Longform

Power Ploys

Page 8 of 9

The success of Arizona's hockey program would seem to merit a jump to the NCAA level, but Golembiewski doubts that such a move is on the horizon. The biggest stumbling block for both UA and ASU is Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law barring sex discrimination in education.

Title IX has often been used as a litigation tool to enforce equal opportunities for athletic scholarships on college campuses. Many universities are so fearful of court-imposed punishments that they'll ax men's sports programs simply to narrow the gap between male and female scholarships. No matter how much income Arizona's hockey team generates, the university simply doesn't have room for any more male scholarships.

"When you talk about NCAA Division I, you're talking about Title IX -- gender equality," Golembiewski says. "Last I heard, we had 103 more male athletes than female athletes on campus. So, it's politics."

If the NCAA isn't in the Icecats' immediate future, Golembiewski seems more than satisfied with his position of power in the ACHA. In fact, Golembiewski's detractors hint that he's got the entire ACHA in his back pocket. They also moan that he butters up the referees, and that his teams always seem to get more than their share of the calls.

Maybe it's pure jealousy of Golembiewski's record -- which includes more than 400 wins, 18 straight playoff appearances and a 1985 national championship -- but Volcan and his team argue that the refs in Tucson always find a way to ensure an Icecat win. He also credits player talent, not coaching skill, with Golembiewski's success.

"I don't respect Leo's record as a coach at all," Volcan says. "Leo's not liked, even by his own players. They don't like playing for him."

Volcan's antipathy for Golembiewski reaches a peak during ASU's regular-season finale on Saturday, February 19. It's Fan Night for the Icecats. Before the game, Golembiewski takes center-ice and thanks the fans for their support. He also singles out the referees for thanks, a gesture that Volcan considers inappropriate.

Once again, the Ice Devils fall behind early in the game, and once again they battle back. Early in the third period, Arizona widens its lead to 5-2, and the game looks like a done deal, but ASU quickly cuts the lead to 5-4. With 8:35 left in the game, Matt Barclay and Arizona left wing Ed Carfora -- described by Barclay as "the biggest cheap-shot artist on their team" -- start slugging each other after Carfora clubs Barclay in the neck.

"One of our guys hit him," Barclay says. "I've been watching him cheap-shot our guys all year, and it was really pissing me off. So I skated by to tell him that this wasn't going to be the last hit of the game on him. Before I got two words out, I got speared. I blocked it a bit with my chin, but as soon as I did that, I went at him and he went at me, and that was all she wrote."

The brawl unleashes all the nastiness that simmers beneath the surface of this rivalry. The rest of the game is an unbroken series of fights, with players on both sides trying to get retribution for a teammate. Matt Barclay's brother Mike joins in the fisticuffs parade, apparently eager to even the score for his sibling. By the time the game ends, with Arizona winning 6-4, seven players have been ousted from the contest. Enraged that Carfora did not earn a game disqualification for spearing Matt Barclay, Volcan verbally unloads on the refs, and is also ejected.

As 6,000 boo birds at Tucson Convention Center rain verbal abuse on Volcan, he saunters off the ice with his head up and a faint smirk on his face.

But Volcan is too much of a hockey fanatic; he can't sit in the locker room for long. Moments later, he's standing in the wings on tiptoes, anxiously watching the action, in open defiance of his ejection. Hundreds of Tucson fans start yelling at Volcan to go back to the locker room, chanting "Get Out" and "Hit the Road, Mickey." He ignores them.

Moments later, two security men take Volcan's arms and cart him off. He doesn't resist.

The defeat and his ejection should have Volcan in a foul mood, but after the game he's beaming like a proud parent. His guys may have lost, but they certainly didn't lack for grit, or, at the very least, belligerence.

Volcan gathers his team around him in the crowded, stench-filled locker room and says, "Hell of a job out there. Way to fucking stick together. This has been a great fucking experience for me. You all can play for me anytime."

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Gilbert Garcia
Contact: Gilbert Garcia