Friday, June 15, 2007

A Tribute to Mike Batovanja

When Mike Batovanja took the ice in his first shift as a Michigan Tech Husky, I could tell there was something different about the way he played. Somehow, he really stood out from anyone else on the Huskies, and from anyone else I've ever seen play before. I tried to figure out what it was, what it was that made him so different from anyone I'd ever watched before. Honestly, I never expected him to stick out like he did...

Mike Batovanja, or Batty as he is commonly referred to, came to Michigan Tech for his sophomore season after his last hockey program at Findlay University of College Hockey America folded. I had never expected much from him; just some guy from the CHA looking to join a team. He had connections with former assistant coach Ian Kallay back when Kallay coached him in the Drayton Valley Thunder, and that was how he found himself playing for Tech.

So what was it about Batty's first shift that had made me notice him so quickly? That made me see a different kind of hockey player?

We'll begin with effort and dedication. Most Michigan Tech players will put forth 100% effort on each or most of their shifts. Mike however, was giving about 123% effort EVERY shift. The determination that he always shows on the ice couldn't be more obvious, especially if even I can pick it out.

Mike is only 5'7" .. probably more like 5'6", which is smaller than about 95% of the people he encounters on the ice. Another huge reason that I admire him is that he's never let that stop him from being the agressive player he is. Mike has laid out some very BIG guys. It isn't good to be on the receiving end of one his checks, because he will just absolutely clobber you. Michigan Tech hockey has become more agressive and physical ever since he has joined the lineup.

Self-sacrificing... another one of Batty's great on-ice qualities. He will jump in front of any slap shot that he can to protect his net. Before Mike came along, that kind of blocked-shot play was something that I rarely if ever saw from my team. Now, many of the Huskies do the same thing. Whenever I go on hockey road trips, I often get comments from opposing fans similar to, "I can't believe how your players will just jump in front of any and every shot they can!" From my observation, the quality and quantity of those plays have been around only as long as Mike Batovanja himself.

On the bench and on the ice, Mike is a great leader. He always keeps the team together and focused. If you look at Mike's numbers since he's been at Michigan Tech, they're nothing to brag about. However, what he has done for the team is nothing that can be represented in his statistics. There's just no way to show it on paper. And while his numbers are not that great, him graduating and exhausting his eligibility for the Huskies is one of the biggest blows our hockey team could take. He was often called the "Heart of the Team." And there is of course a good reason for it. Not only could you see effort in each and every shift, but you could tell that he played with his heart. Mike also shared it with his teammates. The encouragement that always he provided to his teammates made a difference.

Mike also exhibits excellent character off the ice. Naturally, all of the guys love the support that they get from the fans, but Mike shows his appreciation a little more than many others do. He's never too good to say hi. He always thanks the fans personally for their support if possible. For me personally, it has been honor to know, work with, and cheer for him.

While the college hockey chapter has ended in Mike's life, he's about to begin a new chapter with fiance Stefanie. He and Stefanie will be married this July. Says Stef of her fiance, "I am so proud of Mike for all his accomplishments. I am very blessed to have him in my life. He is a wonderful person." I wish those two all of the best in their lives. Look for wedding pictures exclusively on the THB in July!

Batty, thank you for everything you have done for Michigan Tech Hockey. Thank you for giving us three wonderful years and for always showing such dedication. You will leave a lasting impression on this hockey program and community for years to come.

Thank you for the pic, Stef!


Runninwiththedogs said...

Ow ow! Stef's a hottie.

Mike, on the other hand, seems to be wearing pj pants with bison on them. I wouldn't even know where to buy them, other than Fargo.

Dirty said...

Who wears Bison pants? Just another reason why Batty sucks.

Anonymous said...

FYI they are camo pants.. not bison. Nice Pink Tie fruit cake.

Runninwiththedogs said...

Whew, thank god. If they had been bison, I would have thought you had the worst fashion sense in the world.

Dirty said...

Oooo camo pants! That's so much better! What's Batty trying to do? Blend into the bench?

Runninwiththedogs said...

Jeez, Dirty. What if you expressed your man-love for tOshie in a blog post and MEg came over and insulted him?

Never mind. You'd still totally want to hook up with her.


Dirty said...

Shouldn't you be worrying about your brand new blog, RWD Stalks the Twinkies?

price per head reviews said...

that was a rather deserved tribute to Mkie Batovanja and I was so happy it was done to honor all he did on the court