Andy Miele Wins Miami's First Hobey Baker Award

Miami senior center Andy Miele took home the Hobey Baker Award -- the college hockey equivalent of the Heisman -- in a ceremony at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul tonight.  Miele continues a season of firsts for the hockey 'Hawks:  after Miami's first-ever CCHA tournament title, the Red and White have their first-ever Hobey winner.  Miami joins Bowling Green as the only MAC hockey schools to produce Hobey winners.  (The Falcons had Brian Holzinger in 1995 and George McPhee in 1982.)

Miele led the nation in scoring, with 24 goals and 47 assists for a total of 71 points.  He was the first Division I hockey player to score 70 points since the 2002-03 season.  In CCHA play, he had 40 assists -- more than the 39 points tallied by the CCHA's #2 in-conference scorer, his linemate Carter Camper.

Miele came out ahead of North Dakota's Matt Frattin, the leading goal-scorer in the country, and Boston College's Cam Atkinson, the #3 overall scorer in the country, who was making his second consecutive appearance in the Hobey Hat Trick (the final three candidates).  When the Hat Trick was announced, most observers immediately assumed that either Miele or Frattin would win the award, which set off a storm of controversy in the hockey blogosphere and on message boards. 

Few would deny that goals are a sexier stat than assists, and the North Dakota campaign for Frattin focused heavily on his talent for putting the puck in the net.  In recent years, the Hobey selection committee has shown a marked preference for goal-scorers over players who, like Miele, make their biggest difference by helping their teammates to score.  (Last year, for example, Wisconsin's Blake Geoffrion, who went 28-22-50, won the award over Maine's Gustav Nyquist, who went 19-42-61.)  But the Hobey Baker Award isn't the exact equivalent of the Heisman.

The award is named for Hobey Baker, a legendary Princeton athlete who's the only person in both the Hockey Hall of Fame (he's widely considered to be one of the best amateur hockey players of all time) and the College Football Hall of Fame (he was known as the "Blond Adonis of the Gridiron").  Baker's sportsmanship was renowned: in his three years on Princeton's varsity hockey squad, he took only one penalty, and after Princeton victories, he would go to the other team's locker room and shake every opponent's hand.  Soon after his graduation in 1914, he became a pilot, and when World War I broke out, he enlisted in the forerunner to today's Air Force.  The entire 1917 Princeton hockey team dropped out of school and followed him into the service.  The French government awarded Baker, who took down three German planes in combat,  the Croix de Guerre for his heroism.  But just a few weeks after the war ended, Baker died in a plane crash testing one of his squadron's recently repaired planes.

As a reflection of Hobey Baker himself, the award doesn't just go to the best player in the country: voters take "character" into account.  That's what may have ultimately done Frattin in.  Back in July of 2009, he was briefly detained by police for throwing (among other things) a lawnmower and a kitchen table out of his garage and into the street during a house party in Grand Forks.  Already on thin ice with North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, he was arrested for DUI a month later.  Going into what would have been his senior season, Frattin's scholarship was pulled, and Hakstol told him he couldn't come back unless he turned his life around.  To Frattin's credit, he did so; he paid his own way at North Dakota in 2009-10 by working for a construction company, and he kept in playing shape through informal workouts with his teammates.

Andy Miele didn't have any similar run-ins.  Whether you think this weighs in favor of Miele or Frattin mostly depends on whether or not you're a North Dakota fan: UND folks tend to argue that Frattin coming back from his mistakes shows how strong his character is, while fans of just about every other school in the country think the character issue weighs in Miele's favor because he never got in trouble in the first place.  The conventional wisdom, at this point, is that the Hobey Baker selection committee was impressed with Frattin's successful efforts at making himself a better person, but was more impressed that Miele didn't have to make himself a better person -- and that's what tipped the scales in Miele's favor.

Character issues or not, though, one thing is clear: for just the third time ever, a member of the mythical MAC hockey conference won the Hobey Baker Award.  And for that, we should all celebrate, just like the tiny but vocal Miami contingent at tonight's ceremony.


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