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Virg Foss commentary: 'The bottom line is this- make it work'

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sports Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

R.H. "Bob" Peters sent me an e-mail the other day telling me that Paul Bunyan is dancing along the shores of Lake Bemidji and Babe the Blue Ox is galloping and howling right along with him.

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The Perfect Storm - Bemidji State men's hockey making it to the Frozen Four for the first time, the groundbreaking Friday for the new events center/hockey arena here and the possibility of membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Beavers all coming in April - is reason enough for Paul and Babe to go bonkers as legendary ex-BSU coach Peters says.

BSU's unexpected trip to the Frozen Four is the feel-good story in college hockey this season, if not all time. A No.16 seed making it the Frozen Four? That never happens. But it did.

Fittingly enough, a local theater group is putting on the play "Cinderella" while the Beavers are slipping on glass skates to glide to the Frozen Four.

Enthusiasm for BSU's hockey program that has won more national titles (13) than any other school has never been higher. The opening of the events center in the fall of 2010 that will hold 4,000 for hockey should signal a bright future and a grand time ahead for BSU pucks.

But will it? Who knows.

The Beavers currently play in the four-team College Hockey America league which will disband after next season, leaving BSU without a league.

And without a league, school officials say they'll have no choice but to drop hockey, the winningest program on campus.

The basics are this: BSU has applied for membership in the WCHA. A vote on its application may be taken at league meetings later this month.

It'll take eight of the 10 WCHA schools voting yes on the Beavers to admit them. From what I've heard, that will be a difficult number to reach.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod has said he has concerns about an 11-team league and the scheduling inequities that would create. He says he's yet to find a schedule for 11 teams that will be fair and balanced in the long run.

That may be true and I understand that.

But to base a vote on that being the overriding criteria is shortsighted. College hockey is a small band of brothers, with 58 schools fielding Division I teams and that number dropping, not growing.

I understand as well there are developments in the mix in college hockey - two or three other programs in financial difficulty and in danger of being dropped - that could play into alignment of teams, not only in the WCHA, but other leagues.

It's absolutely imperative that WCHA look at the big picture when considering Bemidji State and not get hung up on the problems of an 11-team league. BSU coach Tom Serratore said Friday that if the 11th team (BSU) is added, a 12th is sure to follow.

The bottom line is that college hockey must find a way to keep the Bemidji State program alive. And the WCHA, a perfect geographical fit for Bemidji State, is the league that must step up and do that. Not next year, not two years from now. The time is now, at the meetings in Florida the end of the month.

Serratore said Friday that Bemidji State's improbable trip to the Frozen Four serves as inspiration to all the other "mid-major" college hockey programs out there that dreams can and do come true.

Folks here believe in dreams. Heck, they believe in Paul and Babe. They have to believe in miracles, because they are living one right now with the plucky Beavers.

Commissioner McLeod and WCHA faculty representative chairman Sue Jeno of UND were here on Friday. They left impressed. Let's hope they carry that message strong and true to other league schools if a vote takes place on Bemidji's application.

From listening to McLeod and Jeno, I think they fully understand the complexity of issues involving BSU's application to the WCHA.

I'll simplify it for them. The bottom line is this - make it work.

Foss reported on sports for 36 years and covered UND Fighting Sioux hockey for 35 years for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement. Contact him at virgfoss@yahoo.com.

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