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Anastos bails on league

March 27, 2011
Matt Wellens

When the Big Ten finally announced its intentions to sponsor an ice hockey conference, I - like many others in college hockey - was not surprised.

I still had many questions, however, specifically for the leadership at Northern Michigan University and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

From NMU president Les Wong, to head hockey coach Walt Kyle, to acting athletic director Steve Reed, they all shared the same message: NMU was committed to fielding a strong NCAA Division I hockey program in a strong Division I conference like the CCHA.

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Matt Wellens

CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos, on the other hand, could only give us vague, scripted answers that lacked any specifics.

It was a puzzling response from a commissioner who has been nothing but proactive and aggressive in shaping the CCHA the past 13 years.

Then we all got our answer from Mr. Anastos.

Just over 48 hours after the Big Ten announced its hockey conference, Michigan State pulled this season's biggest shocker by naming Anastos as its next head hockey coach to replace the retiring Rick Comley.

So while WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod began talks of a scheduling agreement with the Big Ten in anticipation of the announcement, Anastos was negotiating a contract with his alma mater and future Big Ten member Michigan State.

While schools like NMU and Ferris State were considering their options and swearing allegiances to the CCHA, Anastos was touring the Spartan facilities and packing up his office in downstate Farmington Hills.

And while true Division I schools such as Miami and Notre Dame considered whether or not to stay in a mid-major, leaderless hockey conference, Anastos was schmoozing with the MSU elite and Fox Sports Detroit at Joe Louis Arena.

In fact, the only thing Anastos did to prepare for the Big Ten's arrival was tell Adam Wodon of College Hockey News he had been petitioning college hockey's future overlords to bring Penn State into the CCHA.

Great plan, Tom! Why not wish upon a star as well?

When news first broke of Anastos going to East Lansing early Wednesday afternoon, I thought it was a joke. I was highly skeptical.

How could one of college hockey's premier programs follow legendary coaches like Ron Mason and Comley with a person whose only coaching experience in the last 13 years was at the youth level?

Anastos as head coach of Michigan State? That would be the worst hire ever.

The news became official just before 4 p.m. and while those in green and white celebrated their new hire at Munn Ice Arena, the rest of college hockey blasted MSU for its choice.

Others began blasting Anastos for abandoning the CCHA.

Anastos told Casey Ford on ESPN 970 AM Thursday afternoon that anyone who thought he was running scared from the new challenges facing the CCHA were "naive."

Tom should know, however, that actions speak louder than words.

His only plan to save the CCHA from the Big Ten was to ask the collegiate power conference to be a charitable organization by not forming a league and giving him the Nittany Lions.

When that plan failed, Anastos did nothing and hopped on the first train out of town when MSU athletic director Mark Hollis called about the job on Sunday.

We should all remember the great things Tom did for the league in his 13 years.

He created a great postseason atmosphere and event in Detroit with the CCHA Awards at Fox Theatre and the CCHA Championships at Joe Louis Arena.

The league has unprecedented TV coverage via Fox Sports Detroit, Leafs TV, the NHL Network and even the Big Ten Network.

Unfortunately, you can't blame anyone for keeping his final week as commissioner at the forefront of their minds, because now is when the CCHA needed Tom Anastos the most.

Like Mike Holmgren or Brett Favre walking into Lambeau Field, Mr. Anastos should not expect to be cheered in Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, Fairbanks (Alaska) Big Rapids, Kalamazoo, Bowling Green, Oxford (Miami) or South Bend (Ind.)

The only chant he'll hear begins with a long letter "O."

See ya Tom!

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is



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