Set your DVR: Onward to Victory: Notre Dame Hockey


This blog admittedly doesn’t give other Notre Dame sports their fair shake. But there’s a soft spot in my heart for Notre Dame hockey. You’d think someone that rode the bench on the baseball team and covers Notre Dame football for a living would have his allegiances set, but through four years of college, there was no bigger Irish hockey fan than me, and the guys on the team were some of my best friends, people I still talk and email on a daily basis.

Before ringing in the New Year takes over tonight, do yourself a favor and tune into Versus for a wonderful hour of television chronicling the dawning of the new era of Notre Dame hockey: the opening of the Compton Family Ice Arena. It’s a terrific inside look spearheaded by the team at Fighting Irish Digital Media, and gives you an overview on the surprisingly rich history of Notre Dame hockey, while also giving you a behind the scenes look at the opening game of the arena, the Irish’s showdown with No. 3 ranked Boston College — a game so good, the documentary’s producers likely couldn’t believe there luck.

The Irish officially moved from their rink in the JACC to the Compton Family Ice Arena this season, fulfilling a promise made to over a decades worth of Irish hockey recruits and bringing one of the nation’s best college hockey programs out of the dark ages. There’s often talk about “the Notre Dame experience.” Well, playing hockey in the JACC was definitely not the Notre Dame experience, it was one of college hockey’s absolute worst facilities. Growing up and playing hockey in a state like Minnesota, I was shocked when I came to watch my friends play in their first college game — in a rink with temporary bleachers in a personality-less setting that served as the worst home ice advantage in the CCHA. I played every game of my high school career in a better rink.

Over a decade later, walking into the Compton Ice Arena before the Boston College game and taking my seat along the red line, I couldn’t help but think about all of those games that I’d attended back at the old JACC, winning meal money during a cheesy trivia contest in front of a half-empty crowd or freely sliding between bleachers to say hi to friends and family. “Every player that played here over the years, dreamt of it being at this stage,” former coach Dave Poulin said during the show. “And believe me, now everybody knows that Notre Dame has hockey.”

I won’t give away anything else about the show tonight, but one comment struck me as I watched an advanced copy. It was from head coach Jeff Jackson, as he addressed his team as they packed up their things and made the walk over to their new, state-of-the-art, home.

“There’s been a lot of special moments here. But I want us all to remember the humility of this place,” Jackson told his players. “Yeah, we’re all anxious to get outta here. But never lose sight of what we’ve had here. It’s had a lot of special people in this room and a lot of special celebrations.”

As the team gathered around the interlocking ND on the dingy old locker room’s floor, I couldn’t help think of the hundreds of guys that have packed into that cramped room, playing hockey with a chip on their shoulder knowing they were playing in the shabbiest rink in college hockey while representing one of the country’s proudest schools. As you’ll see when you get your first look at the new rink, that problem has been permanently remedied.

Here’s a look at the trailer for Onward to Victory: Notre Dame Hockey, airing tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET on Versus.


Rosters set for Blue-Gold game (and Live-blog tomorrow!)


The rosters for the annual Blue-Gold game have been set, with the Blue and Gold teams squaring off with semi-balanced rosters.

Quarterbacking the Blue will be Dayne Crist and Everett Golson. Running the show for the Gold offense will be Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. Skill players for the Blue will be Theo Riddick, TJ Jones, Cierre Wood, Tyler Eifert and John Goodman. Skill players for the Gold will be Deion Walker, Robby Toma, Jonas Gray, Mike Ragone and Jake Golic.

While the offensive line will be split in half and playing for both teams, the defense on both side has some impact players.

