Did You Know: The Clarkson Hockey program has amassed 10,001 goals since the 1920-21 season?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Interview with Bob Ahlfeld

We had the chance to chat with the voice of Clarkson Hockey, Bob Ahlfeld. Bob gives us his thoughts on Clarkson, travel destinations and the state of college hockey in general. Plus a prediction on the biggest football game of the year in Columbia, Missouri.

CHF: How and when did you get your big break into Clarkson hockey?

Bob Ahlfeld: My predecessor at 99 Hits, Chris Kenyon, accepted a job in the East Coast Hockey League in Louisiana in mid September of 1996. I was out of work at the time, and they needed a sports director not only for Clarkson games but for all the other sports they cover. I had some experience doing college basketball in Missouri, where I went to college, the University of Missouri, and had done some St. Lawrence games as well. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. That happens all too often in this business. Coach Morris and I were friends as well, so that helped. Hard to believe, but it'll be my 11th. Wow, the time does fly.

CHF: What memory really sticks out for you over the past 10 years?

Bob Ahlfeld: There are plenty, and not all of them on the ice. Probably the way the 1999 ECAC Championship team did the "Hava Nagila" around the Whitelaw Trophy in Lake Placid is something I remember still. That team wasn't the best I covered, but obviously had what it took to win the regular season and tournament.

CHF: What was the best team, in your opinion?

Bob Ahlfeld: Overall, the first year I did the radio, captained by Todd White, JF Houle and Matt Pagnutti. I really believe, especially now that I"ve been around the block a few times, that that team would have won the whole thing were it not for a rough first period against Colorado College. Many people point to that teams failure to win in Lake Placid (2-1 loss to Cornell in the Finals), but I really thought that loss would shake them up a bit and make them play better, especially with the bye that was in place. I can still see Todd White's head down near the faceoff circle with under 5 minutes to go after he beat the CC goaltender and the puck hit each post and laid on the goal line for the potential game tying goal. But, "them's the breaks" as they say.

CHF: You've traveled all over the ECAC and the country, what is your favorite arena in the ECAC, and outside the ECAC?

Bob Ahlfeld: I joke that I have a March time share there given our recent history, but there really isn't much to hate about Lynah Rink. The atmosphere is something I wish we could replicate at Cheel, but, the buildings are so much different structurally that it would be impossible. I just get a real charge out of how in to it the crowd is, much like Kansas University's Allen Field House in basketball. Don't get me wrong, Cheel is beautiful in so many ways, and not just broadcasting view and facilities, but everywhere. Lynah just, in my opinion, has it all. I'm curious to see how the upgrades will change it. Outside the league, it's hard because we go for one trip and then we move on. Having been to UNH a few times, though, sticks out as you ask this question. Wisconsin is also gorgeous, but you can see how different that league is from ours in those arenas.

CHF: Do you think that arena size plays a big factor in helping out the western schools land the big recruits?

Bob Ahlfeld: I don't think it hurts, but when you talk about some of those schools, they have other amenities in their arena and on their campuses that schools like Clarkson don't have. Those huge schools (BCS schools like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State) can bring a recruit to a football game and kind of awe them with the size factor. But the WCHA in general does a great job of marketing ALL of their schools. Denver, CC, St. Cloud etc, aren't in the BCS, but in hockey they are dominant. No question in my mind that the WCHA is the best league up and down the lineup. Can schools in the East compete?? Sure. Cornell is as good as anybody recently and was one bounce away from beating last years National Champion. Right now though, the West probably offers the best competition night in and night out.

CHF: I don't want to get too philosophical, but there has been a growing gap between the "haves" and "have nots" in college hockey. Do you think we will see a George Mason type scenario play out in the next 5 years?

Bob Ahlfeld: I think it can happen more often in hockey than in basketball. Remember, Bemidji St. very much could have won in overtime against Denver two years ago, and Holy Cross knocked off Minnesota. The current structure of college hockey assures, in my opinion, that schools aren't left behind. But, if the Big Ten schools ever decided to make one conference, I think the desparity would become greater, because then Michigan Tech, Duluth, Denver, Miami, BGSU would be left holding the bag.

CHF: Looking at Clarkson, there are mixed expectations floating around the hockey internet world. Do you see this as a watershed year for the team?

Bob Ahlfeld: I think they're ready to have a great year. One of the things that maybe has hurt Clarkson was the tremendous run in 03-04, because, let's face it, that wasn't the best team in the league, or even the second best overall. Getting to Albany, at least, would make it a great year in my opinion. I think they've learned some lessons, player wise, about the dangers of trying to win on the road.

CHF: Switching gears a little bit, you've covered the women's team since the beginning. What are your thoughts on the squad? Can they make some noise nationally?

Bob Ahlfeld: Yes, but it will be a bit tougher this season because all of the Olympians are back, not only in the ECACHL but all over the country. The women's team defense is really second to none, and with some touch around the net, yes, they can make some noise. For them, I think home ice would be a great first step. Because of conflicts, I only get to see about six or seven games, and we'll cover at least three, but I'm excited for Coach Seeley and his team.

CHF: Bartell said this in a previous interview "I swear his proclamation of a Clarkson goal has sent more people skidding off the road in the North Country than black ice and deer combined." Would you care to rebut?

Bob Ahlfeld: I haven't been sued yet, nor have I heard from an insurance company, so given those facts, it's only hearsay at this point. You asked about memories, and I really have to say that having Josh is really helpful, along with Gary Mikel when Josh isn't able to make it. No rebuttal, just glad to hear people enjoy our work.

CHF: What road trip are you looking forward to the most this year? Wisconsin in the dead of winter?

Bob Ahlfeld: Yes, very much so. Clarkson will play them in the opening round, and that will be a really good test of where they are at the season's midpoint. Plus, Madison is fun any time of the year.

CHF: Would you recommend this trip to the fan base? And following that up, did you find yourself caught up in Bonesaw mania?

Bob Ahlfeld: Most definitely, but get your tickets early for that. As far as bonesaw goes, it took me most of the year to figure out what was going on, showing my advancing age, I guess. Even though I didn't understand at first, I thought it was great because it got the students and the team really fired up.

CHF: That seems to be the consensus on the Bonesaw phenomenon.

Bob Ahlfeld: Hopefully it will continue and the students will be even better this year.

CHF: What is your favorite hockey cliche?

Bob Ahlfeld: We're getting the bounces. Because, let's face it, when you get them, you win.

CHF: Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts?

Bob Ahlfeld: Depends on what side of the border I happen to be on. Remember, I sell advertising as well. And I like free coffee.

CHF: Probably the best answer we've had for that question. November 4th, in Lincoln, can Missouri take 2 in a row over the Huskers?

Bob Ahlfeld: Wow, did you ever do your homework. I haven't looked at the football schedule, Yankee baseball is not just a passion, it's an obsession, but, yes, they can make it two in a row. Chase Daniel will throw for 300 and schuck the Huskers.

CHF: Any closing statements or questions for us?

Bob Ahlfeld: No questions, but thanks for the chance. BTW, our stations' Web Site, www.coololdies.us, will have daily Cool Clarkson Updates during the hockey season with George Roll and myself. We'll start them the week before the season begins. Looking forward to seeing you guys on the road. And any time you need me, I'll be here.

CHF: Thanks, we probably will be in touch with you during the season. Thanks for your time.

Bob Ahlfeld: Let's Go Tech!!!


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