Gophers, Scalpers and Bands, Oh My

If the Twins were as hot a draw in Minneapolis-St. Paul as the Frozen Four championship, Bud Selig wouldn’t be talking about contraction.

But with the Gophers gunning for their first national championship since 1979, and their first championship ever in a Minnesota arena, a throng of home-state hockey fans could be heard outside the Xcel Energy Center shouting, “Got any tickets?”

They’d better have brought a lot of cash.

An hour and a half before game time, single-seat tickets in the upper level of the arena were going for $125 or more, with pairs in the lower bowl being offered for $500 each, a pretty good premium over the face value of $41.50.

“Organized” scalpers flashed fistfuls of cash to buy up tickets earlier in the afternoon to sell at a premium near game time.

Announcements on the P.A. system outside the arena, and printing the text of the state’s anti-scalping law on the back of the tickets did not deter open sales on the sidewalk.

Though the transactions occurred in view of the St. Paul police, they were clearly more interested in controlling the rapidly snarling traffic on Kellogg Blvd. than in stopping what Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has called “the epitome of capitalism.”

Rally ‘Round the Gophers and the Black Bears

Minnesota's Saturday pep rally (photo: Ed Trefzger)

Minnesota’s Saturday pep rally (photo: Ed Trefzger)

A couple of pep rallies in and around the Xcel Energy Center over the past two days drew fans from both Minnesota and Maine to support their teams in anticipation of the championship tilt.

On Friday afternoon, a couple hundred Gopher faithful and a few dozen Maine fans joined St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly and the bands of both schools for a rally in the lobby of the adjacent Touchstone Energy Place convention center.

The Minnesota band led fans in a parade across the street to the Minnesota Science Museum’s outdoor plaza overlooking the Mississippi River for an outdoor celebration. As dusk fell, the rally was capped off with a fireworks display.

A spillover crowd of Gopher fans joined the Minnesota pep band and cheerleaders in the Grand Ballroom at Touchstone two hours before game time for another pep rally. The first 500 received maroon and gold pompons.

Records Set In Attendance …

Fireworks over the Mississippi River Friday (photo: Ed Trefzger)

Fireworks over the Mississippi River Friday (photo: Ed Trefzger)

Thursday’s Minnesota-Michigan semifinal set a new NCAA attendance record of 19,234, eclipsing the old record — which had stood for six hours — by seven.

The attendance at the late game and the Maine-New Hampshire semi set a single-day record for the NCAA Frozen Four.

The previous record for a single NCAA Frozen Four game was 1998’s Michigan-Boston College game at the FleetCenter in Boston.

… And On The Tube

Thursday night’s Michigan-Minnesota broadcast on ESPN2 drew an estimated 621,780 viewers, the second-highest for any Frozen Four game. The highest was the 1998 title game.

That 1998 Frozen Four drew the highest total viewership as well, with an estimated audience of nearly three million viewers. The Maine-Minnesota broadcast would need to capture well over two million to eclipse that record.