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December 30 - Tiger Pride

Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Pete Carroll. Pretty recognizable names for any
sports fan, right?

How about Marty Sertich, Brett Sterling, and Scott Owens? Ring any bells? Probably
not.

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8,000 strong are on their feet as the Colorado College Tigers form a circle at center
ice. They tap their sticks on the ice and raise them in the air- a thank you to the fans
who have shown up to watch them fight through a 60-minute slugfest. The
scoreboard displays "TIGERS: 7  UMD: 2", a score that easily puts a smile on the face of any
Colorado College fan, especially against conference foe Minnesota Duluth.

The team departs the ice and heads to the locker room as the fans depart the World Arena. I stand at
the 19th seat in row H, section 206- the seat that I've occupied for three years to watch the CC Tigers
play. My eyes gaze upon the beaten olympic-sized sheet of ice, and for a moment I am immune to the
requests of event security telling me to make my way to the exit. The zamboni rolls out onto the rink,
preparing to clean the ice for tomorrow night's game.  

I fall into a trance, and flash back to that extraordinary night last year when the Tigers became
champions of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

                          --------------------------------------------------------

The final buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the game. Denver University skated off the ice,
disgusted at the sight of their arch rivals hoisting the MacNaughton Cup into the air. The crowd
erupted as CC skated around the sheet, taking turns kissing the Cup and forever enshrining
themselves as WCHA champions.

The celebration was well deserved; becoming champions of the WCHA is an admirable
accomplishment in itself: six of the last nine NCAA champions have come from the WCHA. It's easily
the toughest conference in college hockey.

Taking home the championship was sweeter than usual because they took it from their hated rival,
Denver University. An argument could be made that it is the Yankees-Red Sox of college hockey (In
fact, it is so heated that if you were on the campus of CC and randomly shouted "DU", somebody from
off in the distance would yell "Sucks!").

The Cup was passed along to Center Marty Sertich, an action which initiated
chants of "Hobey Baker! Hobey Baker!". The Hobey Baker award is college
hockey's Heisman - the most prestigious individual award to be won in the sport.
Sertich (right), who at the time was a Junior, would eventually go on to win the
Hobey.

Sertich passed it along to Brett Sterling, a Junior Left-Winger and draft pick of the
Atlanta Thrashers. He was the second part of the one-two Sertich-Sterling punch,
displaying the ability of somebody who was born to play hockey. (As of this writing,
Sterling is the front-runner in the "Hobey Watch". He is now in his senior year.)

Brett handed it off to Senior goaltender Curtis McElhinney, a draft pick of the Calgary Flames. Curtis, a
favorite among the fans, was greeted with numerous cheers and thanks for his hard work over the
last four years. (Curtis is now starting in net for the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, an AHL affiliate of the
Flames.)

Junior goalie Matt Zaba took the Cup from Curtis. Zaba, a draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, split
starting duties with McElhinney for the majority of the year. (Matt, now a senior, is currently the full-time
starter for CC.)

Standing to the side, head coach Scott Owens observed the celebration with a smile. He'd watched
his team trudge through the regular season, and now he had to begin to prepare them for the NCAA
Tournament. Owens was a goaltender for the Tigers in the 1970's, so he knew what his players had
to be feeling.

For five minutes on that Friday night, the Colorado College Tigers were invincible.

The next night, the Denver Pioneers would claim their share of the MacNaughton Cup by defeating
CC. The two teams were pronounced '04-'05 WCHA co-champions. It would only be the first blow by
DU in their quest for revenge.

The second would in the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four, when the Pioneers denied the Tigers of
their first NCAA championship since 1957. Nonetheless, the Tigers were greeted back home in
Colorado Springs with thanks for a spectacular season. They were greeted with Tiger Pride.

                          --------------------------------------------------------

I snapped back into the present time. The zamboni was rolling off the ice, leaving a fresh sheet
behind. The pennants hanging from the ceiling reflected off of the clean ice, creating a mystic effect. I
looked up to the banners and smiled with pride. Tiger Pride.

"Come on, sir!" I was interrupted by the enraged faculty member. Quite frankly, I didn't care how mad
she was. My Tigers won, and that's all that mattered. I made my way through the exit and into the
deserted parking lot.

See you tomorrow, World Arena. I'll be here for the game.