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CHICAGO… I happened to be in the Windy City last week on business and while having dinner I happened to overhear some news that just about floored me on the spot! In the suburb of Rosemont and just a stones throw from the famous O’Hare Airport is the new Big Ten Conference Headquarters. It is visible from the Tri State Tollway with it’s funky new logo on the side of the 3 story building facing the mega-highway, which I don’t like and won’t attempt to describe for you, but if you are a sports fan, you have no doubt already seen it. However, based on my current feelings about the Conference they could have the greatest logo on earth and I would probably be trashing it.
Also within the building are a Big Ten museum and an upscale Brazilian Steakhouse, Fogo de Chao. I had never any intention to go visit the building before, but since I was in the area I thought why not, I’ll check it out. The museum and sports artifacts within were amazing to say the least, but after spending some time perusing them I decided to have a bite to eat. I went to the restaurant and was seated promptly, and I have to admit, I picked up at least one of my bad habits from my mother; I usually read while at the dinner table. I had a couple of political articles with me that I had printed out for further study in case some spare time popped up, and this was one of those moments.
I was by myself and quietly sipping a fresh coffee and studying the articles I had tucked in my jacket pocket. A trio of young thirty-something chaps came in dressed in formal business attire and were seated next to me. The way they were positioned was such that they weren’t directly facing me, and they were quite caught up in their conversation. I didn’t pay too much attention to them and went on with my reading. That is until I heard one of the young men say this; “this is going to hit the media like a bombshell”. Well, holy schnikees, without flinching one single bit, the conversation at that table suddenly had my full rapt singular focus.
What was going to hit like a bombshell I wondered? I listened on, one of the trio then stated that “the Conference has never made a decision like this…ever”. For the next several minutes I listened to the back and forth and then it occurred to me that what they were talking about is that the Big Ten has decided, behind closed doors, to disband their 6 team Men’s Ice Hockey Conference due to the fan backlash that has been directed at the Conference since the hockey kickoff 3 years back. I know for a fact that a large part of the fan base of both the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Gophers were very upset at the announcement of B10 hockey and that B10 member schools would be leaving their then conference affiliations to participate.
I can tell you that this has bothered me immensely as this misguided maneuver by the B10 broke up what was arguably the best collegiate hockey league in the history of NCAA hockey. (The old WCHA) I can state that there were other schools and a substantial part of their fan bases as well that were and are ruing the breaking up of decades long rivalries. Some of these fans had annual trips to rivalry weekends with family and friends that they had engaged in for years.
This has not been without alterations to member school revenues as well. I can tell you that from what I have seen with Gopher and Badger home games, that their attendance is down as well as their season ticket sales. I am not certain of that data with the other member schools. Based on comment boards and blogs that I have read, this is directly attributed to their schools no longer competing in the WCHA. In short, there have been many concerns voiced by the schools over the future of their ability to compete, their future revenues if the level of competition were to decline, and of what the aesthetics appear like for a conference that made itself bigger then the best hockey conference and tradition in the history of the game.
Fans apparently have deluged the B10 HQ with some fairly nasty letters, emails and phone calls according to the trio 8 feet away from me. Yes, I know, this entire folly is allegedly based upon some long lost bylaw that stated if there exists any sport with at least 6 member schools in D1 competition that they would have to do so under the conference banner. I couldn’t hear it specifically, but I believe one of the guys stated that at least one school was threatening to sue the B10 if they didn’t move to disband and allow their schools to apply for membership elsewhere.
One of them went on to say that a press conference would be called shortly after the Men’s Frozen Four has crowned a new Champion to announce this blockbuster. The schools would be free to apply for other league membership or go independent if they desired. I have to admit I have hated this from the moment I heard of it and these feelings have not subsided. This was strictly a money and power grab by the B10 powers with no regard to history or tradition within a sport that they have literally never cared about before. In fact, they still don’t care about it. They have my absolute contempt for busting up the old WCHA.
Suddenly I lurched forward! My eyes popped open wide! My forehead was covered with sweat! I looked at my watch…. I was supposed to be out at my mother’s ten minutes ago for dinner! Yikes! PEACE
MFAN NOTES; Sorry, I will have to re-promise a Minnesota Wild playoff spot prognostication for next week. As of now, after a 2 victory, 4 point weekend for the team, they are still locked in battle with the Colorado Avalanche for the last wildcard spot. The Av’s are up by a point with a Wild-Av’s showdown coming up this weekend… Over & Out!