Online message boards lead to an interesting day

As I’ve said before, hockey is one of my favorite sports to watch, and college is where I really fell in love with it.   But being a fan involves trials.  And I’m not just talking about taking a trip to Minnesota to see your team lose by a combined 15-0 over two games.  Or seeing a referee cost you advancement in the NCAA tournament against Michigan.  Some of these trials are of the actual criminal variety.  Or something like that.

Watching college hockey within the confines of Starr Rink was a lot of fun, but we didn’t just stop there.  Our pep band would travel to a few away games a year, or sometimes I would go on my own or with a smaller group of friends.  We also didn’t watch the sport in a vacuum.  I was involved in a few online message boards.  I had my own sports page that I was running, which was mostly Colgate fans, alumni and parents.  And then there was US College hockey online. (  This was the cream of the crop of online message boards, there was a large variety of knowledgeable, passionate fans.  You had some trolls, and other people who were not as friendly, but for the most part, people interacted with fans from other schools on a civil and friendly manner.  While it was just fans doing the posting, the message board was followed by players, coaches, and other people involved in hockey.  I once got a drunk e-mail from a player from Dartmouth after I posted that they would not have a chance at winning the league title.   Well, either drunk, or they have really low standards for the writing skills of their hockey players.

In the spring semester of my senior year, our team was making their north country swing, heading up to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.   The Knights and the Saints were traditionally two of the best teams in the league, and they both played in nice, but very different arenas.  I made the trip by myself, and stayed with some friends of mine who went to college in Potsdam.

The first night at SLU was the one that got interesting, here’s the recap.


CANTON, N.Y. — Colgate sophomore wing Paul  Kelley snapped a rising shot just under the crossbar with 1:46 to go in  regulation to lift the Raiders to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over St.  Lawrence Friday night.

Colgate, now 7-13-0 overall and 5-6-0, trailed 2-1 going into the third  period, but outscored the Saints in the final 20 minutes to snap a three-game  St. Lawrence unbeaten streak. The Saints fell to 6-14-0 overall and 4-6-0 in the  ECAC.

After a scoreless first period, defensemen took over the offense early in the  second. Colgate sophomore blueliner Rob Brown scored his fifth goal of the  season on a slapshot from the blue line that went in off Saint goalie Kevin  Ackley’s glove at 1:46, but the Saints stormed back to take a 2-1 lead with  goals 46 seconds apart by a pair of freshmen defensemen.

Jim Hakewill scored his second of the year from right in front off Rich  Peverley’s feed from behind the net at 6:53, and Jimmy Ball converted Russ  Bartlett’s pass for his second goal of the year on a shot from the top of the  faceoff circle at 7:39.

Freshman Adam Mitchell tied the game for the Raiders 7:14 into the third  period when he chipped the puck off the side of the net and poked it past Ackley  on a Colgate power play, but the Saints went ahead again at 12:39 when senior  defenseman Ray DiLauro put a slapshot past Colgate goalie David Cann and into  the upper corner of the net for his first goal of the year.

Colgate tied it at 3-3 when sophomore Kyle Doyle batted a rebound out of the  air and past Ackley for his fourth of the season at 15:02 and Kelley scored the  game winner just 3:12 later.

The Saints had an apparent tying goal waved off with 14.5 seconds to go when  the referee said that he blew his whistle before the puck went into the net.

Cann finished with 32 saves for Colgate while Ackley had 35 stops for the  Saints.

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As you can see, it was a passionate, intense game, with a fair bit of drama.  Colgate came from behind to win, SLU had a late goal waved off, SLU got a rare loss at home to Colgate.   The message boards were going wild.  And one Saint Lawrence fan took it too far.  He placed the blame squarely on the referee, accusing him of being a rotten official, and even went as far as to suggest he would be physically harmed the next time he showed up on campus.

This did not go unnoticed, the assigner for the league watched the post, and perhaps the official did too.  I’m not really sure, but evidently he was supposed to referee another game at SLU that season, and was taken off the game.  And because he was threatened, the police became involved.

Now, as my team won, I had no reason to be upset with the officials, and I had a pretty good view of the offensive call, and it looked like he had it right.  And since I was at the game, I was talking to this guy on the message boards, sharing my viewpoint.  People from the State Troopers office tried to track down the poster, but weren’t having success.  I think he actually lived in Canada.  I actually didn’t know him aside from our few conversations online.  But because I was talking to him, and about the game, and because I had some identifying details on my USCHO profile, they came looking for me.  I’m not entirely sure if I was somehow a suspect, or they just thought I could find the guy they were looking for.  Either way, my day was taking an interesting turn, and I would be about the last to find out about it.

My profile said I was the guy who ran around the hockey rink with the big Colgate flag.  So the cops first stop was our athletic director, former Washington Redskin, and current Packers GM, Mark Murphy.  I had worked with Mark on some projects, so when the cops showed up asking who was the kid who ran around with the flag, they were able to give them my name.  Now at this point, I don’t know if they told them what it was about, but they made it clear they wanted to talk to me.  And when someone from the department asked if I was in trouble, they didn’t say no.

Name in hand, the Trooper headed to the school administration, saying they were looking for me.  So they got my course schedule and housing information.  So now the Trooper was in my residence hall, asking my neighbors if they see me, to give them a call.  Again, from how he said it, it could lead my hallmates to believe that I might be in a lot of trouble, and none of them have seen me all day.  I was only in two classes that semester, both with the same professor, so she got the next visit.  She let them know the reason I wasn’t on campus was because I was student teaching, just a few miles up the road.

So, up until this point I have no clue any of this is going on.  The police are talking to all these people I know and work with, they are getting the impression that I am in some sort of trouble, and now they are showing up at the school I’m working at, and ask the principal if I could speak with the Trooper.

Once the trooper finally got to talk to me, it was a fairly quick and easy conversation.  We went online, I showed him my part of the conversation.  I don’t know if I was being investigated, but once the trooper saw what I had posted, it was clear that I had supported the official, and didn’t say anything that would indicate he had done a poor job, or suggest he should be hurt.  I also was able to explain that I didn’t actually know the person I was talking to, and had no idea what his real name was or where he lived.  Which was all true.  So the officer thanked me for my time, and he was on his way.  After I saw him out the door, I turned around and was met with a stern-faced principal, who wanted to know why the police were interested in one of his new student teachers.

And then I got back to campus.  And that’s when the full scope of the Troopers activities that day hit me.  I had a lot of phone calls to return, people stopping by my room that evening, e-mails to send.  It was a busy evening.  I’m still not sure how the situation played out afterwards, or exactly why they were looking for me to begin with.   I suppose there is a lesson here about being careful what you say online.  Or be careful what the people you are talking to say online.  And on that note, I just wanted to conclude by saying that I fully support all law enforcement and government officials!  You guys rock.


About garybraham

I grew up in Mahopac NY, studied geology at Colgate University. I've moved to Queensbury NY to teach HS earth science. I also coach soccer and wrestling, take pictures at local sporting events, and am the Scoutmaster for the Glens Falls ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My wife and I will be married 5 years this October, and we have a two and a half year old little girl.
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