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  1. #1

    Default STrib: How to improve Big Ten hockey

    per Randy:

    Emotions in Minnesota are high after the Gophers’ controversial overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Big Ten semifinals on Saturday, but for better or worse we’re stuck with this conference. With that in mind, Randy Johnson and Megan Ryan examine how the Big Ten could improve itself, especially with Minnesota in mind.

    Randy: In the low-hanging fruit department, many would say the best way for the Big Ten to improve is disappear. That’s not going to happen. And not calling phantom penalties in an overtime playoff game is another popular suggestion. But enough of that. Here’s one way I think the Big Ten could improve: Work with the NCHC to create a Big Ten-NCHC Challenge. The Big Ten does this successfully with the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in basketball, and creating such an event with hockey would at least pay tribute to old rivalries. There would be scheduling challenges, of course, but if they can be worked out, dedicating a weekend to Big Ten-NCHC could be popular. It would offer matchups of good teams. Last year, the Big Ten placed three squads in the Frozen Four, while the NCHC's Minnesota Duluth won the national championship. The format could be a single series between seven Big Ten teams and seven of the eight NCHC squads, or there could be travel partners with different opponents each night, such as Gophers vs. St. Cloud State and Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Duluth on a Friday, then swapping opponents on a Saturday. Michigan or Michigan State vs. Western Michigan, and Ohio State vs. Miami (Ohio) would be a nod to the old CCHA, too. The more often that teams from the old WCHA can face each other, the better in my book.

    Megan: I like that idea a lot. Any way to revive those rivalries and make them feel like something’s still at stake. Obviously, those come back around in nonconference play (which the Gophers learned this year can make or break you), but sometimes when they happen early in the season, it’s tough for fans to get amped. (Also, I know the North Star College Cup had its issues, but I, personally, would like to see that come back as well, though next season’s Mariucci Classic is essentially that.) My take is, the only way to really make the Big Ten catch on is good ol’ public relations. Can the conference do better of marketing itself? Can it play up rivalries like the Gophers and Michigan better? Can it promote its players better so if fans aren’t attracted to the matchups, they’re at least invested in some of the guys? Is there a way to nod to the past to satisfy that nostalgia? Like with your Big Ten-NCHC challenge idea, what if throwback jerseys were part of that? I’m sure this sounds trivial, but sometimes a little creativity can do wonders.

    Randy: I’m all for the throwbacks when used sparingly. It’s a nice touch, and fans seem to love them. As for the Big Ten improving marketing and public relations, you’re spot-on. And this might sound odd, but when it comes to hockey, the Big Ten would do well to be less Big Ten-ish. By that I mean that college hockey is a regional sport, and that’s part of its appeal. Let’s celebrate the regional aspect of it by even emphasizing West vs. East among Big Ten teams. Minnesotans are provincial with their hockey, and they haven’t warmed to a one-size-fits-all Big Ten banner. And for the love of Mike, the Big Ten – and NCAA for that matter -- must stop referring to the sport as “ice hockey.’’ I know it’s done to avoid confusion with field hockey, but in Minnesota the “ice’’ is assumed. It’s just hockey.

    Megan: As someone who ironically calls hockey “ice soccer” sometimes just to enrage people, I can’t relate to that last part. But I do think you’re on to something there with the rest of it. The Big Ten is a great, historic conference – just not in hockey. I think maybe applying the old ways of doing things that have worked for other sports won’t fly in this realm. There’s a reason why hockey is referred to as one of the “niche” sports. It’s got its own way of doing things, and those are hard for old fans to let go of and new fans to grab on to. But is there a happy media between those two? Who’s to say. (It’s you, the Big Ten, you’re to say.)

    http://www.startribune.com/how-to-im...key/507393452/

    Go Gophers!!


  2. #2

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    I question if Big 10 hockey will ever do well. You're not going to get big crowds here for the most part from other schools within the Big 10. You would with the old WCHA. The rivalry will never be the same without all the fans from your opponents in the stands. I've yet to get excited about playing a particular opponent in the Big 10.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by #2Gopher View Post
    I question if Big 10 hockey will ever do well. You're not going to get big crowds here for the most part from other schools within the Big 10. You would with the old WCHA. The rivalry will never be the same without all the fans from your opponents in the stands. I've yet to get excited about playing a particular opponent in the Big 10.
    Not just you. But this BIG10 vs WCHA take is getting so old and lazy. They didn't even make the NCAA tourney, is that because they're in the BIG10? The crowds aren't there because of ticket prices, getting dominated by teams like Penn State, and their overall average and mediocre record.

