Minnesota hockey the latest victim of athletic departments chasing dollars

Submitted by UMxWolverines on March 14th, 2019 at 10:49 AM

http://www.citypages.com/news/an-empty-arena-delivers-last-rites-to-minnesota-gophers-hockey-dynasty/506957241

The premier program in the state of hockey no one would have ever thought the gophers would struggle to fill their arena. They had a large waiting list similar to what we had in the early 2000s. But combine a slight decline in play with the other smaller Minnesota schools rising up, abandoning many years of tradition in the WCHA, and a greedy athletic department their wait list is gone. 1,900 was the announced attendance for our second game against them this past weekend and that's probably being generous. 

Read some of the comments, they sound an awful lot like what we have heard in recent years. If athletic departments keep this up half empty arenas will be the norm sooner than they think. 

Comments

stephenrjking

March 14th, 2019 at 12:10 PM ^

Just went through the schedule. I counted 14 games on tv, a distinction without a difference. Mostly BTN but also NBC Sports (part of Notre Dame's contract) FS1 and a couple on Fox Sports or FSD plus. 

No Michigan hockey game, including a series against Michigan State, was on television prior to the December home series against Minnesota. At least 6 games after New Year's day, when football no longer obstructs the schedule and hockey at its best, were not available on television. That includes another game against MSU.

Literally, every UM-MSU game at a home arena, where there is a great atmosphere and it's fun to watch, was unavailable on tv.

I honestly wouldn't mind much if the streams were free. Hockey is a niche sport, I'm a big boy and can watch a stream.

But I won't pay extra for it. 

stephenrjking

March 14th, 2019 at 12:24 PM ^

Yes, that was the one UM-MSU game that was televised. The event continues to do reasonably well; 15,000 went this year, and I imagine that in a season when both UM and MSU are strong in hockey they could sell out again. Perhaps. The trophy is relatively new, but playing on the home ice of the Red Wings is not, and it remains a good thing. 

trueblueintexas

March 14th, 2019 at 1:12 PM ^

I think you also have to recognize that 3 of the 4 teams in the Frozen Four last year were B1G teams, of course none of them walked away with the ultimate prize. That went to Minn-Duluth. So in that one example, you see representations of a more recent trend. College hockey is no longer dominated by a handful of programs. Most fans would argue parity is good and makes it more interesting. Michigan, Minnesota, BC, BU, Maine and North Dakota fans would all argue differently. I tend to side with the broader view on that. 

ak47

March 14th, 2019 at 11:45 AM ^

Some will push to far but the smarter franchises are already learning the limit and adjusting. The food at mercedes benz in atlanta for example is extremely reasonable (and tons of local places) and they made more money than ever on food purchases. The orioles have a kids dugout club where you get something like 6 games for $16 per kid and the parents tickets are only like $20 and the kids get a $1 hot dog, etc.

ex dx dy

March 14th, 2019 at 4:29 PM ^

I see basically 2 options for B1G hockey being a success:

1. Increase mainstream interest in hockey to the point where it can make up for the lack of dedicated hockey-only fans. This will require sacrifice on the part of other sports in order to share airtime, resources, etc to generate that interest. Giving hockey niche airtime, attention, and money will not make it a mainstream sport. It would need a lot of upfront investment to get it there.

2. Regain the trust of old fans by admitting that even though B1G hockey exists now, it's still just another conference in the niche world of college hockey, and treat it as such. This would require execs to give up any hopes of making significant profits off hockey, reduce prices to sustainable levels, and reduce the over-commercialization that a mainstream sports fan is used to, but college hockey fans won't put up with.

The problem is that neither of the above are realistic in the short term. Execs are going to try to squeeze hockey for revenue just like the other sports without giving it the investment it needs to generate real fans that would produce the revenue. Until they realize that these are the two viable options (apart from scrapping the whole thing and going back to the CCHA/WCHA), attendance and interest will continue to dwindle.

lhglrkwg

March 14th, 2019 at 4:48 PM ^

I think others are correct when they say that a lot of the foundation college hockey has to be built on is regional rivalries. Michigan and MSU are used to playing their Michigan and Ohio schools regularly. Minnesota and Wisconsin are really missing their games with the North Dakotas, Denvers, and Duluths of the world. It shows in the apathy of the fanbases. It's like Michigan football stopped playing Ohio State and Michigan State one year and started playing in the ACC. Yeah, people still like it, but the enthusiasm seems noticeably tempered

Couple that with price gouging everyone and it's not surprising the sport is suffering (except to athletic department leadership apparently!)

ex dx dy

March 14th, 2019 at 4:55 PM ^

I agree with that, and I'd also mention that I think the small schools and traditional rivals brought an intensity and devotion to their teams that drew out the best in the big schools. As an alumnus of Michigan Tech, I can tell you that basically no one cares about football or basketball. It's all hockey all the time. It doesn't really matter who or where Tech plays in hockey, hockey is what we do. The big schools have such strong football and basketball followings that there are other places for an alumnus of the school to go if hockey loses their interest. If all the schools that Michigan is playing have also lost interest, Michigan will, too. But if Michigan is consistently playing small schools that are guaranteed to be rabid about their team, it'll keep the interest up on Michigan's (and Minnesota's and Wisconsin's, etc) end.

lhglrkwg

March 14th, 2019 at 5:00 PM ^

Agreed. I miss the games vs Ferris or Western or Lake State where you knew they were going to give you their best because they wanted to take down the big school. It added a level of intensity to a lot of the generic mid season series. Sometimes when I watch schools like Michigan and Wisconsin playing each other during a regular season series, I feel like everyone watching and playing the game is just apathetic. No one cares about Big Ten hockey

lhglrkwg

March 14th, 2019 at 4:39 PM ^

I was excited for the BTHC when it was announced, but it's hard to see it as anything but a failure and a huge blow to the culture of college hockey. The CCHA and WCHA used to be awesome leagues focused on great regional rivalries which I think really helped college hockey flourish as a smaller D1 sport. The disaster we've made now has created a Big Ten league no one cares about and has ruined a mountain of great rivalries and for what? I know we did it because we're all in the Big Ten together in every other sport and maybe there are a few pennies to be made from BTN revenue, but beyond that I see it as nothing but damaging to a bunch of Big Ten programs that had great hockey cultures before and now it's just another generic Big Ten sport