|Michigan State graduate, David Booth, credits the university for making him the person he is today.
Oh, to go back to those college days, and do it all over again.
Some NHL players of NCAA lore wouldn't change a thing; others just a few.
And some, like Florida Panthers rookie Tanner Glass, waxed profoundly about the impact of his experience at Dartmouth, and what he would have done differently.
On the eve of the New Year, NHL.com asked a contingent of former college players to reflect about their days on campus and what they would do differently if their on-campus experience was now.
"Do it the same way," said one of the NHL's most veteran former college players, Jim Dowd, who is two decades removed from his 1987-91 run at Lake Superior State (Mich.). "I loved every second up there. People were great and I got my degree in four years. It was awesome. (Coach) Jeff Jackson made our guys graduate. I have no regrets. I had a blast."
Ditto for the Panthers' David Booth, who played at Michigan State from 2002-06.
"No, I wouldn't change anything," he said. "I had one of the best times you could have at Michigan State; loved it there. It's a real team there. I think that's why they won the national championship (last season) when no one picked them. Off the ice, I studied hard and graduated in four years, which is hard for a lot of people. A lot of athletes don't do that, so I'm real happy with that. It's made me the person I am today."
Montreal's Chris Higgins would have lengthened his stay at Yale beyond 2001-03.
"I just wish I'd stayed two more years," said Higgins. "That's the only thing I regret. I had a great two years there, and I definitely miss the college experience, my friends and all."
The Flyers' R.J. Umberger left Ohio State after his junior year. He’s made progress toward his degree, but still regrets a few lost opportunities.
"I left after my junior year," said Umberger. "Then my team went on to win the CCHA championship; I could have been part of that. We had a real good team my junior year, but got knocked out in the first round of the NCAA (Tournament). We lost, 1-0, so I still think about ending my career on a bad game. And I'm still trying to get my education finished. I'm about seven or eight courses away."
Higgins’ teammate -- and the NHL’s leading shot blocker -- Mike Komisarek left Michigan early to pursue a pro career with Montreal; also with promises to keep.
"I wish I got the degree," said Komisarek, who bled maize and blue from 2000-02. "When I left about halfway through, I promised my parents I'd get my degree. I'm chipping away at it. At home, my sister has her big Boston College diploma, and I have my (Ann Arbor) Pioneer High School beside it. So that's my challenge now."
The Leafs' high-flying Jason Blake had a lot of great hockey weekends at North Dakota from 1996-99, including winning a national championship in 1997.
"I would have worked more on a few things on the ice, but not much," said Blake. "I enjoyed my time in college. We won league titles every year I was there, and a national championship. We had a lot of fun at North Dakota; ranked No. 1 all year my last two years. What was really neat was we had eight freshmen come in together and we all left together. We were a miniature family."
Blake's teammate, John Pohl, also was part of a miniature family that also won it all in 2002 at Minnesota.
"I probably would have gotten a different major," said Pohl. "I majored in marketing, but I don't know if I'll ever use that now. I wish I had gotten maybe an education degree or something like that. The university has a really good business school and I got in as a freshman, which is tough. So I got a real good and respected degree. But I look back with all good memories."
Panthers defenseman Noah Welch got a degree from Harvard and played in the NCAA Tournament every year from 2001-05. Ask him, however, what he'd like most to have accomplished and he answers quicker than an outlet pass.
"Win a Beanpot -- hands down," said Welch about the coveted tournament each February among Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University. "Nothing else, if I could change one thing. Yes, winning a national championship would be No. 1, I guess. But it's weird; winning the Beanpot is the first thing that comes to my mind."
Hal Gill and Mike Knuble had the same feelings about doing it all over again.
"Looking back on it," said the Leafs' Gill, who played at Providence College from 1993-97, "I took it so seriously the whole week. You get so jacked up and you forget to play. You go out there and want to hit someone; you don't want to mess up. You need to react, but also enjoy it. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, but I talk to my teammates about it now. We were pretty serious about it, pretty focused on our goals. Sometimes I wished we'd enjoyed (the college game) more."
"I probably would have tried to enjoy it more," concurred Knuble, a former Michigan Wolverine from 1991-95. "College is a great time, great friends and great hockey there. I came there as a project, and had to come a long way to learn the pro game."
Mark Stuart and Joe Nieuwendyk would have done a little more learning from a few more people beyond the rink.
"I think get out there a little more within the school and community," said Boston's Stuart who played at Colorado College from 2002-05. "Meet some other people. When you're an athlete, that's your bubble. Those are your buddies. You tend to hang out with them, which is great. I wish I had done a little more outside the team."
"Sometimes," said Nieuwendyk, a special assistant to Panthers General Manager Jacques Martin after a star-studded NHL career and a former standout at Cornell, "I analyze whether it was the right decision to leave after my junior year. And there is some truth to becoming your own little fraternity on the hockey team; you didn't branch out. You meet a lot of people and make ties across the country with alumni, but it would have been nice to have a few more close relationships with people outside of athletics."
Which brings us to Glass – and his most profound reflection and resolution.
"It's a dream-come-true getting here," said the 2007 Dartmouth graduate. "But to go back, I wish I were a religion major. I'm really fascinated by it. I'm not really a religious guy, but a lot of people are and it causes a lot of different conflicts in the world; a lot of pain because of it. A lot of joy, too, but I wish I understood that a little better. That's one thing I really appreciated about Dartmouth. It really opened my eyes to a lot of different people and a lot of different walks of life; a lot of different opinions and philosophies and things like that."
On Campus Clips -- Boston College forward Nathan Gerbe was named Division I College Player of the Month for December by the Hockey Commissioners Association. Gerbe leads the nation in scoring at 1.71 points per game (29 points, 17 games), and produced at 7-9-16 point clip his last four games in December – all on the road. ... Denver freshman Tyler Bozak was named December's Rookie of the Month by the Association. ... The NCAA has begun the process toward the possible dissolution of tie games. A preliminary NCAA study shows two major facts to support the ending of ties by some format. One is the dip in scoring, from 6.28 goals per game in 2002-03, to 5.79 last season, to 5.47 per game so far this season. The other is 17.6 percent of all games so far this year have ended in ties, basically the same over the past six years of the study; it was 17.3 percent in 2002-03. However, the percent of ties broken in overtime this season is running 27.6 percent; in 2002-03, that number was 36.9 percent.
NHL.com Top 10
- Michigan (18-2-0)
- Miami (19-3-0)
- Denver (16-4-0)
- Colorado College (14-6-0)
- Massachusetts (9-3-5)
- Notre Dame (18-6-0)
- Northeastern (10-4-2)
- North Dakota (10-8-1)
- New Hampshire (11-6-1)
- Michigan State (13-5-3)