Report: Big Ten to play neutral site postseason games in 2014

The Big Ten Conference is expected to announce its plans Monday for a men’s hockey playoff for when the conference goes live for the 2013-14 season.

According to a story in Monday’s Wisconsin State Journal, league officials will join athletic directors from the six schools that sponsor the sport on a conference call and multiple college hockey sources indicate that a new playoff format will be adopted.

Instead of assigning all postseason games to campus sites, the report states that all games will be played at a neutral site.

“Good chance it will pass,” an anonymous Big Ten source told the paper.

Another anonymous source with knowledge of the talks said approval of the format is a certainty and that the Big Ten is looking to finalize a deal this month with the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.


  1. I find it really hard to believe that any of the four schools that aren’t Minnesota and Wisconsin would sign off on holding them all at Xcel. Why in the world would they be okay with Minnesota getting the playoffs in their own back yard every single year? I would think a rotation would be more reasonable.

    • I agree.  The WCHA final five has been in St. Paul since 1999.  And the WCHA women’s have been somewhere in Minnesota since it began tournament play.  Don’t think that Wisconsin fans wouldn’t want to see the Bradley Center in Milwaukee host some of these Big Ten games.  It should be rotated.

      • Yeah, because those tournaments in St. Paul have been such a disaster…sorry, but St. Paul is a proven money making site no matter who is playing.  As for home ice advantage for MN, they haven’t eaxactly won the final five every year.  In fact since 99, I think MN has only won it twice.

        • Chicago is the best option if you want a true neutral site. The Joe is a dump and who want to spend three days in Detroit?

        • The Gophers have won it 3 times since 99, appearing in the championship game 4 times.  Still, the crowd is at least 80% gopher fans.  Ask any player if a home crowd means anything.  I think it does.

    • As a Gopher fan, I’d obviously love to see it at the X every year, but I don’t think that’s reasonable or fair.  It is NOT in close proximity to all the schools.  We are farthest West in the conference by 4 hours driving time.  If they are going for proximity, the most central location is Joe Louis with two of the six schools located nearby, but from what I’ve heard they’ve had pretty low attendance for CCHA playoff games.

      My guess is that it will be at the X for at least 2014 (as might the NCHC post season tourney) and after that it will rotate between several sites (Xcel, Joe Louis, maybe the Bradley Center, maybe Nationwide in Columbus?).  If I had my way it’d be at the X every other year and on those “off years” the NCHC tourney would be there.  Wishful thinking, but it’d be nice.  I hate seeing the WCHA as we know it end, but postseason in St. Paul would ease some of that anger…

  2. The Xcel Energy Center is a world class 18,000+ seat Hockey Arena in close proximity of all Big Ten Hockey schools where every playoff game will sell out. It’s a great choice for a neutral site. 

    • Have you even gone to a game the gophers aren’t in?  There isn’t as many seats filled, and now you won’t have the Sioux/UMD/SCSU and Mankato people to fill the remaining seats.

      • Yeah I’ve been to several games the Gophers haven’t been involved in and I’ve had the opposite experience. Selling out the games won’t be an issue. I can understand the objections about it being in the back yard of the Gophers and I agree the tournament should rotate every couple of years.

    • United Center holds 22,000 for hockey. It is located right in the very middle of Big Ten’s footprint. All of the transportation networks in the Midwest have the axis around Chicago.

      If BTHC is only looking at today, then shame on them. Any model based on WCHA/CCHA teams not going to the BTHC is relying on the past. BTHC needs to focus on building Penn State and giving the non-hockey Big Ten schools a reason to field a program. Playing at the United Center would be a draw to Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Indiana.

      • Excel is a home game for the Gophers, it would sell out 18,000, but it’s not centrally located.
        Joe Louis is  a home game for Michigan and Michigan State,  it would draw 12,000,  but it is  centrally located.
         United Center is a true neutral sight. Nobody will be at home, and nobody will show up.  Do you want to play a tournament in front of 6,000 people in a 22,000 seat arena?
        Integrity or revenue, ask Barry Alvarez and the answer is obvious.

        • The NCHA wants the Excel for their tournament. Alvarez can make money, feign intrest in integrity, and say he still cares about his former WCHA pals… the B1G goes to the Joe.

