Columnists, Sports

The Empty Net: The great unknown

So, the Terriers had a Halloweekend sweep of the University of Massachusetts, providing a pair of exciting wins and good signs from young players.

Still, though, you were measured in your joy because of the opponent — a Hockey East bottom-feeder in recent years.

Now, you’re gearing up for a road double-feature with North Dakota, and you’re very uneasy about it.

BU hockey fans that I’ve spoken with this week, both casual and avid, have expressed a similar message — something to the affect of, “Gee, I don’t know if we can beat North Dakota. I mean, North Dakota…”

Sure, they’re No. 5 in the nation — yay for them. It’s October — I could care less about the polls.

Before the NCAA tournament clash with Minnesota last year I heard the same thing — “We’ll never beat Minnesota. It’s Minnesota.”

When BU beat Denver last year, you would’ve thought they had beaten the ’77 Canadians. People seemed a little too surprised.

BC is No. 1 but I never hear anyone say, “Gee, I don’t think we have a shot against them.”

BU beat them twice on the road last year. Fans were overjoyed, but they weren’t shocked.

Why do these bouts against the western powers frighten BU fans so much?

It’s because you don’t know these teams as well, and people fear what they don’t know.

Remember when Mom would tuck you in when you were four?

You weren’t scared of what was under your bed when the lights were on.

But, as soon as she flipped them off, you’d wet yourself (perhaps literally) with fear.

Once you could no longer see your surroundings, your imagination ran wild.

Anything could be lurking around in there and you wouldn’t know!

That’s why we’re afraid of the dark — it’s the unknown.

Many Yankee fans have told me that they’re “afraid” to go to Fenway Park because of what Red Sox fans might say or do them.

Red Sox fans have expressed the same sentiments about the Bronx.

It’s not that big of a deal. New York or Boston, they’re just people. You’ll be fine.

Things that are foreign or exotic, beyond someone’s scope, tend to scare them.

Eighty percent of Americans live within 50 miles of where they were born.

I left my hometown in New Jersey and went to school in Florida for a year and a half after graduating high school.

The vast majority of my peers remained relatively close to home — staying in New Jersey or the surrounding states. A lot of them were surprised, even wary, of my decision to stray a little farther from the nest.

These are real things that people used to say to me before I left: “What about the alligators?” ”What if you get skin cancer?”

Alligators don’t eat people.

Seriously, they don’t.  Dogs? Yes. People? No.

Just stay away from crocodiles.

And they make sunblock in Florida too.

The anxiety people had about these things was comical to me.

The next year, I left Florida to go to Prague.

There was more anxiety among peers.

Some people were concerned — associating the Czech Republic with the USSR.

Silly, since the Soviet Union had dissolved 20 years earlier.

“What language do they speak? How will you talk to people?” How will you do this, how will you do that? — blah, blah, blah.

Everyone gave their reasons why they wouldn’t go there.

The idea of living in the Czech Republic was just so beyond the scope of a number of people, but the truth is there was nothing to be worried about.

It was the time of my life. There’s no other place I would have rather gone.

Different doesn’t mean scary.

Are these western foes — Minnesota, North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota, Duluth — really scarier than the Hockey East teams we see every week?

Do Hockey East fans have any real reason fear the WCHA?

People love to look at “all-time” data when comparing conferences, but for this discussion I don’t care about what happened in the Jurassic period — we’ll stick to the last five years.

So, since the 2007–08 season, Hockey East teams are 35–38–5 against the WCHA.

Hey, look.  That’s not so bad.  That’s just about even.

And the postseason?

Yes, BU got knocked out by Minnesota last season, but the Gophers were booted by Hockey East teams two times prior to that in the last five seasons.

North Dakota was also knocked out of the championships twice by Hockey East foes during that period.

The last five NCAA Champions?

Three winners from Hockey East. One winner from the WCHA.

So, what is so scary about teams from the west?


Sure, they’re good teams, but you only fear them because they’re less familiar to you.

In fact, they’re probably just as scared of you as you are of them.

North Dakota is a good team, but BU plays quality teams every week. Don’t be so scared of the Sioux.

Don’t fear the unfamiliar or the unknown.

That’s no way to live.

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