Wisconsin Hockey Hates Money, Hockey

Submitted by Brian on May 23rd, 2011 at 12:40 PM


no sir I would not like to be your neighbor
you smell like deep-fried deep fryers
and you make the new big ten geographically incoherent

The Big Ten hockey conference is coming, bringing with it questions like "how do you structure the playoffs in a six-team conference?" Since this is America everyone gets their participation trophy berth, but then you have some options. Specifically these:

A single-elimination format at a neutral site in which all six teams are seeded according to regular-season performance. The lowest four seeds play for the right to face one of the top two seeds.

• A two-weekend model in which the four lowest-seeded schools play a best-of-three series for the right to advance to a final four, single-elimination set-up staged at the home of the top seed.

• A three-weekend arrangement in which the teams are seeded and the highest seeds host a best-of-three series. The four lowest seeds play for the right to face one of the top two seeds in a best-of-three series hosted by the highest seed. The highest seed hosts the championship series.

Wisconsin is supporting the first of these because formats other than the WCHA's Final Five confuse and frighten them. They probably saw a sixth team show up to the Final Five this year* and fled to the comforting bosom of the Big Ten.

If the rest of college hockey was in charge here they would permanently site in St. Paul because the Midwest doesn't exist. Fortunately, the Big Ten is apparently set on rotating the playoffs through Chicago, Detroit, and maybe Pittsburgh should a neutral site be required.

But… like… it shouldn't. The amount of money you can make from five games at a neutral site is way less than you can make from 10-15 games at campus sites unless you're expecting a Big Ten tournament to sell out, which it won't. (And even then it's probably about equal.) You have two sets of fans separated from each other by a lake. Ohio State and Michigan State fans will simply not show up. MSU fans don't show up to their own building, and didn't even when they were good. Penn State fans are undetermined but they are a very long way away from anything except Pittsburgh so banking on Nittany Lions to show up en masse is foolhardy, especially when they're probably not going to be very good for a while.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is not going to fork over extra games to the Big Ten for having an abbreviated playoff. So the advantages of a three-weekend series format are many:

  • it is more hockey
  • it is more money
  • it is less random
  • it is more important to finish well so you get home games
  • it does not randomly assign home ice to whichever team happens to be closest to the playoff

The advantages of a single neutral site:

  • it is good practice for playing an NCAA regional in an embarrassingly empty cavern of a building
  • it is less frightening to Wisconsin

The Final Five works so well for the WCHA because they had eight fanbases within a few hours of Minneapolis. (They've got seven now since they traded BSU and UNO for Minnesota and Wisconsin.) Anyone who makes it can show up at the X with no trouble. That won't be the case in the Big Ten, which has only six fanbases, three of which are questionable. The three that aren't are separated by a lake and massive airfares since Minneapolis and Detroit are both Delta hubs, and the fans who would hypothetically go to them are facing down trips to randomly-selected regionals and the Frozen Four the next three weeks. A neutral site is not a good idea.

But this is college hockey, so they'll put it in the Sudan.

OTHER ITEM OF INTEREST: The article mentions that the displaced Big Ten teams "hope to" fill their schedule with eight games against WCHA and CCHA teams, leaving six (or eight if you go to Alaska) left for random nonconference series. Conveniently, eight games is how many it takes for this blog's State of Michigan-ish Championship idea to come to fruition.

OTHER END OF THE BENCH GUY: Via Michigan Hockey Net, a defenseman with 27 points in 122 games as the Omaha Lancers' captain has committed for next year. He's Mike Chiasson, and if that name sounds familiar: yes, he is former Red Wing Steve Chiasson's son. The elder Chiasson died in a car wreck 12 years ago, after which the family moved to Nevada.

Anyone committing this late is almost certainly a walk-on and Michigan has six guys slotted for playing time next year, but depth is depth and it's always good to add junior captains. Also here's Chiasson fighting some dude.

*[The WCHA added UNO and BSU, thus necessitating a sixth team. In a very Big Ten move, the WCHA refused to change the name. That turned out to be prescient.]


david from wyoming

May 23rd, 2011 at 12:58 PM ^

You missed a very valid reason for a single-elimination Big Ten tournament, it's a lot less of a time commitment for the players. The tournament is close to the end of the semester and hockey players have just spend the last six months traveling for their sport anyway. A three weekend tournament puts a huge amount of stress on the players in terms of time away from the classroom.

david from wyoming

May 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

There is no difference, but that doesn't mean it's the best way to run a tournament. Depending on the travel location, the hockey team will leave Thursday so they can practice on ice Friday before games. If the games are Fri/Sun, then travel can be pushed up another day. The hockey players end up missing a hell of a lot of class because of travel in general. Three weekend tournaments is a lot of time out of the classroom.


