Monday, January 27, 2014

North Star College Cup Suggestion Box

This past weekend marked the first-ever North Star College Cup.

From an execution standpoint, the folks at XCel Energy Center and the University of Minnesota showed again that they can indeed stage a quality hockey event. No issues there.

However, I know from interactions with fans via email, Twitter, text, and in person that this was not a perfect weekend. The people with the NSCC have work to do, and there will be no shortage of ideas and suggestions on how to make this thing better.

Among the thoughts I heard, many repeatedly:
  • At the very least, the championship game should be continuous overtime, not a five-minute overtime followed by a shootout.
  • The ticket pricing is not perfect, and fans were generally not pleased with both games each day being on one ticket. If organizers thought they'd get St. Cloud State or Minnesota fans to attend the UMD-Minnesota State game Friday afternoon, the 13,000 empty seats would beg to differ.
  • There needs to be more fan interaction during media timeouts inside the arena.
If you attended the games, or even if you just watched them on television, and you have ideas on ways to make this tournament better, please don't hesitate to let me know. Comment on this post, send me a Tweet (@BruceCiskie), or drop me an email (bciskie at gmail dot com).

I'm going to compile a list of the best or most commonly-communicated gripes and ideas about the tournament and will pass them on to people who might actually be able to do something about it.

While it would have been cooler had UMD won the tournament, it was a good time and I feel this is going to be a very good event as time goes on.


Ryan Krajewski said...

GRIPE #1: The tickets. And the silly rules.

I empathize with the NSCC using a 1-ticket system for 2 games. The basic problem with this is that it cooped fans up at the X from 3 to 10 PM each day. (Sidenote: the Club Level eateries were NOT open.) Especially on Sat., move the early game to 2:30 and let folks inject some of their meal money into the rest of the St. Paul economy. With quality food options not available in the X, forcing a concession stand dinner two nights in a row makes for too many hungry fans. I for one would have appreciated a halftime meal at Ried's or McGoverns. FIX: Separate the tickets. Teams will support their teams just like they did. Attendance will be the same, though improved if marketing improves. Encourage increased Friday attendance by making those tickets less expensive.

Ryan Krajewski said...

GRIPE #2: Special treatment.

Only 4 of 5 D1 schools in MN get to participate each year. Okay, I get this. It's a logistical nightmare mid-season to pull off a bigger event. No one wants a potential 3rd game. Also, UMTC is the ongoing host and will enjoy an automatic entry each year with other schools taking turns. I actually like this, but I believe there is a better way. FIX: Reward the top 4 by choosing an arbitrary ranking system to ensure that the 4 best (at say December 31st) are the 4 teams in the tournament. I think we got that this year and it resulted in 4 very good hockey games. I like that gopher fans drive attendance, but a guarantee isn't the answer. If the gophs sink to #5 out of 5 MN D1 schools - then they can sit the year out – and 100% surveyed goph fans agree. This keeps the door open for the inclusion of more schools should the D1 hockey landscape change down the road – you know, like if UND jumped the river to East Grand Forks. Or more likely - when MN annexes ND for the oil. Of course an off-weekend by that 5th team is an issue that we'd still need to address. But hey, if you're the worst in the state, your ticket revenue probably is too, and you could use the practice in lieu of a road trip.

Ryan Krajewski said...

GRIPE #3: Overtime. Or the lack thereof.

I like the shootout in the semis and I like it in the 3rd place game. Fact is, it's a huge disadvantage to any team having to play a next-day game when one of the teams has either A) had more rest or B) gotten to keep their routine. The team that plays two late games back to back gets to eat all of their meals at the same time, have their morning skates at the same time, and they get to sleep at the same time. In other words, they get to keep their routine. The balance comes through the other team getting a few hours additional rest. If one team or the other had to play a double or triple OT on Friday, that's going to skew the odds for Saturday's game a bit more than I want them to. As for the championship - there is hardware on the line and whenever that's the case, they should have to play hockey to earn it. Shootouts, while a fun way to end a practice - simply highlight the best scorers and goaltenders. Teams are bigger than 3 or 4 players and a shootout detracts from the importance of depth. FIX: Allow for the current OT procedure to continue except for in the championship game. Instead, let's play one 10 min. OT, followed by 20 min. period continuous hockey with no commercial interruptions until we have a winner.

Ryan Krajewski said...

GRIPE #4: Officials and conferences.

First, while I was far from impressed from the officiating, I felt that it was consistent and that standards affected each team equally. Secondly, whoever was chanting "gopher payroll" has no objectivity or business critiquing officials. I get that UMTC is the host and that they would simplistically hire refs that work their conference games. The fact of the matter is that Minnesota teams belong to 3 conferences, and I'd like to see the representation of the other 2 of them become greater. FIX: One way to do this is to bring in 2 crews from 2 different conferences and bring in all 4 lineys from the other.

Ryan Krajewski said...

GRIPE #5: It's all about the fans. At least it's supposed to be.

Fan interaction and satisfaction is what will ensure the success of the Minnesota Beanpot going forward. Who else was sitting in his seat bored for too many TV timeouts? It wasn't just me? Good. Kiss-cam keeps our attention if done right, but it can't be the solo prop in your bag of tricks. FIX: Steal a page from the WCHA Final 5 and give us back Dance Mania. Make the giveaways more engaging and don't rely just on a (hopefully good) hockey game to entertain fans. The key to a good fan experience and a repeat customer is making it fun for hockey hardcores and also everyone that isn't one.

Andrew Ries said...

Definitely get rid of the championship game shootout, for one. Second, how about making it a Saturday-Sunday tournament? 2 PM or 4 PM on Friday afternoon is going to result in a sparse crowd either way. Make it 2 and 7 on Saturday and 12 and 5 on Sunday. Having attended all 4 games I enjoyed it but it definitely can be improved.

Anonymous said...

Leave this tournament altogether.