The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Joe Paisley reported this week that the NCHC will talk about possible adjustments to the league’s postseason format at the annual meetings, which begin next week in Florida.
There seems to be two alternatives to the current setup (four best-of-three, first-round series with the winners going to the Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center):
1. All eight teams make it to the Target Center.
The good: Fans could buy tickets to it each year knowing that their team will make it there. The league could book travel for all teams before the season started and not have problems getting last-minute tickets. The bad: You go from 12-16 games in the tournament with first-round series, to eight-10 games. Fewer games probably means less revenue. It also would take away two home games for successful teams. The schools don’t make tons of money on first-round series, but they do benefit a little bit financially. Fans also enjoy seeing two more home games at the end of the season and that would take away from that opportunity.
2. The bottom four teams are forced to play best-of-three series to get to Target Center. The top four make it automatically. This means only two teams miss the Frozen Faceoff.
The good: More teams make it, more fan bases make it to fill up the seats. The controversy: Do top teams want to take a week off at that time of year? I’m not sure. Maybe some do, so they can rest up. Maybe some don’t. The bad: Once again, it takes away two home games from successful teams.
Why the possible change?
Let’s read between the lines here, though. Nobody is going to come out and say it, but the league has got to be terrified of the possibility of North Dakota not making it to the Target Center.
This year, North Dakota fans saved the event. It ended up being a solid crowd in Minneapolis. But if Colorado College won that first-round series Game 3 against UND, it would have been a disaster. There would have been 400 people there.
It didn’t help that Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State missed out on the tournament, either. But I think the league knows that if UND gets beat first round — and it’s going to happen some time — it’s probably going to end up in the red.
I think the league also realized that if UND’s fan base would have been supplemented by Bulldog and Husky fans, there could have been a really, really good crowd at the Target Center. That’s likely the driving factor in these talks. The league rightfully won’t come out and say they need those teams in Minneapolis, but that’s the truth.
Because of the NCHC’s depth, it’s going to be even more difficult for teams to make the Frozen Faceoff. UND is in the midst of a staggering 12-year run of first-round playoff victories. Outside of Michigan, no other program has a streak longer than five years.
Assuming UND will make it every year is not realistic. The league is trying to put itself in position to have a successful and profitable postseason, even if UND (and SCSU/Duluth) does not make it to Minneapolis.
That’s also another reason why I think we will see another round of realignment in the last five to 10 years with Minnesota State-Mankato ending up in the NCHC. But that’s another story.
I know that UND coach Dave Hakstol said he would like to see the NCHC postseason remain the same about a month ago. What do you all think?