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Frozen Four: Melrose is a hockey ambassador

CHICAGO -- ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose attended the Mike Richter Award college hockey ceremony Friday night at the Hilton Chicago, but he politely obliged for whatever was thrown his way, albeit in a Barry Melrose way.

Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com ESPN Frozen Four analyst Barry Melrose talks to the News Tribune at the Hilton Chicago on Friday evening. Melrose picked Minnesota Duluth to beat Denver in overtime tonight.
ESPN Frozen Four analyst Barry Melrose talks to the News Tribune at the Hilton Chicago on Friday evening. Melrose picked Minnesota Duluth to beat Denver in overtime tonight. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

CHICAGO - ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose attended the Mike Richter Award college hockey ceremony Friday night at the Hilton Chicago, but he politely obliged for whatever was thrown his way, albeit in a Barry Melrose way.

"I could draw that picture faster than she's taking it," Melrose quipped to one picture taker who was a little slow to click the shutter.

Melrose, the Saskatchewan-born former NHL player and coach, is an ambassador of the game. He, along with play-by-play man John Buccigross and sideline reporter Quint Kessenich, are the ESPN team covering the NCAA Division I Frozen Four, including the national title game at 7 p.m. today when Minnesota Duluth takes on Denver.

"We were trying to figure this out the other day, but I'm thinking it's been like 15 Frozen Fours now for me, maybe more," Melrose said. "I love it. Every year is a different story."

Melrose, 60, covered the Bulldogs when they won their only national championship in 2011 in St. Paul.

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"I think (UMD) is very similar to that last team," Melrose said. "I don't think anybody gave them a chance last time they won, but Coach (Scott) Sandelin's team is back at it this year."

Melrose said every time he does an ESPN NHL highlight these days, it seems like the player was someone he saw through his work as analyst at the Frozen Four. While the NHL is clearly his expertise, his presence around United Center this week adds a bit of celebrity and personality to the college game.

Photographer Larry Radloff, a 1990 UMD graduate, got Buccigross and Melrose to sign his camera lens hood during Denver's Frozen Four semifinal Thursday with Notre Dame, because Radloff had nothing else to sign. Buccigross said he'd never signed anything like that before, and Melrose just laughed. They're very approachable.

Melrose said UMD's matchup with Denver is an interesting one.

"Beauty and the beast," he said. "They're two entirely different teams. You've got the beauty of Denver's speed and their puck control and their talent and skill, and you've got the beast of the physical force of the Bulldogs, the cycling, the attacking the net, the winning physical battles. I love the contrasting styles. It's going to be a good test on both teams, which style will win. I think the game will be great."

Melrose just wants to see a good game, but he was pressed to make a prediction.

"Both these teams deserve a good game, they deserve to be in it at the end. To get here you played a heck of a season," said Melrose, who has "hockey lover" listed on his Twitter page. "I'm a western guy, I'm from Saskatchewan, and there are lot of Canadian kids on Duluth. I always picked the northern kids and the western kids. I picked them the last time they won, and I picked them against Harvard (on Thursday), and I'll pick them against Denver."

How about a score?

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"You want a score, too?" Melrose said. "I'll say 3-2, and you know what? I'll go overtime. Let's go 3-2 OT. Give the fans a little extra money's worth."

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Photographer Larry Radloff, a 1990 UMD graduate, got John Buccigross and Barry Melrose to sign his camera lens hood during Denver's Frozen Four semifinal Thursday with Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy of Larry Radloff)

Related Topics: BULLDOG SPORTS
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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