The outside temperature at least has been in the 70s all week. It’s the perfect time for…hockey? The National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s (NCHC) fifth season begins with five exhibition games on September 30. The 2017-18 regular season begins October 6, as all eight teams for the next five months or so begin their quest in hopes to play in the season-culminating Frozen Faceoff in downtown St. Paul.
After four seasons in downtown Minneapolis, the NCHC announced earlier this month that it will play its
post-season tournament to decide the league champion and automatic NCAA bid in downtown St. Paul, beginning next March.
The league’s Board of Directors approved the move, opting out of a final year of its contract with the downtown Minneapolis arena, which will reopen in October after a major renovation, and signed a five-year contract to hold the tournament in St. Paul through 2022.
“We spent over a year” in making the decision to switch Twin Cities locations, reported NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton to reporters, including the Only One during the annual media day Wednesday, September 20 in its new post-season home. We have attended each pre-season media kick-off session since the league’s inception in 2013.
“We appreciate you covering our conference. Thank you for being here,” Fenton said to the MSR. “We want to build this event into a ‘can’t-miss’ for fans,” stressed Fenton. “I have no doubt this venue and this city gives us the best chance to accomplish this. We feel this market [St. Paul] is the best market” to maintain a neutral-site tournament such as the Frozen Faceoff, a three-game set, scheduled for March 16-17, 2018.
“We are a hockey town. This tournament belongs in St. Paul,” declared St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. The downtown St. Paul arena, home of the Minnesota Wild, opened up after the Big Ten and the WCHA decided to move their post-season tournaments to on-campus sites.
“We believe we have the best hockey tournament in the country,” boasted the NCHC leader.
Afterwards, the Only One asked Felton to explain why the move from a virtual brand-new arena in downtown Minneapolis, to an arena that may be primarily for hockey but had not be remodeled.
“A lot of things go into a decision like this,” he pointed out. “We try to keep our student-athletes and
fans front-of-mind, and center-of-mind when we consider these things. There are a lot of items that the Board and athletic directors are thinking about when we are making these decisions.
“As it relates to the facility itself, there’s no question that both of these facilities — Target Center, especially with it reopening, and the Xcel Energy Center are excellent facilities. We knew years ago that Target Center was going through renovation.”
Finally, with the Big Ten and WCHA both leaving St. Paul, Fenton added, “We knew over a year ago that [the two leagues] were moving to on-campus sites. It was known, but it wasn’t the significant consideration” on why the NCHC made the switch, he stated.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.