Ahead Of WCHA Championship Game, Uncertainty At Bowling Green

Just when it appeared that Chris Bergeron’s Bowling Green Falcons were about to kick the football out of Lucy’s hands, and finally make it to the NCAA Tournament, a Godzilla-sized distraction has reared its ugly head: Bergy’s dream job has spread its wings and now beckons. 

Rico Blasi has been fired at Miami of Ohio, Bergeron’s alma mater, the school Bergeron helped build into a national contender as a recruiter and assistant coach for 10 years. The executive search for Blasi’s replacement begins and ends with Bergeron.

With karmic timing, Bergeron faced the media the same day that his former boss was clearing out his office, the same office that everyone thinks will soon be his. Bergeron, of course, wants only to talk about his current team’s date with destiny in Mankato, the Falcons’ nine-year climb, increment by painful increment, to the NCAA Tournament. That’s all providing that they beat national No. 2 Minnesota State in what is expected to be exquisite drama. But that budding glory story has been pushed to the back burner.

The speculation is more than justified. In 2015, Bergeron went on the record with journo Kevin Gordon about the top job at his alma mater. “I won’t talk about Miami’s head coaching job. Miami University holds a special place because I’m a graduate, I worked there 10 years, and my son was born in Oxford. Anybody who knows me if I said no to that I’d be lying.”

Despite what appears to be a sense of inevitability that Bergeron will bolt BG for Miami, there is no denying the intense loyalty Bergeron has demonstrated to Bowling Green hockey. He accepted the job in 2010 with a leap of faith: he believed the administrators who told him the program would not be relegated to club status—despite persistent rumors otherwise; he believed that Bowling Green’s wealthier NHL alums would foot the bill for much-needed repairs for infrastructure; and he believed in his own abilities, and those of his loyal assistants, to bring in a much-needed talent infusion.

Ultimately, it was Bergeron’s bright personality and dogged determination that was the primary factor in the Falcons’ resurgence. He and his staff rebuilt the once-proud program brick by brick, achieving a winning record by year four, and then reeling off five straight 20-win seasons. 2018-19 was to be the crowning achievement, when Bowling Green finally broke down the NCAA door, a chance to wreak havoc in the national tournament.

Then Tuesday’s news from downstate Ohio, shaking the hockey world and turning the spotlight north to Bowling Green just as they prepare for the biggest game in Bergeron era. It’s like that untouchable girl who denied you a prom date, suddenly flirting with you once you have found your own escort. And now it’s time to head in to the dance. In the words of the J. Geils Band: Love Stinks.

Yeah, the timing stinks, but it’s sports, it’s big business. But it’s also a powerful human-interest story of a man and his family, finally getting that lottery ticket for a chance to return home. It’s one more storyline to a WCHA championship game that was already bursting with drama. Stay tuned.

Author Tim Rappleye just released his latest book: Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review (Mission Point Press, 2018). He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.

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