        • If Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State would only bring 12,000 to Joe Louis, and 18,000 to Minneapolis/St Paul, how would only 6,000 go to the Mad House? (We do not know how well Penn State will travel for hockey, but I assume they will travel better than their game play would warrant.

          Again, if the Big Ten wants to think small, then they worry about gate in the first few years and fail to grow the tournament. But with a national cable tv network begging for programming, I do not see why BTHC wants to get into a contest about who can best fill the Xcel with a “neutral” crowd. The competition for BTHC in terms of television is Hockey East on NBC Sports and NCHC on CBS Sports. Hockey East is Boston (TD) Garden, which is the home for an original six hockey team and known for hockey of all levels. The Garden is a neutral site, because NU, BU and BC are all T rides away and every other programs alumni and students (except for Notre Dame) are no more than a moderate drive/bus ride.

          BTHC should not get into a contest with NCHC for Xcel or into a contest with WCHA for Joe Louis. It should lay claim to the United Center and do what it takes to stand toe-to-toe with Hockey East. It should also stake out the United Center before Notre Dame decides to host a “shamrock” tournament there and build up the untapped market. And this comes from a Hockey East alum.

          • Joe, the reason TD Center works for  Hockey East is it is close to several schools,  just a T ride from the largest draws in the conference, and Boston has a great alumni base. St Paul would draw 16,000 of those 18,000 from Minnesota and Wisconsin fans living in the Twin City area. Detroit would draw 10,000 from Michigan and Michigan State fans in southeast Michigan, and Ohio is 80 miles away.  Chicago has no local fans, the same reason the ECAC can’t go to NYC.  NCHC should go to St Paul, lots of UND, UMD and St Cloud alums in the area. The remaining WCHA schools don’t fill 5,000 seat arenas for home games, and they are in isolated towns in the U.P., Minnesota, and Alaska. Going to Detroit is too far.  Green Bay would be a great fit geographically and for capacity. If B1G goes to St Paul, NCHC would probably go to Kansas City or Denver and draw 6,000. The current WCHA tried Denver, and it flopped. 

          • What is the alumni base of the current WCHA in Denver? What is the alumni base of the ECAC in New York? ECAC does not go to New York City because the overall fan base is too small. But if it were the old ECAC, with BC, BU et al, it would do just fine in MSG, especially if it just added Notre Dame.

            How does that compare to the Big Ten alumni base in Chicago? There are 4.4 total Big Ten alumni in the US. A good number of them live within 300 miles of Chicago, many more within 500 miles of Chicago. There are 400,000 current Big Ten students. The Big Ten schools are known commodities in every sport, not just hockey.

            As a comparison, Maine is represented well at the Hockey East semis and finals at the Garden. Orono is 250 miles away. From the United Center, it is 150 miles to U. Wisconsin, 226 miles to Michigan State, 244 miles to Michigan, 350 miles to Ohio State, 407 miles to Minnesota and 568 miles to Penn State.

            I completely agree about the NCHC playing in St. Paul, maybe BTHC plays same weekend like the early days of Hockey East/ECAC in the Garden. In the 80s, you could watch both ECAC and Hockey East semis and finals, each day you bought one ticket. In the end, however, one party will want to leave to control the entire gate.

            As for the new WCHA, AHA and ECAC, those tournaments are by necessity smaller. The truth of the matter is that only Hockey East is big enough to sell out the Garden, only BTHC and NCHC are big enough to sell out Xcel and only BTHC is big enough to sell out United Center/Joe Louis. For a league with its own tv network, I cannot see the Big Ten wanting to share a building/weekend with the league that is its most direct competition. For a brand as large as the Big Ten, one that wants to play its football championship in NFL buildings, its basketball championships in NBA buildings, a forward-looking vision is to find the biggest arena in the biggest city in your footprint and stake your claim. It is that vision that brought Penn State into the hockey community in the first place. 

    • Not close to all schools, its 5 min from UofM but 5 hours is the next closest, you really think that is fair? C’mon man….  it may still be the best choice, but don’t go saying its neutral or close to all. 

  3. Only other choice would be Joe Louis, but even there, if Michigan and Michigan State aren’t playing that building will be empty.  At least in St. Paul it sells out no matter who is in (see years when MN missed the final five)

    • The Xcel was only a money maker in years that Minnesota didn’t make it because of the North Dakota and Duluth fans.  The Big 10 won’t have UND or UMD so I don’t think that is a fair argument.

