On Tuesday, the National College Hockey Conference released their season-ending report. Going into their fourth season, the NCHC appears to be in good standing. According to the NCHC release, the NCHC’s conference tournament produced approximately $1.2 million in revenue. Also, the two-day Frozen Faceoff drew 22,569 fans. I believe those numbers will improve in the future.
While there’s room for improvement, the NCHC appears to be headed in the right direction. Here are a couple of things that caught my eye from the season-ending report.
I want to be clear, the NCHC has done things the right way, however, there are a few things that could be improved upon. And again, I am only suggesting a few tweaks. Looking the issues, I consider the location of the Frozen Four the most pressing one. For the NCHC, the Frozen Faceoff is a very big revenue stream. Improving on the conference tourney location will only improve that revenue stream.
Field of Play
From the NCHC season ending report: With the ice conditions much improved in 2016, Target Center and the NCHC feel it can make sure the ice is in good playing conditions moving forward. Target Center will continue to tweak and adjust the glass and boards to make subtle improvements. As part of a separate project, the City of Minneapolis and Target Center are taking on; a new floor will be installed, which will improve the ice conditions for the 2018 event.
The Target Center opened in October of 1990 and is, for the most part, an NBA basketball facility. There were a handful of exhibition games played there during early 1990’s and the WCHA held the Final Five there from 1999-2000. During the Target Center’s existence, the ice in the Target Center has never been very good. There weren’t a lot of hockey games played at the Target Center from 2001-2013. In my opinion, the Target Center isn’t a good fit for hockey.
During the first two seasons, the ice conditions at the Frozen Faceoff have been poor. This past season, the Target Center’s ice conditions were improved over the prior two seasons. That being said, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Poor ice conditions affect the fans’ viewing experience. If you improve the ice conditions the play on the ice will only get better.
Future of the Frozen Faceoff
From the NCHC season-ending report: With two years remaining on the current contract with Target Center, the NCHC has begun to have discussions with its Board of Directors, Athletic Council and Target Center regarding the future of the conference’s championship weekend.
Some hockey fans have suggested that the NCHC follow the Big Ten and WCHA’s lead and move the conference tourney back to on-campus sites. I think this is a very bad idea. I believe the NCHC would be taking a step backward. So far, the NCHC has no plans of moving back to on-campus sites.
“We’re in a great metro market in Minneapolis-St. Paul, in the heart of the conference and in a very important hockey market,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton told the Grand Forks Herald.
Here’s what I’d recommend to the NCHC leadership, starting in 2017-18, the Big Ten, and the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference will hold their entire conference championship on-campus. Both leagues will no longer be holding their conference semi-finals and finals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. This means that the Xcel Energy Center will once again be available.
The league needs to strike while the iron is hot. It’s time for the NCHC to move to a better venue. While the Target Center has been a workable site to hold the Frozen Faceoff, the league can do much better and should. It’s not even close, the Xcel Energy Center is a much better venue to hold a conference tourney. It’s also an arena with a hockey first mentality. Are there any questions?
Moving the conference to a newer hockey only NHL building would probably improve the college hockey fan experience. Also, there’s a good chance that attendance numbers would increase with the move. As I mentioned earlier, having more fans attending the conference championship means more revenue for the conference.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.