I know, it's going to take some getting used to but Big Ten hockey is nearly upon us and with that the conference announced the finalized plans for it's conference tournament that begins following the 2013-14 season.
Don't forget the conference will consists of Wisconsin, the Goophs, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State and therefore the tournament will feature all teams playing for the leagues automatic birth into the NCAA tournament.
But on to where and how this tournament will be put together, the Big Ten announced yesterday that the tournament will be held on a year to year rotating basis between the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN and Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI. Meaning it'll be Xcel in 2014 and 2016 and "the Joe" in 2015 and 2017 etc.
The dates for the first tournament will be March20-22, 2014 as it will be a one game playoff at each level with the top two teams in the conference getting byes into the semi-final round. So it will be day one featuring a 3 vs. 6 and a 4 vs. 5 matchup. The following day will not be reseeded and it will be the top seed against the 4 vs. 5 winner and the 2nd seed playing the 3 vs. 6 winner followed by the championship game the next night.
There are a lot of things to like about this format and some that are a draw backs. For instance, the fact that you've got to be on your game for three straight nights in most cases to get to the NCAA tournament and going from a format where you play a series and then another week off before the one-of games like the Badgers and Gophers are used to in the WCHA will take some getting used to and can be a drawback.
But on the plus side of things all the other teams will be new to this format as well so they'll at least all be in the same boat. It's a huge positive that it's at one site and allows the hockey fans from all over the conference to kind of make a year by year pilgrimage to the arenas and should be great for atmosphere at each place, perhaps outpacing what the attendance numbers could be at the NCAA regional sites too.
Again, we're a year away from all of this taking affect so much will be changing over the next year. Along those lines please join me in welcoming our brand new hockey analyst Nate Woelfel. He comes to us having vast experience in the college hockey game (mainly at the D3 level) but also as a life long fan of the Badgers and Wisconsin hockey. You can find more of his work by following him on twitter (@Nate_Woelfel), so give him a follow and say hi, he promises not to bite too hard.