Walter Jones has watched Colorado College hockey for the past 53 seasons, and he has simple wish.
He wants a national title, just one, before he dies.
And he’s not sure coach Scott Owens will ever deliver it.
“I do think it’s probably time for a change,” Jones said minutes before the start of Friday’s game against St. Cloud. “I like Scott, his personality I mean.”
But Jones wonders about Owens coaching. For years, he said, he’s watched the Tigers start fast and finish slow. While other teams improve throughout the season, Jones said, the Tigers remain frustratingly the same.
Jones, 60, was sitting Friday night in Section 213 directly behind the north goal at World Arena.
Devoted does not begin to describe Jones in his relationship with Tigers hockey. You could see the unabashed joy in his face after each goal in the Tigers' 4-3 win over St. Cloud. Jones is best known for leading CC fans in the Tiger cheer.
His expression of doubt comes during a mini-Owens revival. CC’s coach is on a two-game winning streak and he’s gone six games without a loss.
But Jones and his friends in Section 213 are not analyzing the past six games. They are worried about a two-season slump. The Tigers have won only 21 times in their past 52 games.
In many ways, Owens has lost his momentum. World Arena was 60 percent full, and that might be a generous estimate. The student section was virtually empty. The noise level during the first two periods was depressingly low.
Four empty seats separated Jones from Steve Mizak, 59.
“I think Scott is a great guy,” Mizak said. “I just don’t think he’s a great coach. … He’s too low key. These players know how to play, but they need motivation. He doesn’t seem to be able to do it.”
Owens is not nearly as calm as most fans believe. In private, he offers biting criticism. Trust me on that one.
He challenges his players, but he chooses to deliver criticism behind closed doors. He does not indulge in public rage.
He does suffer from an image problem. Jones and Mizak were careful to compliment Owens on his recruiting skills. This is a common observation. The knock on Owens is he’s a better recruiter than motivator.
Greg Austin, 58, is also a longtime resident of Section 213. He’s been sitting beside Jones for the past 16 seasons. Austin has seen once-devoted CC season-ticket holders abandon the section in the past four seasons. He says “sheer frustration” drove the fans away.
“I can’t put all the blame on Scott Owens, but I just think it’s time for a change,” Austin said.
Jones first started watching CC games when he was 7. His father was a fan, so he became a fan. Jones watched Owens guard the net when the CC coach served as CC’s goaltender. He knows Owens has devoted much of his life to CC’s hockey program.
But Jones wants that title.
Is Owens the man to someday deliver it?
“I don’t know if he can,” Jones said, shaking his head.
“I don’t know.”