It’s that time a year again, Division I college hockey soon will be taking center stage in the NCAA regionals playing in half empty arenas, in venues in cities across the USA.

It’s a yearly occurrence for college hockey, because we can’t have any more regionals on campus. God forbid, we can’t have playoff games in rowdy arenas stuffed with rabid fans.

The NCAA wants regional games played in arenas posing as quite emotionless mausoleums, all under the guise of  the regional being held at “neutral” sites.

But some of the sites really aren’t that neutral, for some of the schools.

Midsized towns like Grand Rapids, Michigan, Manchester, New Hampshire, Providence, Rhode Island and Toledo, Ohio, will be hosting this year 2013 NCAA Division I college hockey regionals.

There is a good chance in one or two of these regional, will sparsely attended.

This year, you can pretty much guess that Midwest Regional being held in Toledo, Ohio will be that regional that will be played in front of an empty arena or arena seats posing as fans.

Going on past history, I am betting that this will be that regional that very few fans will see live, unless it’s being watched on television. According to The Blade, a Toledo, Ohio newspaper, tickets remain for the regional. You can get your tickets to the regional for a cool $75.00. Really, tickets remain. I can’t imagine why? That’s way too pricey.

Anyone want to lay odds on the attendance numbers for that regional? If they get 2,000-3,000 fans for the weekend, they will be lucky. That’s what the NCAA want’s half empty arena’s at neutral sites.

The other western regional, the “West” regional, is east of the Mississippi River. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how anything in the Eastern Time zone is considered the Western part of the USA, at least by my standards, but whatever.

For the West Region, tickets are still available and a little bit cheaper, there going for $65.00.  Want to lay odds, that there will be a fair number of empty seats at this regional as well. Sure, North Dakota and Minnesota are in this regional and their fans travel well.

But let’s get real.

Grand Rapids is 649 miles from the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota is 582 away from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

With the cable/satellite television, one doesn’t need to spend money on a expensive last minute plane ticket or gas for 14 hour car trip, hotel room, and ticket package.

Of course, on the flip side of this equation, the Boston College eagles will get to travel a strenuous 50 miles south to Providence, Rhode Island.

Let’s not forget, New Hampshire has an exhausting 45 minute bus trip to the North East Regional in Manchester, New Hampshire.

For the most part the NCAA won’t make the eastern teams travel.

According to Grand Forks Herald beat writer Brad Schlossman, “BU and BC have got on a plane 3 times for a regional in the last 13 years. The teams lost by four goals in 1st round each time.”

Last time Boston College was sent west they got rolled 8-4 by the Colorado College Tigers.

So in essence, yearly, the NCAA is giving the eastern teams in the NCAA Division I hockey tournament home games. It’s no wonder they don’t want to move the regionals back on campus. Why should they? They might have to play a Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota, Denver at their home arena. We can’t have that, they might not have an easier path to the Frozen Four.

I believe it’s time for the NCAA regionals to move back on campus, soon. Of course, there is not a lot of support for moving the regionals back on campus. I don’t, however, think that’s going to happen, anytime soon.

This year, if anything, I think brings to light, a reason to at least explore that option.

After Notre Dame beat Michigan 3-1, to win the CCHA title, it looked like UND was headed to the East regional. Think again. Instead of going by the Pairwise numbers and putting UND in the East Regional with Quinnipiac, Canisius and Union, the NCAA instead put the Boston College in the easier bracket and doubled up two WCHA teams in the West Regional, all under the guise of Minnesota and North Dakota will sell tickets.

After an all WCHA Frozen Four in 2005, the NCAA didn’t want to have a repeat of that even again. In some fans opinion, the NCAA has pretty much handed Boston College a easy route to the Frozen Four with that regional draw.

According to Tom Nevala, chair of the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee and senior associate athletics director at Notre Dame, it doesn’t sound like the regionals are going to be moving back to campus anytime soon.

According to Tom Nevala, chair of the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee and senior associate athletics director at Notre Dame, it doesn’t sound like the regionals are going to be moving back to campus anytime soon.

Personally, I would like to see us move to an on-campus best-of-three series format for the first round,” Nevala said. “The top seeds would host regardless of size of its building. Right now we do it at the conference level and it works very well. There are upsets even with the home ice advantage and the atmosphere for everyone involved would be better. We have such great campus facilities that are such a part of the fabric of college hockey, it’s a shame that the national tourney isn’t played in them.”

So does Nevala see it happening any time soon?

“The coaching body is so set on having the regional games at neutral sites that before the committee would ever propose something like this we would need to work with them to try and get everyone on board,” Nevala said. “Hopefully we can put something together that they would feel comfortable with. It’s really hard for anyone with an objective view to say what we are doing now at our regionals is great,  so we need to try and do something with them because a great tournament should be our goal.”

Regional sites for the next two years have already been determined so the earliest any change could happen would be for the 2015 championship. The 2013 regionals are at Grand Rapids, Mich., Manchester, N.H., Providence, R.I. and Toledo, Ohio. The 2014 regionals will be held at Bridgeport, Conn., Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Paul, Minn. and Worcester, Mass. [ncaa.com]

I find those comments disappointing, however, maybe there is hope. Being from North Dakota, at least there is some hope in the future. Or at least, UND athletic director Brian Faison is saying some of the things that I like to hear.

“I don’t like the situation we seem to find ourselves in sometimes when we play in empty arenas in regionals,” said North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison, who will join the committee in the fall. “I’d love to be in a situation where you could play on campus sites for the first round. … I’d love to see us get into a different format, and I think it’s better for the sport. It’s a great game.

“And you want that game in the best locations that you can to showcase.” [Lacrosse Tribune]

Don’t count on the NCAA Hockey showcasing the college game in half empty arena’s in towns some have never heard of, nor would ever think of visiting, if it was for the college hockey game. It’s  time to consider moving the NCAA Hockey Regionals back on campus.

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