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Where will the WCHA postseason tournament land come 2014?
April 25, 2012 - Matt Wellens
The WIAA finally made its decision Tuesday on where it will hold its state championship basketball tournaments with the boys remaining in Madison until 2020 and the girls moving to the Resch Center in Green Bay for 2013 and 2014.
The boys have been playing state title games in Madison every year since 1920 while the girls have been a Madison mainstay since 1976.
Of all the sports in the world, it was college hockey that created this civil war in the Badger state, one that bumped embattled governor Scott Walker from the lead of newscasts and front pages of newspapers.
It all began when the Big Ten originally decided to hold its postseason tournament on campus sites, meaning the University of Wisconsin had to keep its Kohl Center available for a potential tournament.
Wisconsin is also pursuing the NCAA women’s Frozen Four for 2014 as well. Both would have pushed the high school state hoops action to lesser buildings in town.
Since then, the Big Ten has abandoned that idea — both the Badgers and Buckeyes host high school championship events in their hockey venues — in favor of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in 2014 and 2016 and Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in 2015 and 2017.
March of 2014 will be the first time since 2000 that the WCHA Final Five is not held in St. Paul. While WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said the league was negotiating with the Xcel Energy Center about keeping the Final Five in St. Paul with the new configuration of Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Bowling Green, most fans are of the opinion that the X is too large for the new-look WCHA.
The Resch Center has been batted around as a potential site. Even though there are no Wisconsin teams in the new WCHA, it’s a central location and a major recruiting area for the Minnesota and Upper Peninsula schools, who also happen to have large alumni bases in Green Bay and the Fox Cities.
The news Tuesday that the WIAA will hold the girls basketball tournament in 2014 on the dates of March 20-22 has killed that plan — at least for 2014 — since those would be the dates of the WCHA finals.
There is also the question of whether the Resch Center wants the WCHA tourney after back-to-back lackluster NCAA regionals that did not feature the Wisconsin Badgers. Was it the lack of beer or lack of Bucky that kept fans away?
So where will the new WCHA land?
Jess Myers of 1500ESPN.com in the Twin Cities reported earlier in March that not only was the X negotiating to have the Big Ten play in St. Paul in 2014 and 2016 — which came true — but the WCHA will return to the X the years the Big Ten is not in town — so 2015 and 2017.
Besides Green Bay, the only other city I’ve heard floated around is Duluth as a way to remind the Bulldogs how much fun the WCHA can have in case that whole NCHC thing doesn’t work out.
Oh, and what about the NCHC? Myers also reported in that same story the league has been offered a “sweetheart deal” to play in the Target Center in Minneapolis — the arena abandoned by the Minnesota North Stars and eventually the WCHA after 2000.
It sounds like we’ll know for sure what the NCHC’s plans are next week when the league makes “two pretty big announcements.” Hopefully it’s more than the unveiling of a second banner and more snacks.
If the NCHC has decided on the Target Center, then the Xcel Energy Center might not be a bad option for the new WCHA in 2015 and 2017. Depending on what teams land in the conference finals, the WCHA may outdraw the NCHC, especially if you get Miami vs. Denver in Minneapolis and Bemidji State vs. Northern Michigan in St. Paul.
As for 2014 and 2016, that’s a toughie. Home sites are out of the question with two Alaska schools in the league since the flights alone could bankrupt the league — all nine schools will share the costs of the postseason tournament.
Despite the WCHA no longer having a presence in Duluth past 2013, the city’s AMSOIL Arena and its 6,600 seats would be a good fit and something to try for one year in 2014.
In 2016, I think the WCHA would be wise to give Resch Center in Green Bay a shot if PMI is interested and no longer hosting the Wisconsin girls state basketball tournament.
With the Big Ten only committing to venues for the next four years, it looks like the name of the postseason game will be experimentation for the West, at least for now.
Hopefully someday, college hockey will find some postseason stability so fans can plan their pilgrimages accordingly.
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The WCHA is rumored to have the Resch Center in Green Bay on its short list of potential sites for its postseason tournament after 2013 when college hockey conference realignment goes into effect. The venue will be unavailable, however, in 2014 since it is hosting the Wisconsin state high school girls basketball tournament.