ECAC Hockey formally announced what Ken Schott broke last Friday: The league is returning to Lake Placid and Herb Brooks Arena for its men’s championship weekend.
The contract reunites ECAC Hockey and the venerable venue for a three-year term, commencing in Spring 2014 and concluding in 2016, whereupon the league will reassess its options. This is the conference’s second take on the Lake, as 10 seasons’ worth of ECAC champions were crowned there between 1993 and 2002. The league then pulled up stakes in search of a bigger stage, but greater crowds and exposure never materialized at Albany’s Pepsi Arena/Times-Union Center (2003-10) nor Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall (2011-13).
I have been highly skeptical of such a return for years now, but in my eyes it truly appears to be the best option available. Providence purportedly joined Albany and Atlantic City in seeking ECAC Hockey’s next contract, but – while attempts to draw a heftier gate and develop greater exposure were noble tries – I now see that a friendly, supportive community in a smaller town and venue are preferable to abject apathy at a moderately more metropolitan site.
Boston would’ve been ideal, but that is Hockey East’s turf now. New York City would’ve been extremely appealing as well (think alumni presence), but there’s no appropriately sized arena. (I imagine all-around costs and general community support would also be issues.) Albany’s been done, Atlantic City is too far away, and Providence doesn’t seem like much of an improvement or deviation from either of the latter locales.
I could probably wax on about what has been done right, what’s gone wrong, and what the future may yet hold with regards to the league’s annual finale, but instead I will defer to former Harvard men’s hockey sports information director Casey Hart, who not only hit most of the points I would have otherwise made, but did it sooner, and with minimal spelling or grammatical errors.