Could moving league playoffs onto campus sites lead to eventual NCAA hockey playoffs on home ice as well?
In a recent article, WCHA Moves Entire Postseason on Campus, the WCHA is looking to hold all of its postseason games on campus sites – starting with the 2016-17 season. The league was originally scheduling their tournament at the ‘neutral’ Minneapolis Xcel Center. The quarterfinals will remain four best-of-3 series, as they have been. But now, the semifinals will also be a best-of-3 on-campus series – hosted by the two highest remaining seeds.
The championship will still be a single game, the weekend following the semis, hosted by the highest remaining seed.
Then, two days ago, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune the Big Ten hockey conference is in the process of approving a new format for its conference tournament that would move games to on-campus sites beginning in 2018 as well, a source close to the Big Ten confirmed to the Star Tribune. The tournament would be played over the course of three weekends like the WCHA and feature three best-of-three quarterfinal round series, two single-game semifinals, and one championship game. All games will be hosted on campus of the highest seed.
One has to conclude that the NCHC, DU’s current conference, is contemplating the same thing – to reduce travel costs and increase game attendance.
An intriguing option is bringing the final Championship games together for the WCHA, NCHC, and Big 10 to the same venue for a Championship Final weekend. Spectators could see three conference championship games determined in one weekend at the same venue. That would certainly be an interesting option to bundle two or three championships together.
But Longer term, could this signal an end to the neutral arena NCAA playoff games that are often played in empty rinks? Let’s hope so.