|« The CAA Today: The Championship Game - Stonewalled!||11th Annual Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association Academic All-Star Team Named »|
No feedback yet
MIAC Profiles of Excellence: Joe Long, Hamline University
by Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist
When a long-time cellar dweller turns around and becomes a contender for its league title, the success cannot be attributed to just one individual. It is the result of a concerted effort by many people, all of whom invested considerable amounts of time and energy to making things happen. But of all the people responsible for the turnaround of the Hamline University men’s hockey program, Joe Long deserves as much credit as anyone else.
“He has been the backbone of our building process at Hamline and has allowed us to recruit and retain quality players at Hamline,” stated Hamline Coach Scot Bell.” Joe had every opportunity to play for any Division III team in the country but chose a program that hadn’t had a winning season in over 25 years because he wanted to make a difference.”
For most of the last 60 seasons, the Pipers rarely won half of their games, and frequently finished dead last in the MIAC standings. They had never made the field in the MIAC Playoffs in the first 21 years that the league conducted the playoffs. It had been a quarter of a century since Hamline’s last winning season. Yet Joe decided to enroll there, accepting the challenge of trying to revive the program.
“When Coach Bell took the job at Hamline, he got in touch with me,” Joe recalled. “He convinced me we could make something happen here. I wanted to be part of that, the start of something at Hamline.”
Looking at the standings, Joe’s first two years at Hamline did not differ from the past, but there were subtle differences in the attitude and outlook of the Pipers. Joe’s leadership was a key factor in changing those to a more positive note. Instead of accepting their role as a bottom feeder, Joe and his classmates were determined to make Hamline competitive.
Last year, things came together for Joe and the Pipers, as they had a season only a Hollywood screenwriter could have imagined. They posted a 16-7-4 overall record, their first winning season since 1983-84. That included an 11-3-2 record in MIAC play and Hamline’s first hockey championship since 1947-48. They reached the title game of the MIAC Playoffs before being knocked off by St. Thomas, 4-1.
The success has carried on into this season. The Pipers head into the holiday break with a 9-2-0 overall record and are 4-0-0 in conference play. They are ranked 10th in the nation in Division III, the highest Hamline has ever been ranked.
There is still unfinished business to attend to, according to Joe. “Even though we lost a lot in the first two years, you could feel that things were changing,” he said. “Now that we’ve been successful, we want to make it two conference titles in a row and we want to go to the NCAA tourney.”
Coach Bell knows that a large part of the team’s success can be attributed to Joe, both for what he does on the ice and how he leads the team. “He doesn’t need other people’s approval to feel good, he is his own person and walks to his own drum beat,” Bell said. “He thrives on competition and loves to prove people wrong. He is accountable for his actions and doesn’t blame others when he makes a mistake on or off the ice. He has an edge to him - he loves to compete and get under the opponents’ skin. His teammates love him and his opponents hate him.”
Joe grew up in Dayton, MN, a town of nearly 5,000 on the northwest fringe of the Twin Cities metro area. He has one sister, Molly, who is a junior at St. Thomas.
He attended Elk River High, where he played baseball as well as hockey. He spent his freshman season on the frosh baseball team and was on the JV his sophomore year. Joe took over as the Elks’ starting second baseman his junior season and was a two-year starter. Elk River was eliminated in the middle rounds of Section play in both of Joe’s years.
Joe played in the Elk River youth hockey program from an early age. He played on the Bantams team while in eighth and ninth grades. “We were good but not great,” he recalled.
He skated at forward on the first line of the high school varsity for three years and wore the captain’s “C” in his senior year. Joe was named to the All-Conference team his junior and senior years. He was team MVP as a senior and was named All-State Honorable Mention that year as well. The Elks lost to Coon Rapids in the Section semifinals in Joe’s junior year, but made the State Class 2A tourney the other two years. “We won the consolation championship my sophomore year,” Joe said. “In my senior year we lost twice.”
While in high school, Joe talked to several coaches at various schools in Division I and Division III. They all recommended that he play Juniors hockey for a season or two before college. Joe was drafted by the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, but did not make the team. He was picked up by Des Moines and played for about a half season with the Buccaneers before they traded him to Green Bay. At the season’s end, the Gamblers did not put Joe on their protected roster, making him free to sign with any team.
At Des Moines, Joe was teammates with Dustin Fulton, who he knew from youth and high school hockey. The two quickly became good friends. Dustin knew Coach Bell, who had just taken the job at Hamline. He mentioned Joe to Coach Bell and put the two in contact with each other. Coach Bell convinced Dustin and Joe that they could be two of the cornerstones in the building project he was undertaking at Hamline.
Playing forward, Joe was named All-MIAC Honorable Mention as a freshman. He finished fifth among freshmen in scoring in conference games with 13 points (four goals and nine assists) and was second in the league in short-handed scoring. Hamline finished in eighth place, 3-11-2, and was 4-16-3 overall. Joe scored 13 goals with 10 assists his sophomore season, garnering All-MIAC First Team honors, as the Pipers posted a 3-13-0 MIAC record and were 7-18-0 overall.
Prior to the season last fall, Coach Bell asked Joe to switch from forward to defenseman, as the team was lacking experience at the blue line. Joe readily agreed. “He is a complete team player,” stated Bell. “Joe embraced the move and has accepted a different role while sacrificing individual success for team success.”
The change in the team was amazing. The Pipers, who for years were the laughingstock of the conference, suddenly were beating teams they had not defeated in years. They had one of the league’s most prolific offenses, with three of the top eight scorers in the conference wearing Hamline sweaters. Joe was tied for eighth in scoring with 20 points (13 goals and seven assists). He led the league in power play goals with eight, and was second in scoring among defensemen.
He was named to the All-MIAC First Team. Joe and Dustin shared the Most Valuable Player of the MIAC award.
The Pipers claimed their first conference title in 60 years. They secured their first berth in the MIAC Playoffs and defeated Saint John’s 4-2 in the semifinals before losing to St. Thomas in the title game.
Joe’s selflessness endears him to his teammates and coaches. He puts the team’s best interest first, is willing to work with the younger players, and is willing to do anything he can to help the program grow and improve. “Joe is low maintenance, never asking for new sticks, skates, gloves, or equipment,” noted Bell. “In fact, he wears worn out 10 year old pants that I had to get covers for because he won’t wear a new pair. He is a rink rat, always the first one on the ice and always the last one off the ice.”
Coach Bell points out one flaw in Joe. “He is always lobbying for practice times that would better fit the hunting and fishing seasons. If he isn’t playing hockey, Joe is hunting or fishing.”
Joe is a Business Management major, sporting a 2.80 GPA. He will graduate this spring. He expects to find a job in the business community, and will intensify his job search after hockey season. He also is looking into playing minor league pro hockey. Joe also is considering getting into coaching in the future.
For Joe, the satisfaction of being part of the building of Hamline’s hockey success is its own reward. “Part of why I came here was the challenge of helping Scott make things happen here,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed success and hopefully that is only the beginning.”
[Photos are courtesy of the Hamline University Sports Information Office.]
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.
This feature will be included in the “Profiles of Excellence 2008-2009″ book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s “Mapping the MIAC” columnist Rich Mies.