Arena Wars to Impact H.S. League
It’s Minneapolis versus St. Paul starting in 2014. That’s the year Target Center will host the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament the same March weekend the Xcel Energy Center will be the site of the initial Big Ten Hockey Tournament.
Minneapolis officials will hold a news conference today announcing a five-year commitment to hold the NCHC tournament at Target Center, the 22-year-old facility scheduled soon for remodeling. Xcel Energy Center will host the Big Ten Tournament in 2014 and 2016. The two buildings go up against each other for the first time with their hockey tournaments on Friday, March 21 and Saturday, March 22, 2014.
The Minnesota State High School League plays its boys and girls state basketball tournaments at Target Center. Dave Stead, executive director, said the league has contracts only through 2013 and that means a conflict involving dates (March 19-22) for the 2014 boys tournament. With neither Xcel nor Target Center available, Stead will have to consider other sites. The University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena likely won’t be an option because of commitments to post-season college basketball.
Meanwhile the competition to see if either Target Center or Xcel Energy Center, or both, can play to capacity crowds will be interesting. The NCHC is a new league with membership consisting of North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. The Big Ten hockey playing members will be Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Both leagues start play in 2013-14.
The Big Ten Tournament will count on the hometown Gophers to lead the ticket sales parade. Wisconsin fans will help, too. The Big Ten will have a three-day event, starting on Thursday, March 20 and will involve all six conference teams.
The NCHC Tournament involves only four teams, with two games to be played on Friday, March 21 and the championship and third place games on Saturday, March 22. Tournament officials have to be hoping North Dakota qualifies for the four-team field each year.
North Dakota fans have proven for years they will follow their team in greater numbers to Minneapolis-St. Paul than any other hockey program in the country. A hockey marketing source said counting North Dakota alums in the metro area and fans coming in from the state of North Dakota, 5,000 to 8,000 UND rooters likely will show up at Target Center.
The competition between arenas and cities is obvious starting in 2014, and so too is the intention of the upstart NCHC which has chosen to take on the Big Ten not only on the same dates but in the backyard of Gophers hockey.