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Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State need to return to home-and-homes in hockey

December 12, 2011
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

Hockey fans in Marquette were robbed this weekend of some exciting hockey at the Berry Events Center.

Come February, it will be the fans in Sault Ste. Marie's turn to miss out on a weekend of college hockey.

If Northern Michigan University had things its way, however, that would not be the case.

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Starting with the 2008-09 season, the Wildcats and Lake Superior State Lakers abandoned the practice of playing home-and-home series in favor of back-to-back nights in the Sault and back-to-back nights in Marquette despite the two universities only being separated by 165 miles.

Instead of making two six-hour round-trip bus rides in a season, the Wildcats and Lakers now only have to make one.

There is a catch, though.

In return for less time on a bus, each university must now pick up the tab for two nights in a hotel and seven meals for its players, coaches, trainers and other associated personnel, including the bus driver.

Add in the lost class time and the cost doesn't seem to justify trading 12 hours on a bus for six.

As for Upper Peninsula hockey fans who like to catch all four games of the Cappo Cup series, you too can shell out the extra bucks for meals and hotels.

For those who can't afford the travel, you get one weekend and one weekend only to see the Lakers in Marquette. Take it or leave it.

Minus the Wildcats and Michigan Tech Huskies, who are separated by 100 miles - the WCHA seems to shy away from home-and-home series, but the practice is a regular occurrence in Hockey East and the ECAC.

The CCHA has even warmed up to the idea with four home-and-home series having taken place over the weekend between Michigan and Michigan State (65 miles), Miami and Ohio State (120 miles), Western Michigan and Bowling Green (171 miles) and Notre Dame and Ferris State (172 miles).

Later this year, Ferris State and Western Michigan (108 miles) and Notre Dame and Western Michigan (75 miles) will conduct home-and-home weekends in the hopes of doing what I talked about above and more.

Home-and-home series cut costs, they keep student-athletes in the classroom, they boost attendance, give the fans an option and they strengthen rivalries by making them more than a one-weekend affair.

Let's face it. Compared to NMU and Tech - or even NMU and Michigan or NMU and Michigan State - the Wildcat-Laker rivalry could use a boost.

The Lakers also appear to need some help at the box office after drawing only 2,594 on Friday for Pink the Rink and 2,572 on Saturday for the Teddy Bear Toss.

Both nights would be season lows at the Berry Events Center and both would be embarrassing numbers for NMU for those type of special events.

According to NMU officials, they are ready anytime LSSU is to return to holding home-and-home series and if I were LSSU, I would take the Wildcats up on that offer.

The Lakers should do it for the budget, do it for the fans and do it to show some common sense.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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