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October 2020
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COMMENTARY: John Markell out as Ohio State Hockey Coach

When I heard Ohio State did not renew John Markell’s contract as men’s hockey coach, it came as no real surprise to me. I had heard all season from media who cover the team on a regular basis, that it was going to happen if the Buckeyes didn’t at least get to the CCHA  Championship Game.

I used to cover the hockey Buckeyes’ home games on a regular basis until the Columbus Blue Jackets came to town. Since then I would cover at least 5-6 games a season.

I will tell everybody for a fact, that yes, I am a member of the media and have been for over 30 years and I do root for the teams I cover. I am a fan who happens to be a member of the media. Personally, it upset me when one of my fellow members of the media told me in a Facebook Chat on Tuesday that reports all over Columbus were saying that Coach Markell had been fired.

I know Coach Markell to be a good, kind and professional gentleman. He was always nice to me when I would show up at practice or a game and he would say, “nice to see you” and Thanks for coming”. Also, he knew I was covering the Blue Jackets more than the Buckeyes and after a long drought in coverage, he would say “glad you could fit us in.” I appreciated him pointing me out.

Another interesting moment with Coach Markell came when he took over on an interim basis back in 1994-95, I showed for one of his first practices and some arrogant, unprofessional reporter asked me “why was I there at practice. She had never seen me before.” Coach Markell interrupted and told her that “everybody was allowed to come to practice and that the hockey sports information director and him would decide if somebody belonged or not”. After that I became a John Markell fan and I never judged him or the program after that. I wanted him to succeed and stay on forever. Call me a “homer” if you want but I truly liked the guy.

John Markell won 280 games (osu)

In 15 years as head coach, Markell was 280-269-56 at Ohio State. He led his team to 6 NCAA Tournament berths, including the program’s first Frozen Four appearance in 1998, and to a CCHA Tournament Championship in 2004.

When he took over as the interim coach, OSU was averaging 9 wins a season and were the laughingstocks of hockey because, their home ice rink, seated 1,900.

After he became the permanent coach, the program started to grow averaging almost 20 wins a season; Value City Arena was born which aided in recruiting and produced current NHL stars: Dave Steckel of the Washington Capitals, R.J. Umberger of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and Rod Pelley of the New Jersey Devils.

But there have been several things that have hurt Coach Markell and the OSU Hockey program: Miami of Ohio, one of their rivals in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association has passed them up recruiting-wise and having sellouts at most of their games. The Buckeyes practice most of the time in the 50-year old OSU Ice Rink and Value City Arena, once a big help in pushing Ohio State Hockey forward on a national level, is now holding it back because it is too big, has no intimacy like most smaller arenas, Munn Ice Arena and Steve Cady Arena. Also, if OSU finishes 5 through 8 in the CCHA standings, they’ll host any first round home games at the OSU Ice Rink because Value City Arena has a contract with the Ohio High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships. What’s more important, your hockey program or High School Wrestling?

So no matter if Markell was going stay, or whoever they bring in to replace him, these are the obstacles that are and will continue to hamper the hockey program. Opposing coaches will use these obstacles in the recruiting game.

To be honest with you, I’m surprised Markell stayed as long as he did, considering all that he had to deal with.

I haven’t heard many rumors about a possible replacement, but Paul Pooley’s name comes to mind because after all, his number is hanging in the rafters at Value City Arena and that would be quite fitting, a former Buckeye coaching the Buckeyes!

As for John Markell, I wish him well and thank him for all the kind gestures he extended to me and the other members of the media. Don’t be surprised if we see him on an opposing CCHA team’s bench in the near future!

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