Skip to main content

Still pissed about Big Ten hockey? Take a lesson from UND

Three of 4 teams in the Frozen Four have ignited angry feelings.

College hockey's most hated conference claimed three of four spots in the Frozen Four over the weekend, and it's only made an already heated debate about the Big Ten's impact on the State of Hockey even hotter. 

The vitriol between Big Ten haters and supporters goes back to 2013 when the Big Ten arrived in men's hockey, taking with it longtime Western Collegiate Hockey Association power teams Minnesota and Wisconsin, and leaving a wake that ripped apart the WCHA and the in-state rivalries that came with it. 

Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Denver, Colorado College, North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha abandoned the WCHA for a new home in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). All the while, Minnesota State-Mankato and Bemidji State were left in the WCHA, where they remain today. 

"We're used to rivalries around here, and the WCHA was built with those. Everyone wanted to beat Minnesota and everyone wanted to play Minnesota, especially the in-state teams," explained Gophers great Pat Micheletti. 

It was essentially the blue bloods stealing from the blue collar, but it hasn't exactly harmed the level of play across Minnesota. 

"If anything, college hockey in Minnesota is probably better," says UMD's radio play-by-play voice Bruce Ciskie. "The problem is that the rivalries aren't the same because people perceive the games as meaningless because points aren't on the line. The reality in college hockey is the non-conference games, a lot of times, mean more than the conference games." 

'It's Gopher fans I worry about'

Ciskie's fix is for fans to start embracing change the way North Dakota has.

"Their fans have embraced the NCHC," says Ciskie. "Yeah, they don't get to play Minnesota State, Bemidji State or the Gophers on a regular basis...but now when UMD is in there it's always a big deal."

"They've embraced the rivalries that they have in their new conference, and that is the example that needs to be followed." 

And if there's one fan base that has more work to do than the rest, it's Minnesota, Ciskie argues. 

"It's Gopher fans that I worry about. We've lost a lot of college hockey fans in Minnesota – primarily from the Gophers – over a number of different things, but it starts with the Big Ten changes and it moves into some other things that they've done internally." 

Overall, the Gophers finished third among D1 programs in attendance this season, although they only averaged 87.6 percent capacity in the 10,000-seat Mariucci Arena compared to near sellouts every season going back to the WCHA days and beyond. 

"The smarter people hopefully will get together someday, whether it be interlocking schedules, just find a way to get these rivalries back," said a hopeful Micheletti. 

"For now....embrace it, enjoy it and let's grow the game."

Next Up

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Here’s what the Vikings owners say about new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The Vikings announced his hiring on Wednesday night.

raiaing canes brooklyn park crop

After 3-month delay, newest Twin Cities Raising Cane's opens

The restaurant was originally scheduled to open in October.

st anthony armed robbery screengrab

Armed man robs Twin Cities thrift store, flees in carjacked pickup

He pulled out a handgun shortly after chatting with the cashier about his scarf.

red wing 6

Gallery: Pagoda-inspired home on Lake Pepin for sale for $2M

The home has 425 feet of private shoreline on the Mississippi River.

Walz, Flanagan

Walz proposes legalizing marijuana in massive supplemental budget

It's among the provisions in his "Budget to Move Minnesota Forward."

Plow 2 (1)

Photos reveal damage from gunshots to Minneapolis snowplow

A hydraulic line and three tires were damaged in the shooting.

unsplash - school classroom students

Minneapolis schools confirm return to in-person teaching Monday

The school district shifted to online learning almost two weeks ago as rising COVID cases led to staff and bus driver shortages.

Flickr - Superior National Forest Boundary Waters

Mineral leases for proposed Twin Metals mine near Boundary Waters canceled

A review by the DOI found "significant legal deficiencies" with the leases' 2019 renewal.


Reward to find person who left kittens to die in freezing WI cold

The cats were thrown from a vehicle, according to a witness.

metro mobility bus

Charges: Man led police on multi-city pursuit in stolen Metro Mobility bus

The bus had been left unattended with the keys inside when it was stolen.

Bell Ramsey Co. Jan 22 - crop

Charges: Man fatally shot mother of his child during argument

Officers found her on the ground outside the couple's home.


Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, January 26

More than 15,000 new cases in today's update.


Gophers hockey

Season over: Gophers fall to Notre Dame, Motzko rips officials

Meanwhile, the Gopher women won to advance to the Frozen Four.

Big Ten media expects big things from Pitino's Gophers

Minnesota was picked third in the preseason conference poll.

Gophers softball wins 3rd straight Big Ten Tournament title

They're just the second team to win three straight in the last 20 years.

gophers hockey

Gophers tops Michigan in overtime in front of 1,800 fans

Minnesota is one win from reaching the conference semifinals.