Forgive the NCAA, Frozen Four officials and the four teams if they were rooting for the New Jersey Devils last Sunday.
No, it’s not because of their affinity for Devils general manager, and former Providence coach, Lou Lamoriello. Nor is it because of the presence of Brian Gionta, David Hale and Paul Martin. It’s because a Devils win could have avoided a tricky situation.
Thanks to Boston’s win over New Jersey on Sunday in the regular-season NHL finale, the Bruins wrapped up first place in their division and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And that means home games on Wednesday and Friday this week. And that could mean chaos at the Frozen Four, which takes place Thursday and Saturday.
But the NCAA’s Mark Bedics is looking on the bright side.
“From the standpoint of accessibility to the locker rooms, it would’ve been nice [without the Bruins],” Bedics said. “But it will bring even more hockey atmosphere to the city, and it will be good to get swept up in that.”
And it’s not like the NCAA was caught off guard. It has prepared for this moment since awarding the bid to Boston years ago. There will be a lot of coordination with a lot of people to make sure it all goes smoothly, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a pain in the neck.
The biggest issue comes Wednesday, when the Bruins have a morning skate, followed by the practices of the four NCAA participants, followed by the Bruins’ game that night against the Montreal Canadiens. The four teams won’t be able to use the two NHL locker rooms, and won’t be able to hang their gear in the usual locations. Other arrangements have been made.
When Thursday comes, the Bruins will practice at their usual off-day practice facility in Wilmington, Mass. The NCAA teams will move all their gear in and play the two games. Things will get easier after that, with just two NCAA teams remaining.
Rink workers will be scrambling more than usual, thanks to the NCAA’s policies on arena signage. It wants its own sponsors in the arena, but moreso, it wants an NCAA “feel” to the building. As a result, dasher board ads will be replaced with NCAA logos, and the numerous Celtics and Bruins banners that hang from the rafters will be moved out of the way in place of NCAA championship banners, then switched, and switched again.
“Normally, I’m done with arena signage [issues] on Tuesday,” Bedics said. “But we won’t be doing it until Thursday.”
Changing out dasher board ads is a relatively simple of removing and adding large stickers. Changing in-ice advertisements is another matter entirely. Not only is it harder and more time consuming, but it has the added problem of jeopardizing the ice conditions during the game.
As a result, the two parties compromised. The Bruins will keep their spoked “B” logo at center ice, but have already removed the in-ice advertising for the entire week, avoiding the need to go back and forth.
So get ready for four straight days of hockey. And, if that isn’t enough, you can always check out the Red Sox home opener at Fenway on Friday afternoon. Good luck getting tickets.