Sunday, March 22, 2015

Big Ten Hockey Conference—poor attendance at Tournament in Detroit and hurting the Gophers in the Pairwise?

Here we are on the eve of the NCAA Men’s hockey tournament selection show, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Men’s hockey team beat the University of Michigan Wolverines for the Big Ten Hockey tournament title (ending Michigan’s season) and earned an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota will be the only team from the Big Ten Conference in the NCAA tournament this year. 

This year’s Big Ten hockey conference tournament was held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. With what I have seen on TV for the Ohio State/Penn State quarterfinal game and the Minnesota/Michigan championship game (with pictures that were posted on Twitter), the attendance was horrible.

I don't think the "Road to the Joe" worked out very well this year.
One would think that with both the University of Michigan and Michigan State both within a 90 minute drive from Detroit's Joe Louis Arena that Michigan and Michigan State fans might have had more fans in attendance. Judging from the arena shots on television and the pictures from twitter, there were a LOT of empty seats for this tournament. From what I saw of the championship game (the third period), there were a "few" more fans in attendance. However, there were still a LOT of empty seats.  For a hockey conference that is only in its second year of existence, that has to be embarrassing.  I was at the WCHA Final Five tournament at the Xcel Energy Center and there were more people in attendance for the first semi-final game between Michigan Tech and Bowling green than for the semi-final games for the Big Ten Tournament. 



Picture from the Michigan-Wisconsin Big Ten Semi-final game
(courtesy of Twitter)

I found this surprising statistic on Twitter on Friday night. The following picture shows the attendance for the Big Ten Hockey Tournament between last year at the Xcel Energy Center and this year at Joe Louis Arena (the attendance for the entire Big Ten Hockey Tournament at Joe Louis Arena was 16,120). 


That is a significant drop in attendance between last year and this year. Does one think that anybody from the Big Ten Conference will look at the attendance and see how bad the attendance was this year? One sure hopes so. This doesn't bode well for a hockey conference only in its second year of existence. 

I wrote an article on My thoughts going into the second season of the Big Ten Hockey Conference. and why I am not a big fan of Big Ten Hockey. I stated previously that there are real no rivalries with the Gophers and the other teams. Yes, the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry/border battle is still there. Minnesota does have some history with Michigan (especially with having met the Wolverines in the semi-finals in both the 2002 and 2003 Men's Frozen Four). There are no rivalries with Michigan State and Ohio State. Penn State is only in its third year as a Division I hockey program. Those rivalries are not going to develop overnight. They are going to take years to develop, if they develop at all. 

Another interesting point was brought up about the Big Ten and that this whole Big Ten Hockey Conference is about money. It could very well be. It could also be because of the Big Ten Network and the Big Ten getting those games aired on that network (which to me, is a joke--but I'm not going to go there).  I was involved in a conversation on my personal twitter account about the Big Ten and that how the Big Ten was potentially hurting Minnesota's Men's hockey. One thing that was pointed out is how Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin are all big football schools in the Big Ten and their support for hockey is not really there. (Michigan State and Wisconsin also have teams in the NCAA Men's basketball tournament, which started on March 18). 

One way the move to the Big Ten Hockey Conference has hurt Minnesota is in the PairWise rankings. Out of the six teams in the conference (in the latest PairWise rankings), Minnesota is the only team from the conference in the top ten in the PairWise. (Michigan was ranked #19, Michigan State was tied for 31st, Penn State was 33rd, Ohio State was tied for 36th, and Wisconsin was 55th). The entire PairWise rankings from uscho.com are here. Because of where the other five teams are ranked, the Gophers' conference schedule can considered weak, which could affect recruiting. A twitter user (@timtjack44) stated that because of the lesser conference competition, this could have an effect on high level recruits who could decide to pass on playing for Minnesota and decide to go to another Division I school because of better competition. 

As of right now, I do think the Big Ten Hockey conference was not a great idea. I really don't care what the conference charter says about any six member schools having a team in a particular sport. They should have allowed Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State remain in their old conferences and allowed Penn State to join a conference like the Hockey East, instead of destroying two well-established hockey conferences, along with established and well-known college hockey rivalries. 








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