our four department goals sometimes it is stories that are often untold that have the most meaning. We have many such stories throughout our department, but I did think it would be appropriate to share the following story with you given that it is Thanksgiving.
It was the Boston University men’s hockey game at Lawler before a charged -p student section and sold out crowd that provides the backdrop. As is always the case some members of our hockey team were “healthy scratches”, meaning they would not suit up and play that night. It’s a tough situation for the coach and players – who wouldn’t want to play at home especially in a big game before a big crowd.
After the game I was up in the Blue Line Club and one of the healthy scratches, senior John Jamieson, had a huge smile on his face. He was with a young man named Adam, who is mentally challenged. John spent the entire night with Adam taking him around the Blue Line Club. As it turns out John spent the entire game with Adam. As big as Adam’s smile was, John’s was even bigger. John met Adam through the Best Buddies program, which is a nationwide program that provides mentorship for mentally challenged individuals. John, like many other student-athletes in the department, spends countless hours making Adam’s life better. Sure enough the next weekend there was John with Adam again in the Blue Line Club. I’ve always felt we have a terrific group of people that decided to enroll at Merrimack and also play sports. That feeling proved again to be true that night in the Blue Line Club.
Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families and don’t forget our Skate with Santa (and Merrimack hockey players) is this Friday after the 4:00 p.m. game against Boston College.