May 23rd, 2011 at 3:39 PM ^

The thing about March Madness is that 80 percent of the teams involved are done after the first weekend, so it only really affects a small number of student-athletics academically.  The rest only miss a couple of days of class.


May 23rd, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

I think you underestimate the fan base B10 events in Chicago can pull.  The city is relatively accessible to everyone in the B10 besides Penn State and has a massive alumni population from every school.  I don't expect the United Center to sell out, but i'd expect a pretty large and engaged crowd for all the tournaments held here.  Campus games are awesome, but there is a draw to having a central location (that isn't St. Louis) where a good turnout of fans from all teams in the tourney can mingle and get excited about the tournament itself. 


May 23rd, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

They could always host the B1G Tourney in the Allstate Arena (where the Chicago Wolves play). It's smaller & intimate (easier to sell out), located within a slapshot of O'Hare, surrounded by hotels (Rosemont, IL), easily accessable (I-90 & I-294), is safe and clean and has lots of bars/eateries. I'm not advocating permanent "residency" for the tourney to be in Chicago but it would be a good venue.


May 23rd, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

By all means at least one series should be on Campus.  I am somewhat split between the two weekend format and the three weekend format, but lean towards the three weekend format.  With the two weekend format the top 2 teams would not get a home series.


May 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

Combine both campus games and neutral site into one format with only two weekends?

Two weekend format, single-game eliminations

Weekend 1:
Friday -  #4 vs. #5 at #1's campus
Saturday - 4/5 winner vs. #1

Friday - #3 vs. #6 at #2's campus
Saturday - 3/6 winner vs. #2

Weekend 2:

Saturday - Winner of #1 region vs. winner of #2 region at neutral site


May 23rd, 2011 at 2:29 PM ^

seriously takes years away from the lives of hockey fans...(game 7s or NCAA Tournament games)...a best of three series for a conference championship on campus sites would be awesome. Also, the randomness of hockey would be reduced (only by a little since the NCAAs are much more important/nerve wrecking), which can be beneficial to all hockey fans' sanity...which is always nice since it almost never happens...


May 23rd, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

I grew up ('86-'04) with family season tickets to Munn and will attest to the fact it was an exciting place to watch hockey. I went back with my Dad last year to a LSSU/MSU game and  the empty seats and apathetic fans were a sad testament to Comley's failures.  Although I hope Michigan will never become what State is now, I like to think the students and area fans wouldn't be so quick to desert them.


May 23rd, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

Unfortunately, Michigan was what State is now back in the 80's and early 90's.  I remember my freshman year in 1989, you could walk down to Yost and buy a ticket for $4.00 and sit pretty much wherever you wanted.  The only time Yost ever sold out was when we were playing Sparty, and it was often mostly Spartan fans buying the tickets.  It got so bad, the Daily wrote an op-ed appealling to the student body as a whole to come out and support the hockey team because 1.) they were pretty good and 2.) having Sparty take over your stadium was embarassing.  By the time I graduated in 1993, things were very different obviously, but I'll never forget how humiliating it was to have the Spartans creating a home game environment for their team in our building.

I hope we never go back there again.


May 23rd, 2011 at 3:38 PM ^

that has absolutely NOTHING to do with what Brian was talking about, not money, not atmosphere, but the hockey itself. 

One thing I absolutely HATE is college hockey on NHL ice since the lockout/rule changes. Think about it: Blue lines, goal lines are different, goalies playing the puck is different, it changes the game completely.

It'd be like college hoops all of a sudden having the NBA 3-pointer, a wider lane and only 24 seconds not 35.

Or like college football using the narrower hashes, 2 feet for a catch, 1st downs not stopping the clock, etc.

I like the differences in rules for the college/pro games. But let them play by their own rules! 

Hockey's the only sport that does this, no more NCAA games on NHL ice!

/end rant


May 23rd, 2011 at 4:15 PM ^

The blue line is back 2-4 feet (towards the red line) and the goal line is 2-4 feet closer to the end boards. 

This raises the offensive zone's area by a ton, increasing the open space during powerplays and stuff. It also totally messes with a goalie's angles. Think of it like the NFL hashes, it would TOTALLY change the game.


May 23rd, 2011 at 7:33 PM ^

home site playoffs and a michigan tournament would both be awesome

which means that they will never ever happen. michigan will skate onto the ice in pittsburgh to metallica in 2013. consider it ncaa'd