    • Actually, you have the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the United Center in Chicago, whatever the arena is that the Columbus Blue Jackets play in, and to satisfy the Penn State fans, any NHL arena in Pennsylvania.  They can try the Lucas Stadium in Indianapolis or Ford Field in Detroit.  There are many options.

    • As a Hockey East alum with no skin in the game, I would think that if the Big Ten wanted to be true to its geographic roots, the BTHC should be in Chicago at the Mad House on Madison.

      It is more centrally located, it is a tremendous hockey facility with lots of seating and a decent drive/bus ride from every current B10 school, regardless of whether they play D-I hockey today or not. It is also in the biggest city in the footprint of the BTHC.

      I do not understand giving an advantage to Minnesota, unless the host location rotates. Perhaps this is a gauntlet being thrown down between BTHC and NCHC, the way Hockey East and ECAC shared the Garden for an awesome championship weekend before ECAC tried a number of other venues.

      BTHC should not worry about “competing” with NCHC in terms of venue. They should stake a claim to the best (in my opinion) venue within their footprint. Playing games at the TD Garden is a recruiting advantage for Hockey East in New England. Playing games at the United Center should be a recruiting advantage for BTHC, especially if Minnesota also plans on playing the new Minnesota mid-season tournament.

      • Living in the Chicago area, I wholeheartedly agree.  The Big Ten HQ is in Park Ridge near O’Hare airport.  Why not the conference playoffs at the United Center?  A truly neutral location and equidistant for most teams (Penn State being the notable exception).

    • The only problem with Detroit is that I see the games there and half of the time the place looks abandoned.   It would be nice to see the place full like the X is everytime, whether the Gophers are playing or not.  I agree it should rotate, just concerned about the attendance issues.

      •  If Minnesota fans are as good as they say they are, then attendance in Detroit shouldn’t be a problem since they will obviously travel just as well if it’s not in the twin cities, right?

        • If M & MSU fans are any good,they’ll travel to St Paul. Last time I checked,St Paul to Detroit is the same distance as Detroit to St Paul. The Big Ten wants to maximize profit,and they see St Paul as the best means of achieving this. They aren’t guessing,they are using past history of both the WCHA & CCHA tournaments to base their decision on. Those are just the facts. Wishing and hoping otherwise is pointless.

  4. This would be ridiculously unfair for UM, MSU, OSU, etc. 

    We better not endorse this.  I think the only reason Minny and Wisky are proposing this is to avoid Yost.  It’s the same reason the NCAA has now scheduled neutral-site games for the Tournament.  And guess what?  There’s NO ONE there!

    Unless the Gophers and Badgers suddenly become respectable again on a regular basis, Michigan will own the conference.

    • Yost holds about what, 6,900 fans.  That’s why Yost is out of the question.  The Dane County Coliseum in Madison holds 8,500 for hockey (The Kohl Center holds over 15,000, where Bucky plays).

      The objective is a large, “neutral” site building, with the major emphasis on large.

    • Lol.. Minnesota will be competing for the Big Ten Title every year. We’ve endured three dreadful years of mediocrity because of injuries/early departures for NHL and now were back.

  5. I am still depressed over this whole conference reallignment thing. I understand that I am not the brightest of all college hockey minds and so the reasons for said reallignment are most likely beyond me, but I LOVED the WCHA and the built-in geographical ( and otherwise ) rivalries, and I am sure my CCHA comrads would say the same of their beloved conference. That being said, even the Gopher rube in me can see that the “X” is not a neutral site , but a true neutral site would probably kill any real atmosphere with low/apathetic attendence. Again, I do have a small mind….

    • The NCHA is interested in Excel for their tournament. The B1G could make slightly less money,  feign interest in integrity, and have a central location if they went to Detroit. Home crowd advantage for two teams not one.

  6. It may as well be a home game for the Gophers, same as all WCHA final 5 games have been.  What a crock.

    And no, the place won’t sell out if the gophers aren’t in it.

    • Wrong pal.  check the attendance for the final 5 before you go spouting off.  Attendance was quiet high at the Final 5 the last two years and the Gophers were there either year.  There were tons of Gophers fans there even though they weren’t there.  stick to commenting on St. Cloud because it is obvious you don’t know anything about the the Final 5.

