I intentionally skipped over the attendance issue in my blog yesterday because at this point it’s kind of like beating a dead horse. That being said, WCCO’s David McCoy had an interesting piece (which features USCHO’s Todd Milewski) that aired on Rosen’s Sports Sunday last night that I wanted to share.
The whole video is very good, seriously, watch it if you skipped over, but the fact that the combined attendance of the Big Ten, WCHA and NCHC was 20,000 less than the “old” WCHA averaged for the final five years of its postseason tournament is simply astounding. I texted that to one of my buddies and his response was simply, “holy crap.”
Todd is going to post an infographic with attendance number later this week so I won’t get into those. If you watched any of the Big Ten Tournament or follow anyone that covers college hockey on Twitter, it’s painfully easy to see that attendance in Detroit was terrible last weekend.
I don’t know if there’s a quick fix to this problem. If you can think of one, contact the Big Ten and demand employment.
Speaking as a Minnesotan, if the WCHA had stayed together 2014-15 may have very well been the most spectacular college hockey season in the history of the sport. That being said, if you’re the type of person that constantly says “bring back the old WCHA” or “just go back to the way it used to be,” you’re wasting your breath — the Big Ten isn’t going anywhere.
The Big Ten Tournament is guaranteed to be at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul next year and then at Joe Louis Arena the year after. Detroit’s new arena will be nearing completion in 2017, but I am led to believe that it won’t be ready until the 2017-18 NHL season, meaning the B1G Tournament will be at The Joe. Correct me if I’m wrong there, Michigan residents.
2017, whether it’s hosted in the old arena or the new one, will be big for Detroit in terms of hosting again. Another lackluster attendance number could mean that the tournament would rotate between St. Paul and possibly Chicago or simply be in St. Paul each year. I’m not saying that the attendance for last year’s tournament in St. Paul was amazing, it was actually very disappointing, but this year’s attendance was embarrassing.
I think the one thing we have to do is forget about the old WCHA Final Five and CCHA tournament, because I don’t know if the Big Ten Tournament is ever going to hold a candle to either.
However, the Big Ten doesn’t have to be like that to be considered a success. The WCHA only averaged about 8,000 fans this year but I was really impressed with it because there was actually some atmosphere in the building. On Saturday there was a Minnesota Wild game before hand followed by a fan fest and then the championship game. Only selling the lower bowl and having the pep bands with the crowd — as opposed to the nosebleeds — helped, too, even though Michigan Tech’s band had me hearing cowbells in my sleep.
Maybe if the Big Ten incorporated some of those elements it would bring some success, because, as of now, the tournament itself isn’t enough of a spectacle to get people to show up.