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View From Section U: Hockey Q&A With UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford

Hockey season is getting close!  There are just 58 days until the Minutemen take the ice against the Colorado College Tigers in Colorado Springs.  So with recruiting, NHL free agency, and the draft in the rearview it’s time to shift focus to the upcoming season.  The biggest offseason story for UMass hockey was the early departure of Frank Vatrano and Brandon Montour.  But probably the second biggest story affecting hockey was the appointment of Ryan Bamford to the role of Athletic Director in March.  It seems fitting then to kick off 2015-16 preview coverage on FTT with some first hand thoughts on the program from the new AD himself.

It seems fair to say that Bamford’s hiring and initial tenure as AD has been met with near  universal praise from the UMass community. It was his first-hand experience with power conference football that made him a logical choice to lead UMass athletics as the school tries to solidify its place in FBS-level football.  But at the same time he’s gone out of his way to show his commitment to the success of all sports at UMass, most recently demonstrated by his announcement that the school will fund Cost of Attendance for all student-athletes wearing the maroon and white.  While his thoughts and plans for football and men’s basketball have been well covered by media outlets like the Gazette, Masslive, and Maroon Musket, I’m happy to provide his first in-depth comments on UMass hockey.  So with that, here are the results of the Q&A Bamford provided to FTT:

Fear The Triangle:  At Georgia Tech one of your responsibilities was to oversee the Yellow Jacket baseball program.  Baseball there is obviously behind football and basketball in terms of profile, but is still a revenue generating sport playing in one of the top conferences in the country.  Hockey is in a parallel role at UMass.  Is there anything you learned from your time with Georgia Tech and ACC baseball that you think is applicable to UMass hockey?

Athletic Director Ryan Bamford:  The comparison is a tough one for me because I would argue that hockey at a school like UMass has the opportunity to do as much for the national profile of the University as any of our 21 sport offerings. I don’t know that I could say the same for baseball at GT even as successful as Coach Hall’s teams have been. Like GT baseball in the ACC, we play hockey in the best league in the country in a hockey-hungry region. I think those ingredients allow UMass Hockey to garner significant attention on its own with some level of sustained success.

FTT:  Now over 100 days into your tenure in Amherst you’ve likely had the chance to make a high level assessment of the different programs.  What are your thoughts on the state of the UMass hockey program?

RB:  I think we have the chance to be better than our history has shown. I like our current stable of coaches and student-athletes. They have already shown me they want to compete and improve upon last season. I don’t know that I can make a “high level assessment” because I haven’t even seen us skate yet but I like the attitude of the guys in our program heading in to the 2015-16 season.

FTT:  Head Coach John Micheletto is 33 games under .500 during his career at UMass and is coming off a last place finish in Hockey East.  Going into his fourth year should this coming season be seen as a “must-win” campaign for him?  Is there a specific win total or finish in the standings that would indicate to you that the program is on track for success?

RB:  I learned early on in my administrative career that “must-win” scenarios are the most ridiculous clichés in sports, especially as they relate to coaches. My job is to understand what John and his staff feel are important to their success and help them secure those resources. John now has his entire roster filled by student-athletes he recruited. That is not insignificant in a sport like hockey. I want to see us improve and I want to ensure that the young men in the program have every chance, on the ice and off, to compete and find success.

FTT:  Football, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, and men’s lacrosse have all recently completed or will soon complete facility upgrades at UMass.  Meanwhile a majority of Hockey East programs have undertaken significant projects in recent years to keep up in the highly competitive league.   Are there any facility projects currently planned for the men’s hockey program?

RB:  Yes. We will take some of our locker room space in the Mullins Center — vacated by the basketball programs — and re-purpose the space for our hockey program. They will have a dedicated theatre area and potentially more academic/lounge space for the team. We are also re-configuring our Mullins Center office space to give all of our assistant hockey coaches individual offices which they have not had in the past. In addition, we are working closely with John and his staff to update and re-brand team and office spaces as needed. Most of the work will be completed this fall and should place us in the upper echelon of Hockey East in terms of team-specific facility space.

FTT:  The Mullins Center has long had a poor reputation for its game atmosphere.  The common complaints are that the cavernous arena can make even a decent crowd seems quiet or, when the team does in fact draw large crowds, the student behavior detracts from other fans’ enjoyments.  Are there any plans to enhance the Mullins hockey experience this coming season?

