For all its archives of joyous hockey celebrations, film clips of hysterical college champions creating yard sales of strewn sticks and gear in front of packed arenas, NCAA hockey has an emotional dark side, a corporate protocol that cleaves deep scars onto fragile psyches. The national championship’s losing team must face the media first, minutes after its dreams of glory have been dashed.
For many of the players, the ordeal occurs moments after their college careers have been snuffed out.
While Minnesota Duluth paraded the 2018 NCAA trophy around the Xcel Center ice in St. Paul, the national media marched into Notre Dame’s locker room and discovered hockey’s version of a funeral wake. A pair of seniors were hugging, afraid to tear off their uniforms for a final time. Sophomore Cal Burke (Boxboro, Mass.) sat in disbelief, his red-rimmed eyes fixed in a distant stare.
“I thought we were going to come back,” said Burke, his voice muted by emotion, “even at the last faceoff. It’s frustrating; we couldn’t find, couldn’t get one to bounce in.” After a postseason of miraculous finishes, the luck of the Irish had finally run out in their heartbreaking 2-1 season finale loss to Duluth.