      • Attendance was high when North Dakota was playing. Every game without North Dakota had 4,000-6,000 empty seats. Even ones with Minnesota teams or Wisconsin. And the Final 5 was lucky the last two years. In the absence of Minnesota, North Dakota played on 5 of the 6 days. They made the champiionship game both years, and even played on the first day one of those years. The one day North Dakota wasn’t playing, two Minnesota teams played (Duluth and Bemidji). Best cases scenrario for the X without the Gophers being there. Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota supports hockey better than any state in the country, but Ohio State vs. Penn State isn’t going to sell out the X. The X needs the Gophers in that tournament every year. Wisconsin will bring some fans. But they won’t bring fans like North Dakota does, and there are no other Minnesota teams to boost attendance.

    • Why do you care? I don’t mean that in a rude manor but seriously, what do you care? It isn’t your conference, it isn’t your tournament.

  7. Minnesota: zero hours from MinneapolisWisconsin: five hours from MinneapolisMSU: 11 hours from MinneapolisMichigan: 12 hours from MinneapolisOhio State: 14 hours from MinneapolisPenn State: 16 hours from Minneapolis

  8. Finalize a deal for how many years?  It’s all about gate and making money.  If there’s one thing the Big Ten Network demonstrates, is it’s all about the money.  It’ll be locked in to St. Paul for probably 2 or 3 years, then maybe Chicago or the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, or Detroit.  If it comes to your town and they sell the joint out, you’re likely to get it back.  If no one shows up…

  9. If the Big Ten wants to be smart they would try to put this where most people would being willing to travel.  Or better even areas where other Big Ten schools that are not participating in Division I hockey.

    Having this is Xcel center will be a joke.  It will be like seeing the Weischester with a regional where only 2200 people attended for a game.  Pathetic for college hockey, just saying.

    • Don’t know what you are talking about the X is always full for college hockey even when the Gophers aren’t playing.  There isn’t another venue that comes close to the attendance that the X pulls in.  not even close!  The United Center would be vacant, they don’t even know about college hockey in Chicago.  Joe Louis would be a good rotating alternative, but they have serious attendance issues there also.

  10. You are all missing the point here.  Big Ten and Big Ten hockey are about making money.  They will make the most money by playing this tournament in St. Paul due the fan base.  No one in Chicago cares about college hockey (see the demise of UIC) and not enough people will travel to fill up the United Center.  Have you seen Joe Louis when Mich and Mich St. are playing? It’s maybe half full and that’s the best it’s gonna get.  It’s technically a neutral site because the gophers don’t have a locker room there but cmon, you all are thinking the Big Ten has anything other than revenue on their minds when making this selection.   Realize there is no perfect site for this, but the X is a great venue and will have a good atmosphere because it will be full.   

    • When NHL teams pull their players from the gophers to the pros like they always do because nobody has any faith in UofM mentoring and developing talent… we will go back to seeing the gophers of the majority of the last decade… irrevelant! Then the rest of the teams in the Big Ten will be smiling on the inside when the gophers are gracious non playing hosts at the X for the tournament.  They might even let the gophers players help sharpen skates, lol

    •  Wrong.  There is a perfect site for this and it’s at the home rinks of the higher seeded teams.  It maximizes the importance of the regular season and doesn’t give home ice advantage to a team that doesn’t really earn it.  It makes a tournament go 3 weekends in barns that will guarantee to sell out (or close to) that will rake in money hand over fist.  And it makes it so fans 14 hours away from Minnesota might actually have a chance of seeing a game without dropping hundreds to get to the twin cities every year.  It’s the same stupid reasoning that has the CCHA “hosting” an NCAA regional in St. Louis and Green Bay with tomb-like atmospheres.  I can only hope that the B1G realizes that a move like this not only shows a brazen hatred for the majority of its fans but also of the very money it so desperately wants.

      I’m sure high school hockey is important in Wisconsin and all, however, the rest of the conference really doesn’t give a darn about high school hockey in the state of Wisconsin.  And to propose moving this to a “neutral” site that’s is so obviously anything BUT a neutral site is asinine.  I’m sure the state of Wisconsin can find some other venue to either host the HS or B1G tourney games in when the opportunity presents itself.

      • Where did high school hockey in Wisconsin come into the conversation?  To address your point, WI HS hockey should be played elsewhere, like Green Bay.  As for the B1G tourney, I am sure the Bradley Center in Milwaukee would find room, if it were asked to.

