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VIRG FOSS: With Blais, you never know

Did Dean Blais intentionally get himself ejected from last Saturday’s hockey game against UND in order to inspire his Nebraska-Omaha team to victory?

We’ll never know, since Blais sent word after the game that he would not be coming out to talk to the media.

That’s a shame, since he’s one of the most colorful and quotable coaches to come down the turnpike in college hockey.

One never knows what will come out of his mouth. You can bank on it being something good.

That Blais would be tossed out on a game misconduct penalty shocked all of us. He’s a living legend in Grand Forks, having coached two NCAA title teams at UND and assisting Gino Gasparini on a couple more.

So for Blais to get booted from a hockey game in the city where he remains a much-loved figure is like expelling the Pope from a Sunday church service.

Blais brought on the ejection by first dawdling on his line changes early in the game. When he delayed sending a player to the penalty box to serve a bench minor slapped on Omaha, the officials had enough.

Whether that deserved a game misconduct and the mandatory ejection can be argued. Perhaps a second bench minor would have been more appropriate than the overkill of the disqualification.

But — and this is pure speculation, yet based on knowing Blais well — an ejection might be something Blais sought.

After his Mavericks lacked much spark at all in a Friday loss to UND, it didn’t take long for Omaha to serve notice of a different focus on Saturday.

I was watching Josh Archibald, Omaha’s leading scorer and perhaps the league’s player of the year, as teams lined up for the opening faceoff.

Archibald stood near the side boards by the Omaha bench until just before the puck was dropped. Then he quickly skated into position and banged heavily into UND tough guy Stephane Pattyn on purpose. That brought on a little scuffle between the two and unsportsmanlike penalties for both before even a second had gone off the clock.

That was perhaps Omaha and Archibald — son of the most penalized player in UND history — sending a message that things would be different.

After Blais was tossed later in the first period, Omaha fell behind 3-1 before storming back for a 6-3 win with Archibald’s hat trick leading the way.

All that came after Blais perhaps pulled an old coaching trick of getting himself tossed out to inspire his team.

“If he’s going to do stuff like that for us, we’re going to battle for him any day,” Archibald said after the game.

So we’ll never know for certain whether Blais getting booted from a hockey game here was a calculated move on his part.

I wish he had chosen to come out to tell us media types his version of the incident. But maybe that would detract from the coaching mystique and success that surrounds Blais. His declining interviews kept his action shrouded in mystery.

Those of us who have worked with Blais over the years have come to expect the unexpected from him.

But never did we dream that a living legend in hockey in these parts would be booted from a game in Grand Forks.

Come back again, Dean — and stay longer.

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement. He writes a column exclusively for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at or (701) 772-9272.