NCHC Hockey: State of the Conference Is Good

Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton, Sin Bin Photography

NCHC Hockey: State of the Conference Is Good

North Dakota

NCHC Hockey: State of the Conference Is Good


On Tuesday, the NCHC released their annual report.  Perusing the report, there were many good things in the NCHC’s release. I will hit on a few of the talking points that I really liked. You can read the whole report by clicking on this link.

NCHC Refs Mic’d Up

First things first. Putting microphones on the NCHC officials for NCHC games is a great idea. Last season, during an exhibition game, the on-ice officials were mic’d up, it was well-received. I wrote about that event last December.

Mic’ing Referees – After performing a successful test-run at Ralph Engelstad Arena during an exhibition game last season, the conference is exploring the possibility to mic up referees for all games in an NCHC venue. This would provide an enhanced experience to the in-venue audience and fans watching on television or The microphones would be used by the referee to announce penalties and/or reasons for a video review over the PA system. Project costs are being gathered and the membership will decide whether to implement it for the coming season.

One area that many NCHC fans are concerned about is the quality of the broadcasts. We’ve known since year one that some of the NCHC member’s webcasts aren’t up to standard. In year six, this was no different.

Last season, there was still a couple of school’s (they know who they are) who’s webcast were unwatchable.  That needs to change. Yes, I understand that not every school has the infrastructure that UND has, but they need to up their game and at least achieve a “minimum” acceptable standard. It will be interesting to see if those schools in question up their games.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sidearm Sports, UND Athletic’s official webpage was moved to Sidearm Sports last season. Transition – Over its first five seasons, the platform has been hosted by NeuLion/NeuLion College. However, starting in 2019-20, will be hosted by SIDEARM Sports, which purchased NeuLion College this past spring. Throughout the summer, will be transitioning to the SIDEARM platform, which also currently hosts all eight NCHC member school athletics websites. The conference’s goal in the transition is to provide an equal experience fans have grown accustomed to while making enhancements to areas of the platform that can be improved. The same tools and technology fans have become familiar with on will still be available on the new SIDEARM platform.

Unfortunately, no other Division I College Hockey conference uses Sidearm Sports, so, will not be able to show road non-conference games.

CBS Sports Net

I don’t think that anyone should be surprised, CBS Sports Net is back for another season. This is fabulous news. For the first six seasons of the NCHC, CBSSN has done a great job broadcasting hockey games One low point, I wish they broadcasted more of the NCHC’s games.

Television – The NCHC has once again extended its partnership with CBS Sports Network. CBS Sports Network will air one game each Friday night during the second half of the season (after Jan. 1), leading up to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. CBS Sports Network will continue to air both semifinals and the championship of the Frozen Faceoff, as they’ve done the past six seasons.

Technology and On-Ice Officiating

This section is one that I consider the most important when it comes to on-ice play. Make no mistake about it, in college hockey, not all the school’s facilities, and video technology are equal. Again, there needs to be a minimum acceptable standard. Good enough isn’t good enough.

Again, UND fans are pretty blessed, we have great sports facilities and very good video review technology.  Other schools in the NCAA aren’t as lucky. Hopefully, the schools in question can improve their video review technology.

Video Review Technology – The NCHC is exploring the possibility of upgrading technology within each NCHC venue to improve the video review process for technicians, officials, and supervisors.

This is an area where I’d like to see the league become more transparent. Yes, the on-ice officials are human and make mistakes. Last season, there were a few officials that struggled on the ice. This is an area that needs to improve.

Yearly, social media allows us to watch video evidence of numerous egregious mistakes and missed calls by the on-ice officials. Last season was no different.

Officials Evaluation Tool – The conference office and coaches are collectively developing a new tool coaches can use to evaluate officials. The tool will provide the conference office subjective and objective perspectives in how a coach believes an official performed.

I like this. Conference schools will no longer be able to initiate supplemental discipline. If a hit is egregious, it will get reviewed by the league. Sitting in the press box, I’ve been able to observe the NCHC supervisors, and they’re very proactive. For example, Mike Schmidt doesn’t miss a hit. During a game, he spends a lot of time watching replays of question hits and plays that need additional scrutiny.

Team Initiated Supplemental Discipline – The membership voted to remove any ‘team-initiated’ supplemental discipline requests. All supplemental discipline reviews will be initiated through the conference office.

If the NCHC wants to continue being the best conference in college hockey, they will need to continue to aggressively monitor the performance of all their on-ice officials. Looks like the league is taking this seriously.

Officiating Staff – The NCHC Director of Officiating will complete a review of the NCHC officiating staff over the summer and add new referees and linesmen to the staff, as needed, to replace those that may retire or not be renewed.

Subtractions. We know that NCHC official Todd Anderson has retired. Anderson reffed his last game at the end of the 2018-19 season. It will be interesting to see the subtractions and additions.

NCHC is Financially Sound

Currently, the NCHC is only western college hockey conference has their conference tourney final in a neutral site. The other western leagues have moved their entire conference tourney on campus. Right now, the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff will remain at the Xcel Energy Center.

One of the concerns when the league was formed was, what happens if UND doesn’t make the Frozen Faceoff for a significant amount of time? In year six, those fears were realized. UND failed to make the Final Faceoff. So far, it appears the league didn’t suffer that much.

General Financial Operations – The NCHC is expecting to generate a surplus for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which ends in August. Despite lower than average overall revenue, the business model is structured in a manner that will still allow the NCHC to finish in a sixth-straight surplus position. Revenue generation through opportunities separate from the conference tournament contributed to the NCHC achieving the positive mark. Following the 2017-18 season, the conference was able to reach an internal reserve account goal.

Fall is quickly approaching. Checking the official UND athletics webpage, there are 71 days until the UND hockey team kicks off the 2019-20 season. Finally, there are 35 days until the Fighting Hawks football team start their 2019 campaign.

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