RB:  There are some game entertainment things we have discussed that are in the works but too early to announce here. Our goal is to market the program, win games and fill the Mullins Center. If we need to worry about student behavior around large crowds, that’s a problem we will gladly manage. I think we have the chance to make the Mullins Center an enjoyable venue for our fans in both basketball and hockey.

FTT:  Is there anything else UMass fans should know about their new AD in relation to your plans and hopes for the hockey program?

RB:  I really love college hockey and I know we can be successful here at UMass. I want to do everything I can to put my arms around our program and help it grow. It may take us some time to move up the Hockey East standings but I am very optimistic about our future.

FTT:  Hopefully in addition to evaluating UMass sports programs you’ve had time to evaluate some of the other highlights of Amherst.  Along those lines, what’s your favorite Hangar wing flavor and/or Antonio’s slice so far?

RB:  I’m a traditional wing guy so medium sauce is my go-to. As for pizza, you really can’t go wrong at Antonio’s. Pizza is my favorite food so I have to limit myself to one visit a week or else I need to ramp up my long runs around town!

First off, thank you to the athletic director for taking the time to answer the questions regarding the hockey program.  I’m thrilled to be able to relay his answers onto you, the UMass hockey fans.  And I would hope his answers would be seen positively.  A lot of people who follow the program have long made the argument that the hockey program arguably represents the best chance for UMass to capture a national championship and his first answer seems very much in that same vein of thinking.

I thought his response to my question regarding the status of Coach Micheletto was very fair.  Obviously he was not going to set an arbitrary threshold of success for the team this year.  But since the topic is one that’s on the minds of most fans I felt I owed it to everyone to ask the question.  At the end of the day I hope the question means nothing because this talented freshman class combine with the returning veterans to to wreck Hockey East.

The topic of the upgrades to Mullins specifically for hockey is very exciting.  These investments were rumored even before Bamford arrived, but there was never a formal acknowledgement of them.  To hear the changes are not only in the works but are likely to completed in time for the beginning of the season is really encouraging and should help with recruiting as well as assist in cementing current team unity by having such beneficial shared space.

Maybe the only conerning response was the Hangar sauce answer.  As a Jet Fuel fan who likes to dabble in Afterburner while complimenting it all with Spicy Teriyaki and Garlic Parmesan, the medium sauce answer might open him up to some scrutiny.  But then again, hopefully Bamford is in Amherst for the long haul and will have plenty of time to warm up to the more adventurous flavors.

So I’m calling that the official unofficial kick-off to Fear The Triangle coverage of the 2015-16 Massachusetts hockey season.  The players will start trickling into town in the coming weeks, if they aren’t there already.  Recruits are already starting to settle into their new hometowns to start the next step of their pre-UMass careers in the USHL or the host of other junior leagues across North America.  The ice is down in the practice rink.

In the coming weeks I have plans to post all I can to get fans ready for this edition of the Minutemen.  I won’t be posting daily yet, but you will see an uptick in writing. You’ll see some number crunching, a closer look at the recruits and potential expectations of the incomers, a reacquainting with the returners, and a look at what has transpired around the rest of Hockey East during the Summer swelter.

Welcome to Year 7 of Fear The Triangle, a blog for UMass hockey fans by a UMass hockey fan.  Go UMass!

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8 Comments

  1. Exclusives with the AD…you’re such a stud.

    Good questions (and good answers). Thanks for all you bring to us.

    Go UMass!

    Like

  2. Well done, FTT! I think Mssr. Bamford said more about the hockey program in this piece than the previous dolt said in his entire tenure. Kudos to him!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. RDW

     /  August 13, 2015

    Off season has commenced, Coach Mick E. Mouse requested that all players go on at least a one mile walk this week. He may cut back on next week’s walk, as to give the guys a rest. That is what they did last year.

    Like

  4. Flag Guy

     /  August 13, 2015

    7 years… feels like just yesterday when I read my first FTT article

    Like

  5. Anonymous

     /  August 26, 2015

    FTT, I’m thrilled you called him out on the wing flavors….traditional? Medium? You mean, buffalo style red alert? On the bone? Or boneless? Ranch or Bleu? Every Umass AD, since 1999, has embraced us. We have become family. I expect nothing less from Ryan. It’s simply tradition at this point. #lightthelamp #firethemusket #HPGforlife #buff1-5

    Like

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