    Get back to competing for national championships (or at least being in the conversation) and it won't matter what conference we're in.

  4. #4

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    The Big Ten hurt college hockey badly, and our program was the single most impacted in the country. Yes, there is nothing we can do, but it's still depressing.

    -The only realistic road trip in conference is wisconsin, with Notre Dame (the newest team in the conference) on the edge of realistic.
    -The Big Ten schools don't travel well to Mariucci.
    -You don't work with anyone or have friends that went to these schools to get fired up talking about the weekend's games.
    -You didn't watch huge portions of Big Ten opponent rosters at local HS games and even before that, wondering where they would end up.

    A super conference combining the Big Ten and NCHC, with us in the western division is about all we can hope for and that'll never happen as we'll get some school no one cares about like Illinois or Arizona State added to the Big Ten.

    I love Gopher hockey more than anything, plan to continue getting season tickets (They NEED to lower prices or the program will fall even further), but things just aren't the same anymore no matter how you spin it.

  5. #5

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    Agreed, not the same anymore and a huge setback. But - People WILL travel for bigger match ups if we're on top again.

    You didn't watch huge portions of Big Ten opponent rosters at local HS games and even before that, wondering where they would end up. You're saying the Big Ten isn't littered with MN HS kids like the rest of college hockey, or am I confused?

  6. #6

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    The non Wisconsin (WCHA obviously) schools in the Big Ten have a total of 10 Minnesotans.

    The old WCHA schools in the NCHC and WCHA have about 100.

    So ya...

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoop33 View Post
    Not just you. But this BIG10 vs WCHA take is getting so old and lazy. They didn't even make the NCAA tourney, is that because they're in the BIG10? The crowds aren't there because of ticket prices, getting dominated by teams like Penn State, and their overall average and mediocre record.

    Get back to competing for national championships (or at least being in the conversation) and it won't matter what conference we're in.
    I can get on board with it not being worth complaining about something that wont change, but I think it's tough to argue that the change wasn't a net loss of MN. We had struggling teams and expensive tickets in the WCHA, and the environment at Mariucci was much better.

  8. #8
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    So basically, it wasn’t the Gophers who were selling out Mariucci, it was the opponents.

    When you put it that way. It sounds stupid.


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  9. #9

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    No, the Gophers were better, the opponents and conference was better, and the hockey was just better. Look at all the former WCHA stars that are now stars in the NHL.

    All of those are worse at the moment yet the prices have remained basically the same... The prices are the primary reason the arena is empty. The conference is the primary reason why the buzz is gone.
    Last edited by bonin21; 03-29-2019 at 12:14 PM.

  10. #10

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    Still have to respectfully disagree. It's not the conference, it's the losing. I definitely agree that it was a setback and I wish they could have at least kept more rivalries alive. But if we were still relevant, it would make a huge difference.
    From 2011+
    2011.JPG
    Last edited by Hoop33; 03-29-2019 at 01:38 PM.

  11. #11

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    They won the first four Big Ten conference regular seasons, so the winning was there for a while but the wins were against a bad conference no one cared about.

  12. #12

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    The B1G should add some Canadian schools to the league: http://www.thunderwolveshockey.com/ from Thunder Bay and one of the Toronto schools.

  13. #13

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    As Gopher fans we hear a lot across the board that if we win the interest will follow. For the most part I believe this. But for the hockey program this feels different now. College hockey is a regional sport, just don't see it changing.

  14. #14

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    It'd be awesome to see the Gophers just blasting Wisconsin, Michigan, and Notre Dame year in and year out, but I think it won't do any good if just the Gophers improve. We need WI and MI to come back to prominence as well. If we're battling the Badgers and Brush pups for conference crowns while all being ranked in the top 10-15 in the nation, the arena will fill again.

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