The NCAA released its list of the next four hosts for the Frozen Four national championship tournaments and really, they went with no-brainers. Thankfully, the chosen cities are good spots for a variety of reasons and stretch out nicely in terms of geography.
Boston will host in 2015; Tampa in 2016; Chicago in 2017 and Minnesota (St. Paul) in 2018. This year’s tournament will be in Philadelphia, which also put in a new bid, as did last year’s hosts from Pittsburgh. Other unsuccessful suitors include Buffalo, Brooklyn, Columbus and Washington.
Starting with Boston, you have a city that lives and breathes college hockey. Boston College, Boston U., Harvard and Northeastern all vie for the Beanpot trophy each year and some of the NHL’s best players cut their team within city borders. Most excitingly for organizers, I’m sure, is that Boston College is a perennial contender to win the national championship, while Boston U. is not far behind. Having a home team play in the Frozen Four would only ratchet up the hype surrounding the tourney even further. And for fans, you have a great tourist city with tons of amenities and a lot of history.
Tampa may be the strangest winner on the list to outsiders, but as a recent host in 2012, the home of the NHL’s Lightning has been lauded ever since for putting on a great show. The Tampa Bay Times Forum is loved as an arena, the fans can sit poolside when they’re not at games and the sport itself is growing in the state. There may not be a college hockey team eligible to play in the tournament, but the annual Florida College Classic in Estero (two hours away) attracts big schools such as Cornell and New Hampshire. Florida native Brian Ferlin, a Boston Bruins prospect with Cornell, told me that he’s seen the grassroots tournaments affiliated with the FCC grow quite a bit recently. So there’s an upshot for hockey itself by keeping Florida on the NCAA map.
Chicago, you may be surprised to hear, has never hosted the Frozen Four. