A few years ago, the University of Minnesota Crookston's "club" hockey team played a game in Crookston Sports Center's Event Arena. The exact circumstances of the game, after some checking with and following up with people who might know some of the details, remain unclear for the purposes of this editorial in this space today. Maybe it was some sort of alumni thing. But, again, no matter...
    The specifics of the game really have no bearing on the purposes of this editorial in this space today. What has bearing is the fact that the Event Arena was rocking. No, it wasn't a full house; the Event Arena at CSC rarely is. It's a big space, after all. But there was a raucous, rowdy - but in a positive way - student section. There was a local eating and drinking establishment in possession of a liquor license selling beer. (If you were of legal age, you were fitted with a brightly colored paper bracelet at the door.)
    The action on the ice certainly wasn't NHL-level or even college level if we’re being honest, but there were most definitely hockey skills on display, and a fair share of jarring checks and a bit of pushing and shoving after the whistle, the kind of action that gets both players and fans fired up and more into the game.
    That's coming back in a major way. UMN Crookston announced last Friday that men's hockey is returning to campus. It's "club"-level hockey, and they're going to compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) at the Division II level.
    This isn't the same NCAA Division II that the Golden Eagles competed in before the men's hockey program was nixed around a decade ago. That Division II was more of a myth than reality, anyway. With NCAA Division II men's hockey as a whole shrinking across the country and leaving UMN Crookston no one at that level to play within a reasonable geographic area - most Division II teams were on the East Coast - the Golden Eagles found themselves playing in a Division III conference that really didn't want them from the get-go but begrudgingly let them play.
    This return of men's hockey to Crookston will arguably be better than that. They're going to play teams from Minnesota and North Dakota colleges that you've heard of, that you're well aware of. Rivalries could develop. It's a full, legitimate season.
    And the cherry on top? UMN Crookston was able to hire Steve Johnson as the Golden Eagles coach. His name might not be hockey royalty around these parts, but if you're into hockey at all, when you saw on Friday that he would be coaching UMN Crookston, you probably muttered to yourself, "Wow...Steve Johnson." A person who knows a thing or two about these kinds of things, in a discussion about the return of men’s hockey and Johnson’s hiring, said over the weekend that being able to secure Johnson’s services is a “splash hire.” In other words, it’ll raise a lot of eyebrows in a good way and make a splash.
    The announcement on Friday as a whole is splash-worthy, too. Terrific news, indeed. Now, when they finally drop the puck next season, let’s give the Golden Eagles a real home-ice advantage.