TAMPA, Fla. — It’s currently almost 90 degrees outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a strange atmosphere to settle college hockey’s champion. But Minnesota coach Don Lucia thinks the change does the sport good.
“It’s more of an event [now],” said Lucia. “I think it’s an event that cities want to bid on. So I think it’s important to have it in traditional areas, but also in some nontraditional areas at times, too, because it does open up some eyes. It’s a great market in Tampa here; they won the Cup not too long ago.
“And it’s become a real treat for our players. Obviously, you have more media attention and everything like that, but what the host community does and the arena does, that’s where I think it’s really grown.”
That said, the Gophers aren’t planning on taking much time to enjoy the scenery.
“It’s not like the guys can go hang by the pool,” Lucia said. “For the players it’s the hotel and getting to the rink and focus on trying to play games and trying to win games. I don’t think that changes no matter where you’re at.”
“I think it was pretty exciting when we got off the plane,” said sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt. But I think the one thing that the coaching staff and all the players, the captains, seniors have really emphasized is making sure that as soon as we stepped inside the rink today it’s all business until tomorrow night. Guys like [senior captain] Taylor [Matson] make sure that everyone knows that we are focused, dialed in and ready to go, and have a good practice today and be focused for the next 48 hours.”