When springtime comes, and the 2015-16 NCAA tournament kicks off, Albany, N.Y., Worcester, Mass., Cincinnati and St. Paul, Minn. will all play host as neutral sites for the national tournament. The neutral sites, all of which are NHL-sized venues, have been used by the NCAA to reduce home-ice advantage, and allow for larger crowds to fit into big venues. It sounds pretty good in theory.
However, the attendance at regional match-ups hasn’t quite been up to par, and the NCAA is exploring several options. One of those options would move regional match-ups back to on-campus rinks.
The NCAA last awarded regionals almost two years ago, and intentionally held out on making any decisions for 2017 and 2018, believing that a change was on the horizon. Now, that looks as though it may be coming to fruition, as many people are joining the movement to bring regional games to on-campus sites.
However, according to the USCHO, a large majority of college coaches said that they wanted to keep the tournament format as is, rather than making any potential changes to venue locations.
Thus, the NCAA will continue with neutral locations – at least for now.
However, the increasing attention that’s been centered around a potential change has to leave us thinking – Would it be a good move for college hockey?
It’s certainly understandable to think that many people would rather see their regional games being played on-campus. After all, a huge part of any team’s fanbase comes from its college students, and not many students are able or willing to make long trips to see their team play in the national tournament. Moving regional games to on-campus sites would allow students to have easy access to the game. Not to mention, the atmosphere would be nothing short of ecstatic – that is what we want, right?
However, moving to on-campus regionals has its issues too. For one, making the move would eliminate the neutrality of the site. The home team would have a pretty decent advantage with their home crowd to get them going. Some people say that this isn’t a problem at all, as the higher seed has earned their home field advantage. But, the tournament seeding has problems of its own, so maybe home-ice advantage isn’t a great idea.
Yale coach Keith Allain sure didn’t think so:
“I think it would be a terrible thing to move these games to campus sites,” Allain said at the Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H., according to uscho.“It’s exciting to come to these venues that we don’t get the chance to play in often.
“If you put it on a campus site, it’s a tremendous advantage for the team that is hosting. They’re in their own locker room, they’ve got their own fans. I think it takes away from the national feel of a national tournament. It becomes just a regular college hockey tournament. So I would be totally against it.”
The winning sites for the 2017 regionals will be announced this month, and for now, the NCAA will continue using neutral sites. However, this season’s decision may not be permanent, as the NCAA will certainly continue to consider making a change.
Should the NCAA continue using neutral sites, or would on-campus regionals make for a better tournament? Let us know in the comments, or shoot me a tweet @CamHasbrouck and we can talk.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!