Friday, January 30, 2015

B1G Has Higher Hopes in Hockeytown

By Mike Hinrichs

It's still a little less than two months away, but it's never too early to start looking forward to the second annual B1G tournament, set to take place March 19-21. This year's tourney heads to the heart of Hockeytown, hosted at the infamous Joe Louis Arena.

Last year's inaugural B1G conference tournament called the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul home. Looking at the attendance numbers, you can bet the Big Ten is hoping for a better turnout the second time around.
Over the course of five games, the average attendance at the X was a numbing 8,522. That's dramatically down from the previous year's WCHA Final Five, where the averaged attendance was 17,459 per game -- a number fairly consistent with that tournament featuring Minnesota programs, North Dakota and Denver etc.

Take a moment and let the difference in those numbers sink in hockey fans -- especially those still longing for the past WCHA days.

Looking beyond that, this year's tournament holds high potential for a much better result (it can't get much worse can it?). Moving the Big Ten tournament from the State of Hockey to Hockeytown may in fact be what the Big Ten needs to get its attendance up.

The 2014 tournament's biggest location appeal was it's presence in the State of Hockey. People -- the Big Ten included -- assumed its centralized location in an already passionate hockey state would resonate enough with fans to draw them out in March to watch a new conference showdown. What wasn't taken in to consideration was the travel distance for teams and fans alike.

Penn State and Ohio State -- along with their fans -- had to travel a combined 1,725 miles (970 and 755 respectively) to reach the Minnesota hockey mecca. Those long commutes for two-sixths of the conference more than likely contributed to the shortage in attendance. In total, the average travel for the five teams (excluding home team Minnesota) was 652 miles.

In Detroit, the six teams will travel an average 299 miles, making it easier and more appealing for fans and teams to travel and watch live.

We can argue that location isn't the only reason for the poor turnout. Factors like conference competition, gametime placement, a competing NCHC tournament down the road in Minneapolis at the same time, and the early exit of top drawing teams without a doubt contributed.

But with a year under their belt and a new city eager and ready to host two of it's own home state teams, we bet Detroit rock city will certainly rock the Big Ten conference tournament this year.

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