Chris Peters of the United States of Hockey has this little blurb on his blog today – it’s worth a look. I sure there will be NCHC fans will take issue with some of the things that he said. Or not!
In all honesty, the league didn’t have to do terribly much to seemingly come out ahead on realignment. By just letting things play out and adding Notre Dame, largely due to the league thanks to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s (seriously, that’s as hard to type as it is to say) lack of foresight and possibly arrogance, Hockey East took another significant step forward by attracting UConn.
Meanwhile the NCHC has very little name-recognition, and therefore a second-rate TV deal, a second-rate tournament venue, but a high level of on-ice competition. From a hockey standpoint, it’s a fantastic league, but that’s where it ends. That might be enough for you as a fan, but it’s not enough to lead me or anyone else to believe it’s going to be a great business long term.
The Big Ten Hockey Conference will have good exposure on the Big Ten Network, but it’s still merely a six-team league. Until a few more Big Ten schools step up for hockey, and there’s nothing to indicate that will happen anytime soon, the conference’s size doesn’t make for a lot of variety and excitement, though the rivalries should remain intense. Still, the exposure and brand recognition resonates with the casual fan.
First off, is Chris right? For disclosure – Chris was not a big fan of the re-alignment that took place last summer, he isn’t alone there are a lot of people that weren’t fans of last summer’s re-alignment plan as well. It’s not like we had a choice in the matter, said schools pursued this venture without any input from the fans.
That being said, do you agree with what he said? Right now, I am more concerned with what NCHC fans think than the B1G fans. It’s obvious that the B1G has name-recognition.
Does the new NCHC has very little name-recognition? In my opinion; no! I am also not so sure how you can say that there is little name recognition with the teams that make up the NCHC. Teams like UND, DU, C.C. UMD have all won NCAA titles and have storied histories.
Add to the mix up and coming teams like Miami University and Western Michigan from the soon to be defunct CCHA and UNO and SCSU and you have the making of a very well balanced hockey league. The NCHC brings to the table 16 NCAA titles, only the B1G will have more NCAA titles (20), so were not talking about a second rate bunch of pathetic cupcakes here. We already know the title counts of all three leagues involved.
Let’s take a look at the financials. Historically, the NCHC teams have been successful on the ice as well as financially; if you look you will see that five of the future NCHC teams make about 3.2 million off of their Division I hockey programs as opposed to the reconfigured Hockey East which loses about $395,000 a year of their hockey programs. Only Denver and Western Michigan have lost money with their hockey programs.
I am not here to disrespect Hockey East or (Chris for that matter) because Hockey East is a very good hockey league and has piled up an impressive four NCAA titles during the 2000’s, however, it’s only been two teams that have won the NCAA titles during that time period ( BU and B.C.) – besides the three power schools currently in the Hockey East no other really stands out in that conference, except maybe the University of New Hampshire.
If anything I think that the two leagues are on equal footing as far as name recognition goes in college hockey.
I think historically speaking people are just as familiar with BU and B.C. as they are with DU, UND when it comes to college hockey.
Adding Notre Dame to the Hockey East was a good move but what exactly have they accomplished during their hockey existence? Yep! You will be able to watch your team play Notre Dame when they play their Hockey East foes, but the rest of the league is not going to benefit financially from that television deal.
Breaking it down further – outside of the power schools Boston College, Boston University, Maine and UNH who else in the current Hockey East stands out and packs fans in the stands? Maybe Notre Dame when they get to Hockey East in 2013-14.
Are University of Connecticut hockey fans going to suddenly realize that they have a college hockey team and fill the XL center when it’s 30 miles from their campus? This isn’t the UCONN Men’s or Women’s Basketball teams.
This is a very different animal, the UCONN Huskies hockey team with very little history that is currently a member of the AHA conference, that’s not to say that they can’t evolve into a power house hockey team. Let’s call UCONN a work in progress.
Here is the part that I do agree with Chris with. If the Target Center which is exclusively a Basketball venue doesn’t improve after the 100-150 million dollars improvements Target Center is going to be a second rate tournament venue. That’s really not debatable; the Target Center has its work cut out for it.
The central location of the Target Center does make it an attractive venue and the majority of the fans that have the most rabid fan bases are all driving distance away.
Finally, I am not so sure we can call the deal with CBS Sports a second-rate TV deal, before we even see how it turns out.
Besides the Notre Dame TV deal with NBC Sports Net, how is the rest of Hockey East doing when it comes to games being televised? I have watched a few of the games on NESN via my DirecTV Satellite Dish but I don’t see a lot of UMASS Lowell or Amherst games on the dish.
There are a lot of unknowns going forward – no one knows how this deal is going to shake out – I would say at least give the NCHC a chance before we bury them and kick dirt on a conference that hasn’t even played a collegiate hockey game as of yet.
I also think that it’s too early to declare winners and losers – with college athletics none of this stuff stays static – things change constantly. Who knows, maybe there are more moves in the re-alignment phase before the 2013-14 season kicks off.
Lastly, I know there are a lot of unhappy people with the NCHC Television deal, I gathered this by reading the reactions of the fans over on Brad Schlossman’s blog. Due to the size of UND’s fan base there are a lot of fans that live outside of the Midco.net foot print and watch UND hockey on DirecTV or FTA Satellite dishes. After the upcoming season, many of them are worried that they will no longer be able to watch all of UND’s home games. I too wonder if I need to re-subscribe to Midco.net myself?
In conclusion, there is also no reason to panic just yet because there is a whole year left to work out the details. As we get closer to the kickoff of the NCHC more details will emerge and we will get a better idea what is going to transpire. I also don’t think that the NCHC will lack name-recognition.