#56 - Mike Moran's Commentary
Mike Moran’s Sports Commentary
October 17, 2012
High Time For A Holiday College Ice Hockey Tourney Here
OK, let’s start by calling it the NCHC Holiday Classic, or the NCHC Holiday Challenge……….
This weekend’s delicious college ice hockey schedule once again brings to my mind the idea of a top-shelf Holiday tourney at the Colorado Springs World Arena.
Air Force hosts 19th-ranked Colorado College on Friday night, while 7th-ranked Denver hosts 10th-ranked UMass-Lowell (coached by former CC assistant Norm Bazin). On Saturday, CC hosts UMass-Lowell and Air Force heads up I-25 to take on the Pioneers at Magness Arena.
There won’t be many empty seats on either evening.
Here’s some interesting information to digest about the notion of the World Arena hosting an annual Holiday tourney.
This year, Air Force is away from Dec. 3 to Jan. 11 when the Falcons host Army at the Cadet Ice Arena. AFA travels to Minneapolis to play in the Mariucci Classic with Minnesota and Boston College Dec. 29-30.
DU is away between Dec. 2 to Dec. 29 when it hosts Boston University in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.
CC is away between Dec.7-8 (Minnesota) and January 18 when the Tigers host Minnesota-Duluth.
No college hockey in Colorado Springs between December 12 (RIT at Air Force) and January 11 (Army at Air Force. CC does not play at the World Arena between December 8 and January 18 when the Tigers host Minnesota-Duluth.
Just when fans at CC, AFA and DU are getting amped up over their teams early success and conference play down the stretch, the lights are out at their home arenas over the Holiday Season, and that’s just not right. And, it’s that way almost every season recently.
This year, you are stuck with the threat of an NHL lockout and no Avalanche games, period. Or, you can see the CHL Denver Cutthroats, named after Colorado’s official state fish, in late December at the old Coliseum to fill the void. Yikes.
CC played in what was called the Norwest Denver Cup up in Denver when Don Lucia was the coach of the Tigers during the Holiday season against teams like DU, New Hampshire, Boston College, Lake Superior State, Maine and Notre Dame between 1997-2000 until the Tigers became disenchanted with the financial arrangements in Denver.
Let’s just say that the planets align and new National Collegiate Hockey Conference Commissioner Jim Scherr, CC Athletic Director Ken Ralph, AFA Athletic Director Hans Mueh, and Denver AD Peg Bradley-Doppes all came together over dinner some evening in the future and found a way to create such a Holiday Tourney in Colorado Springs, the home of the NCHC.
It would be held around the final weekend of December, between league play, and the three Colorado teams would invite a fourth opponent to fill out the card. Notre Dame, Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan from the Big 10, New Hampshire, Yale, or Harvard.
Or, in some years, Air Force opts out for another tourney, and CC and DU bring in a pair of outside powers to complete the field. Same thing if DU opted out once for another tourney and CC brought in another NCHC team on a rotating basis, starting with Omaha.
I’ve suggested something like this before, and heard these responses:
- No way, it’s on CC’s home ice.
- It’s too costly to bring in non-league powers. Housing, food, airline, meals. Appearance fees, etc.
- It might mean in the future that CC and AFA would play each other three times in the same year or CC and DU five times.
- The Olympic sheet would give CC an advantage at times.
- The coaches all like to play Holiday tourneys away from home as a recruiting tool.
There has been a significant realignment in college ice hockey in the last two years with the creation of the NCHC, the Big 10, a reshuffle of the WCHA and Notre Dame’s decision to go to Hockey East.
The perfect time to think out-of-the-box by the NCHC and the men and women who run the athletic programs at CC, DU and Air Force. And, our own World Arena management, the accommodations industry and even USA Hockey.
I believe that there are solid potential business and corporate partners here to create a sound financial base for the tourney.
Why not win the title of “Hockey Town” for Colorado Springs along with “America’s Olympic City?”
What we have here in Colorado are three NCAA Division I hockey powerhouses within 65 miles of each other, with rabid fan support and a love for the college game. These have become true rivalries in the classic sense on top of everything else.
There are a lot of college hockey fans who hate not being able to see a home game at DU, Air Force and CC for a long stretch over the Holidays unless they travel, or a game is somehow televised.
I suggest that time has come to fix that problem and bring another special sports event to Colorado Springs, which showed this summer what it can do to get behind big sports events and inspire our town.
Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee from 1978-2003, from Games in Lake Placid to Salt Lake City. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for the New York 2012 Olympic bid organization and is a sports media consultant, represented by Octagon Olympic & Action Sports for speaking appearances. He lives in Colorado Springs and works with the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.