Key defenders on the Blue roster:

Gary Gray
Manti Te’o (likely only in spirit)
Aaron Lynch
Harrison Smith
Jamoris Slaughter
Austin Collinsworth
Carlo Calabrese
Steve Filer
Prince Shembo
Kapron Lewis-Moore
Hafis Williams

For the Gold Team:

Ishaq Williams
Bennett Jackson
Kendall Moore
Louis Nix III
Robert Blanton
Danny Spond
Zeke Motta
Darius Fleming
Dan Fox
Ethan Johnson
Kona Schwenke
Brandon Newman

I can assure you that any talk Brian Kelly may have had about seventy degree and sunny skies was wishful thinking. Spring may bring plenty of beautiful sunny days to South Bend, but Friday wasn’t one of them and Saturday doesn’t appear to be either. (There’s a better than 50 percent chance that the rain will just keep going through Saturday afternoon.)

Either way, South Bend is filling up for a much-needed football Saturday and if you aren’t able to catch the game in person you’ve got no excuse not to catch the broadcast on Versus, live at 2 p.m. ET.

Irish Memories: Ryan Leahy and the Game of the Century


Next up on your St. Patrick’s Day retrospective is a look back at the epic 1993 battle against Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. And who better to look back than a man who’s spent a lifetime following the Fighting Irish.

Ryan Leahy was an offensive lineman on the ’93 squad and a two-time captain of the Irish in 1994 and 1995. He also comes from a family steeped in Irish tradition, as a third generation football player, each playing in their own version of the “Game of the Century.”

His grandfather, the legendary Frank Leahy played and coached for Notre Dame, guiding the Irish in the 1946 Army vs. Notre Dame game that was billed the Game of the Century. Leahy won four national championships, compiled a ridiculous 107-13-9 record as a head coach, a winning percentage that’s the second best in the history of college football, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970. His father James graduated from Notre Dame in 1969, and was a member of the 1966 National Championship team, taking part in another Game of the Century, the 10-10 tie against Michigan State. In his first game back from injury, Ryan had the opportunity to take part in the 1993 game, filling out a unique family trilogy that’s got to be unparalleled in all of sports.

Here are some of Ryan’s memories of that fateful Saturday in early November 1993, when the No. 2 Irish beat the No. 1 Seminoles 31-24.

“It was mayhem. There were RVs showing up on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week and just parking. You could feel the excitement start happening. As players you were more worried about keeping the task at hand, getting your school work done and that’s never going to let off. There were kids printing t-shirts, handing out hats. For me, the game was a big deal as I was coming off a knee injury and that was my first game back…

“The entire team had a sense of winning. We can beat anybody. We’re going to beat up anybody that we’re going to line up against. Holtz, in terms of preparation was the best big game coach I’ve ever seen. But he stays on top of the same things. We’re not going to change things depending on who we play. He went over the game plan. He’s got an outlined board and that’s the exact same thing we did for every game. By the time we got up to that game we didn’t change…

“Tickets were in very short supply. My dad and my grandfather came back. My brother who played baseball and wasn’t able to sign up for student tickets couldn’t get a seat. I only got two tickets, but I knew one of the ushers. So I talked to him. He knew my brother, knew we were honest and above board. So he let my brother sit down on the field..

“We were really close and the best part is that after the game, in all the mayhem he saw me and a couple of my teammates that were all his friends. He came up to the locker room with us and he sang the fight song. Winning a big game like that there’s nothing better than screaming the fight son at the top of your lungs. Father Reilly looked at me and said, ‘What’s he doing here?’ I just told him, ‘That’s okay father, he knows the fight song.'”

Special thanks to Ryan for relaying such a great story, all from right next to the trading desk at William Blair in Chicago, where he now works in fixed income and municipal bonds.

Irish Memories: Reggie Brooks and the Snow Bowl


Considering today is St. Patrick’s Day and our friends at Versus are running a triple-header marathon this evening to celebrate, I caught up with former Irish All-American Reggie Brooks, who was fairly instrumental in one of the greatest Notre Dame football games ever, the 1992 last-second victory over Penn State in the game now known as The Snow Bowl.