        • Sorry… HS hockey and basketball tournaments.  That was the reason given as to why Wisconsin was against hosting these tournament games on campus sites.  I swear, I just don’t understand why college hockey hates money and their fans so much.

    • If the Big Ten is about making money, then they should be thinking long-term and thinking much bigger than a “neutral” site 5 miles away from only one school. The Big Ten should be starting its tradition now, one that might inspire one of more of the six non-hockey playing members to field a program. Also, a destination that is fair to all six current hockey playing members of BTHC.

      In fact, I think that the BTHC should consist of 5 games, 2 on Friday, 2 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday. On Friday, 3rd seed plays 6th seed, 4th seed plays 5th seed. On Saturday, 1st seed plays lowest remaining seed and 2nd seed plays highest remaining seed. On Sunday, you have your finals, hopefully without a lame 3rd place game. This format would generate interest for all of the programs while giving a benefit to the top two teams with a first night bye.

      From personal experience, Hockey East plays at the TD Garden, which while very close to three of the schools, just a T ride away, is a very balanced crowd. Also, Boston is the geographic center of Hockey East (at least until Notre Dame joins) and has a tremendous history of college and professional hockey. The NCHC at Xcel seems like a better fit to a neutral observer like me than the BTHC, especially given how many of the WCHA programs are going to NCHC, as opposed to the one school going to BTHC. 

      As an aside, if the ECAC had a larger audience, it would play at MSG, since that is the geographic center of that conference. Instead, it has traveled like a vagabond from the Garden to Lake Placid to Albany to Atlantic City. Because when I think college hockey, I think Atlantic City.

  11. Can’t really call any venue in the Twin Cities neutral.
    11 hours from Northern Lower Peninsula, Mi.
    Can’t imagine many from State College PA making the trip.
    But the B10 is all about revenue. The fans be damned.

  12. They need to rotate it.  Xcel is a nice arena, but it doesn’t excite me much.  Plenty of other better options, such as United Center, Bradley Center, Joe Louis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, etc…. Minnesota is too damn cold anyway.  St. Paul is BORING. 

  13.  Well how many teams are going to be in this tournament? With only 6 teams, how would the Gophers not make it in?

    All of it’s stupid. You just wish that they would use this format for two years, see how it flops and conferences realign back to similar teams. But that’s not going to happen… *sigh*. The conferences re-aligning again, I mean not the flop which I think is going to happen when it comes to post-season conference tournaments. I think with the breakup, all of these tournaments (Big Ten, NCHC) are going to be utter failures. What’s the point of having a conference tournament when you have such small conferences? What a waste…

    I still don’t understand how all the Big Ten schools with current hockey teams all seem to deny that they wanted this conference, yet it happened? Or was Michigan/MSU/OSU calling for it the whole time? There’s no way the Big Ten was going to evict all 5 members from the Big Ten for not wanting to switch conferences.

    blah, seriously, barf. At least I’ll get to maybe see the NCHC tournament in Denver some years? I’m sure it will be poorly attended, but still nice to have it more locally

  14. I’m as guilty as many of the rest of you in wanting to believe that college hockey is a “big time ” sport, but there’s only seating for two at that table and we’re not welcome.  The facts of life are that the sport we are passionate about has only a limited national following and it thrives only in small geeographic areas.  Like the entire BTHC season, the BTHC tournament will be a made-for-TV event, but with the need for enough on-site viewers, say 10-12,000, to appear worthy of “big-time” status.  Detroit, Milwaukee, and St. Paul are the only viable “neutral” sites, with St. Paul the pick of the litter.  There was never a groundswell of support for a BTHC, in fact most fans of the Original Five schools would prefer their current regional rivals.  

    • Not at all. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, because I like playing the other Big Ten schools more and because I retain a shred of (probably futile) hope that the quality of officiating will improve.

      Not only that, but the BTHC has always been with the understanding that the other 6 schools won’t be jumping on board any time soon, which means we’ll have plenty of schedule space to keep playing our old conference foes.

      If some of the other schools hadn’t jumped off the deep end and formed
      another new conference, there would have been plenty of space for UAH
      and anybody else who wanted to make a jump to D1, but yet not such a big hole
      that it would have been necessary for survival as well.


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