Mementos Of A Memorable Michigan State Homecoming

To put the final touches on my spectacular weekend at Michigan State’s Homecoming, here are some photos I took at the epic football game Saturday and at the Spartans’ hockey loss to Ohio State Friday night.

The football photos are out of sequence because I’m sure you’ll want to see the end of the game pix first. (If you’d like to read my thoughts on MSU’s miracle win over Wisconsin,click here.)

That scrum at the far end of the field is the MSU team celebrating with the student section after the replay review determined that the Spartans had scored the game-winning touchdown on a Hail Mary pass play.

An oblique view of the scoreboard in the north end zone, where the game-winning play took place, shows the final score: Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31.

And hours earlier... the Spartan Marching Band... still one of the best bands in the land... but, fortunately, no longer the best reason to go to an MSU football game.

Gene Washington, star wide receiver on the national champion 1965-66 Michigan State football teams, at a pre-game ceremony retiring his uniform number. Washington is surrounded by teammates from the end of the last great era of Spartan football. They got to witness a game that might signal the rise of the next great era.

The opening kickoff -- the beginning of a long and amazing night of football.

MSU on offense in early game action.

And... the halftime show.

First period hockey action between MSU and Ohio State.

Sparty skates. Who knew?

The game was tied, 2-2, going into the third period, but Ohio State broke it open to win, 5-2, including an empty-net goal near the end.


The Lake Shore View: Icing Munn Arena?

Kind of an icky morning in Chicago. But at least I’m not sitting in that traffic jam on southbound Lake Shore Drive. Yet.

Got some news last night that gave me a minor jolt as the longtime Michigan State sports fanatic that I am. According to Tim Staudt, who has been covering MSU sports in the Lansing area for about four decades, the school is thinking about replacing Munn Arena, where our ice hockey team has played since 1974. He wrote…

“New rink? It’s my sense that MSU officials would like to build a new hockey arena in the near future. Studies are ongoing over the feasability of such a decision, with likely sites either Munn Field or across Harrison Road from the Breslin Center, where the old state police post sits. The current Munn Arena is 36 years old and could be transformed into a useful arena for sports like volleyball and wrestling. The estimated cost for needed restoration is $12-15 million. In an age when college hockey is about to reinvent itself, MSU officials tend to believe that the time may be right to go brand new. It would require some fundraising and, while nothing is a done deal, that option seems at this point to be the leader.”

I received this clip by email late last night from Gary Mescher, a former campus radio sports team colleague who was one of the first people I met at Michigan State and has been a close friend ever since. I responded that I would talk to him soon, because I was going to go pour myself a double and then cry myself to sleep.

College hockey is a big deal in the Upper Midwest, and I was (and am) a huge fan of the Spartan skaters. I had season tickets all four years — including my freshman year when the team still played at tiny and ancient Demostration Hall. And while hockey was not one of the primary sports I covered for campus radio, I did have the privilege of broadcasting a few games from the press box in the then-brand new and dazzling arena.

I saw some of the best hockey games of my life there. MSU, led by offensive dynamos such as Steve Colp and Tom Ross, had one of the best teams in the nation. Unfortunately, we played in the same league as other top-tier teams, including Minnesota (coached by Herb Brooks, who just a few years later would lead the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team to the Miracle on Ice over the Soviet Union), Wisconsin and, ugh, Michigan.

So the Spartan team never got to the NCAA championships during my time there. They did, however, bring championship trophies home to Munn Arena in 1986 and 2007, to go with the crown the team won before my time, in 1966.

In the years since it opened, MSU has groomed roughly five dozen players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League, including current stars such as Duncan Keith — who had a remarkable year two seasons ago in which he won a gold medal playing for Canada’s Olympic hockey team, the Stanley Cup playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, and the award as the NHL’s defenseman of the year — and Ryan Miller, the goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres, who was named most valuable players in those 2010 Olympics even though his team lost to Canada in overtime in the final game.

I caught the third period of MSU’s early season game against Maine last year when I was out for Homecoming, and hope to see a whole game this time when Ohio State’s visit coincides with Homecoming this October. It still seems like a perfectly pleasant place to watch hockey, and the memories came flooding back.

I realize that sports arena are deemed obsolete more quickly these days than they used to be, and I just hope that if Michigan State decides to build a new hockey facility, it is grand and serves the community well for at least as many years as Munn Arena has.

In the meantime, please don’t rush that feasibility study, okay?

In our daily competitive climatology feature, Washington won yesterday to build a little two-day winning streak — and cut Chicago’s overall lead to 35-12 — in the Cooler on the Lake Shore Chicago vs. D.C. Weather Smackdown. According to Weather Underground, the two cities had almost identical temperatures Sunday, with Chicago O’Hare reporting a high of 65 and low of 55, while Washington Reagan National had a high of 68 and a low of 55. But steady showers that gave Chicago .43 of an inch of rain tipped the balance to D.C., which was dry.

The forecasts for the rest of the day, from

Chicago: Through 8 p.m.: Decreasing clouds with temperatures steady or falling to near 65. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph… Tonight… Mostly clear. Low 53. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph… Tuesday… Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High around 75. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.

Washington: Through 9pm: Decreasing cloudiness with temperatures steady or falling to near 67. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph… Tonight… Cloudy skies with a few showers after midnight. Low 63. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%… Tuesday… Rain showers in the morning with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. High 76. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.