BOSTON — One week ago Shireen Saski worked the sidelines in the Final Four in Indianapolis, providing Michigan State-related interviews and live reports for Turner Sports’ truTV.
“It was the assignment of a lifetime,” she said. “It took me not even half a second to say yes when I got a call on the assignment.”
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This Saturday night, she’ll be in the stands watching the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship game at TD Garden while husband Dave Starman is in Bristol, Connecticut, as an ESPN studio host for the title game.
Let’s call them the first family of college sports broadcasting, a family that lives for college sports, especially hockey. They are thought to be the first husband-and-wife team to work the Final Four and Frozen Four in the same year. During the regular season, they are a part of the CBS Sports Network college hockey telecasts.
“We love the fact that we’re the only husband-and-wife combo that are on the air together,” said Dave, who met Shireen when she was a broadcaster for Fox Sports Detroit.
When they are apart, texting brings them together. And that included Thursday night, when Shireen was at TD Garden with stepsons Jared and Ryan Starman while Dave was in the ESPN studio 120 miles away.
“We texted during the games,” Saski said.. “Because it‘s normal for us when we‘re working a game that we‘re always discussing what‘s going on on the ice. So it‘s weird when we‘re not together, but we‘re constantly texting.”
When the opportunities arose for Starman to work for ESPN during the Frozen Four and Shireen for truTV at the Final Four, there was little hesitation. Only enthusiasm.
“It was really neat when the assignment came up,” Starman said. “I turned to her and said, “They’re the two biggest events in our kind of college sports world. We’re involved in both of them.’ ”
For Saski, it really touched home. A 1990 Michigan State graduate, she provided reports during the Spartan’s TeamStream on TruTV for the Final Four game against Duke.
“It was exciting and thrilling and challenging, all at the same time, because when you work a team broadcast you’re serving the diehard fans that know the program inside and out.”
One of her prized possessions is a traditional green suit that was worn by former MSU basketball coach Jud Heathcote that is autographed on the lapel. It helped her get former MSU and Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson to agree to an interview on the broadcast. Magic played for Heathcote on MSU’s national championship team in 1979.
Magic’s response to the interview request once he found out about the jacket: “Oh, I’m doing the interview. I want to see this jacket.
Said Starman: “Her talking Michigan State basketball. I mean, she does it all season so this is just kind of a natural extension of sitting on the couch.”
Starman is a former hockey player at the University of Hartford and was the youngest head coach in Central Hockey League history in 2000 at the age of 31. He also works in the USA Hockey coaching education program, traveling the nation to mentor and instruct coaches. He took on an ESPN role during the NCAA Tournament.
Shireen, who is also a part of the CBS Sports Network college hockey broadcasting team, has done several projects for ESPN, including NHL coverage, College Gameday, college hockey and basketball, and the U.S. Open.
At the annual “State of the Game” news conference Friday, Kristin Fasbender, NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances, said the DI regional format in ice hockey will be discussed further at the upcoming coaches’ convention and at other meetings.
There has been an ongoing discussion as to whether the four regional tournaments, which are currently held at neutral sites determined ahead of time, would return to campus sites instead.
“We’re constantly looking at it,“ said Fasbender, who added that she wants what is best “for our student-athletes and determining what that is.”
The regional tournament sites are in place through 2016. This year’s regionals were held in Providence, Rhode Island; Manchester, New Hampshire; South Bend, Indiana; and Fargo, North Dakota. Only Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend was a campus arena (Notre Dame).
“I’m against hosting regionals,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman. “I like the process we have. I don’t think we have an issue in the east.”
John Grzelcyk, who is the father of BU team captain Matt Grzelcyk, is a member of the change-over “Bull Crew” at TD Garden and a longtime Zamboni driver. Matt’s older brother, John, also works at the Garden. The crew changes the Garden from a hockey venue into basketball in a matter of hours between Boston Bruins and Celtics games.
When he was younger, Matt was able to skate on the Garden ice if the Bruins were out of town and his dad was working.
Saturday’s title game will mark the sixth time John has been able to watch his son play at TD Garden this year; the Terriers also won the annual Beanpot championship in February — a traditional city tournament that also includes Harvard, Boston College and Northeastern — as well as the Hockey East championship game.
Matt is also a 2012 draft pick of the Bruins, meaning he’ll likely play at TD Garden as a professional.
The Grzelcyk home in Charlestown is not even three miles from TD Garden, a town located just north of Boston on the north side of Charles River.
NCAA IN FINLAND
While Saturday’s title game will be televised nationally in the United States, it won’t have the same type of coverage back home for BU junior forward Ahti Oksanen.
He is a native of Kirkkonummi, a city of about 37,000 in southern Finland. The way Oksanen figures it, there’ll be two people back home watching.
“I think my mom and dad might watch it,” he said with a laugh, “but that might be pretty much it.”
FLAMES FARM TEAM
Goaltender Jon Gillies is one of three Providence players who are amateur draft picks of the Calgary Flames. Gillies, who is the third generation in his family to play college hockey (his dad, Bruce Jr., played at New Hampshire and his grandfather, Bruce Sr., played at Norwich), was selected in the 2012 draft and is pulling for the Flames to make the NHL playoffs.
Other Flames draft picks from Providence are junior forward Mark Jankowski and junior defenseman John Gilmour. Gillies, a native of South Portland, Maine, is the only American among the three and almost turned pro last year.
“The reason you come back to college hockey is to be a part of something like this and have a chance to compete for a national championship. It’s been fun,” Gillies said.
THIRD TIME THE CHARM?
Twice in the last four years, Providence coach Nate Leamon has ended his season with a loss to the national champion.
In 2011, when Leamon was head coach at Union, the Dutchmen lost to eventual national champ Minnesota-Duluth in the East Regional. In 2014, Providence lost to Leamon’s old team, Union, also in the East Regional
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