Yesterday, the Commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Bill Robertson discussed the state of his conference with Ryan Stieg of the Mining Journal.
One of the subjects to emerge from the interview was the super-tournament. During the first three seasons after realignment, the Big Ten Hockey Conference and the WCHA suffered attendance issues during their conference championships. Robertson and others looked at ways to maximize their attendance numbers and revenue streams.
In March of 2016, to maximize attendance, Robertson suggested that the WCHA, Big Ten, and NCHC team up and coordinate their conference tournaments so the three conferences would be in the same city during the same weekend. Ideally, in the same building in the Twin Cities.
The idea wasn’t acted upon and the BTHC and the WCHA decided to move their entire conference playoffs on campus. Apparently, Robertson is still interested in this idea. Below is the conversation I am referring to.
When asked about the future of the league and college hockey as a whole, Robertson has several ideas in mind, including expansion and a possible super-tournament.
“I think eventually we can get to a ‘super final,’” he said. “One where we can have all three of the western leagues (WCHA, Big Ten, NCHC) play their games over the course of a weekend in one building.
“I think that it would be a great way to celebrate college hockey and I think they can do the same in the East. It depends on working out the budgets. You could have three games in one day and that would be an automatic qualifier for all three leagues. It’s always been a dream of mine.
“As far as the league, I’m hopeful that over time, we can eventually add two additional programs, maybe two or more. We would then have divisions within the WCHA.
“Will that happen today? No. Are they things we are looking at in the future? Yes. (Mining Journal)
Back in February of 2016, and to his credit, NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton didn’t appear all that receptive to the idea.
“We’re always open to discussion, that will focus on what’s going to improve the game,” Fenton said. “And so if that means some level of championship where we’re all in the same market and we’re trying to attract fans from all over to come and just (say), ‘Hey, it’s a college hockey weekend’ in whatever market, we’re open to that discussion… I would have to see how that would work, and what is the model, and how does it all come together.” (Minneapolis CBS)
Super-Tournament Should be Rejected Again
Moving forward, I think the NCHC commissioner needs to respectfully, and strongly reject this idea. Kill it now before this idea begins to snowball. While the super-tournament looks like a good idea. This has potential disaster written all over it.
First, who, what where and how. What league would get the prime time slots? I have a guess.
Second, would there be a Minnesota Rule? The old WCHA insisted on letting the Gophers to have the night game (to maximize attendance numbers) no matter what their seeding was. NCHC Schools aren’t going to want to play second fiddle to the Big Ten and vice versa.
Third, the Big Ten made up of entirely Power Five Conference schools and they not going to want to a back seat to a bunch of Division II and a hand full of Mid Major schools. They’re going to want to dictate the terms. I can’t imagine big schools like Michigan, Minnesota and Notre Dame agreeing to this. Let’s not forget television rights. The WCHA doesn’t have a TV deal while the Big Ten and the NCHC do. Notre Dame has their own TV deal with NBC. That has the potential to be a stumbling block.
From my chair, this looks like the WCHA trying to live off of the backs of the other conferences and find a much-needed revenue stream. So, yeah, I am cynical when I read this.
Finally, are NCHC fans are going to want to watch the WCHA or BTHC games? Will Big Ten fans want to see the NCHC teams play?
Here’s a suggestion, have a pre-season super-tournament at a mutually decided location.