As one of the ten finalists for the most memorable moments on NBC, the 1992 Snow Bowl easily goes down as one of the iconic memories of modern Irish lore, with Irish Impact posters still adorning dorm and bedroom walls almost 20 years later.

Reggie, now working for Notre Dame athletics as a manager with the Monogram Club and in Football Alumni Relations, was kind enough to talk with me and take a look back at the Irish’s 17-16 win over Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions, which was capped off by his two-point conversion diving catch — on a play ad libbed by Lou Holtz on the sideline — vaulting the Irish to victory.

Here’s more from Reggie on what he remembers:

“The biggest thing was that final drive. People lock in on that touchdown pass to Jerome and that two-point play to me. But look at the 4th down play, where Derrick Mayes, a freshman, takes the ball away from the defense to keep the drive going…

“We had a bunch of guys committed to winning and that play, by a freshman, was huge. I can’t speak highly enough of Derrick, all the catches he made and the records he set while he was at Notre Dame.

“But there was a calmness of the group on that drive. There was no panic in that drive. This is what we do. We go out and make plays. Some way, some how. It was never about winning the game, it was about winning our last game as seniors, especially considering the last two senior classes didn’t win their last home games…

“Did I think this game would be a classic? I was just glad to get off the field. It was mass hysteria and we pretty much got mobbed after the game by a whole bunch of people, there wasn’t anything called risk management back then. I was just thankful that Irv Smith was able to pull people off of me.”

A few years ago before the Irish were set to play Penn State, Reggie returned to that corner of the endzone with Jack Nolan of and they did a great feature on the play, the game, and what led up to Reggie’s great catch. It’s well worth the time and watching the video.

Stuff the ballot box: 10 Memorable Moments


There’s a little less than 24 hours until Notre Dame football takes over Versus on St. Patrick’s Day. Right now, around 2,000 of you have placed your votes for the 10 most memorable moments of Notre Dame football on NBC. I hardly bet I’m giving anything away by telling you there’s a runaway favorite, but I’m actually surprised by how little love a certain iconic game is getting. (Hint: They shot scenes for a certain football movie during this matchup.)

Anyway — consider this your last call to stuff the ballot box and a final reminder to tune into Versus tomorrow night for six hours of Notre Dame football.

(While you might not enjoy watching the ’05 game, we can all commiserate during the last five minutes and wonder openly if that hypothetical moneyline parlay you hypothetically placed on the Irish and the under and didn’t get to hypothetically cash in thanks to Reggie Bush is now worth something since that football game didn’t technically happen anymore. Anyway, moving on…)

Hosted by Liam McHugh, with an exclusive interview with head coach Brian Kelly, here are the three games that’ll be airing.

1992 “Snow Bowl” vs. Penn State
2005 “Bush Push” vs. USC
1993 No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Notre Dame
(They can’t all be happy memories…)

So take your chance now and vote for the ten of the most memorable moments of Notre Dame on NBC. Here they are in chronological order, posed to you for an all-important vote.

1992 vs. Penn State — The Snow BowlVodpod videos no longer available. 

1993 vs. Florida State — The Game of the CenturyVodpod videos no longer available. 

1996 vs. Purdue — Allen Rossum’s 99-yard kickoff return to start the gameVodpod videos no longer available. 

1996 vs. Rutgers — Lou Holtz’s last home gameVodpod videos no longer available. 

1998 vs. LSU — The Irish launch a massive comebackVodpod videos no longer available. 

1999 vs. USC — Another comeback and a Southern Cal winning streak dashedVodpod videos no longer available. 

2000 vs. Air Force — Blocked FG leads to Joey Getherall’s game-winning OT touchdown 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2005 vs. USC — The Bush Push

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2006 vs. UCLA — Last-minute touchdown caps an Irish win
Vodpod videos no longer available.
2010 vs. Utah — Students storm the field in a cathartic win over a ranked Utah team
Vodpod videos no longer available.