The NCAA Frozen Four, now revered as one of the most successful NCAA championships annually, could be taking its show to the world’s most famous arena.
Madison Square Garden, home to the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, is exploring a bid for the next cycle of Frozen Four host sites. The current cycle is set through 2006, meaning that MSG and others could bid on subsequent Frozen Fours, with bids expected in the next two years as the NCAA opens up bidding on the 2007-09 tournaments.
“Madison Square Garden is always in pursuit of hosting world-class, high-quality events,” said Joel Fisher, senior vice president of sports for the Garden, whose responsibility it is to search out and attract sporting events to the venue. “The Frozen Four falls certainly into that class. We have had some initial preliminary discussions and we’re looking at the proposals to move that forward.”
This word comes the same week that college hockey returns to the Garden for the first time since 1977, when MAAC teams Quinnipiac and Connecticut will play this Saturday afternoon, March 1. The last college hockey game played at MSG was an ECAC Holiday Tournament game between Boston University and St. Lawrence on Jan. 3, 1977.
One challenge MSG might face in attracting the Frozen Four is money. New York City is often associated with higher costs for everything from hotels to meals to cab rides, but that’s something that Fisher says shouldn’t deter the NCAA.
“It’s too early to really talk about budget specifically. We can’t jump to conclusions that we’re more expensive than any other building,” said Fisher. “But I would turn that around and say the exposure and the experience that the teams and those who attend would get are part of our selling points for the event.”
Fisher said that he cannot recall hosting any past NCAA tournament event at the venue but noted that the building does play host annually to the Big East and NIT basketball tournaments, two high-profile Division I athletic events.
He indicated that MSG has begun researching the event, not directly with the NCAA, and at this point understands the guidelines for application. He did not have any indication of when the bidding process would begin.
As far as partnering with a host school or league, Fisher said that the building has made no commitment to that at this time. He did note that the building has a relationship with the MAAC.
“We’re very close with the MAAC and that’s where the discussions have taken place,” Fisher said. “We’re very comfortable working with [MAAC commissioner] Rich Ensor and ultimately if they wanted to be involved, we’d have a huge comfort level there.”
In the eyes of the NCAA, MSG and New York City would be considered a “non-traditional” host city. During the last round of bidding, completed less than two years ago, the NCAA awarded the tournament to two “traditional” cities — Boston and Milwaukee — and one “non-traditional” city, Columbus, Ohio.
In recent years, the NCAA has received bids from cities not known as college hockey hotbeds such as St. Louis and San Jose, Calif., and also awarded two bids to what can be considered “non-traditional” cities — the 1999 Frozen Four in Anaheim, Calif., and this year’s event in Buffalo, N.Y.