Friday, March 21, 2014
It came, it went, and few people noticed. More than likely because the attendance at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday barely tipped 4,000 (despite the announced attendance). Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State took to the ice at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively. It was a rough draw.
Those watching it on TV noticed the empty seats -- something that is rarely seen in that building, home to the state high school tournament that draws 19,000+ and the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Hockey fans that snuck out of work to catch a glimpse of Big Ten hockey found themselves able to purchase tickets at an extraordinarily low price and move down to the lower bowl freely. Most of them didn't stay to the end, even in a double OT upset win for Penn State over Michigan.
Yes, all in all, the first day of the Big Ten Championship tournament was a B1G disappointment.
As my boss told me all season -- mind you I work in a hockey office -- "I just have no feeling or excitement for this." He won't be going back to the X for the weekend. And like him, many won't be.
Our blog pushes and strives to promote Big Ten hockey. It has for the past two years, seeing the growing potential it has for the sport that we all love. It's a good thing in the grand scheme of college hockey and will take time to adjust. But even we must admit, the same intense passion that has been felt for years in the WCHA and CCHA is now gone. It's a tough pill to swallow for fans who were so loyal to those conferences.
Fans don't flock to the X like they used to on tournament weekend and the local bars are noticeably missing jerseys in the seats.
Many of you have said that the promotion was lacking, even in the hockey heavy Twin Cities. A 2 p.m. game on a Thursday was going to be a tough sell either way, especially for two teams that aren't Minnesota-based.
Which brings up location as another barrier that the Big Ten tournament faces. Was St. Paul the right choice for the first year? Absolutely. Should it continue to come back (right now it's every other year) frequently, absolutely. Minnesota is the host for the pure fact that it's the State of Hockey. The Gophers are known as the Pride on Ice here and hockey will always sell no matter the cost. While yesterday may dispute that claim, as I mentioned, the time and the teams played a big factor in the lack of people.
I expect to see Friday night draw some bigger crowds with it being the start to the weekend and having Wisconsin and Minnesota as the top-names. Saturday ideally will be even bigger with the Wild taking on Detroit at the X at 1 p.m., 6 hours before the championship game (well played Big Ten).
As always, we love to hear from the people. Here is what you fans had to say yesterday and today about the Big Ten tournament so far....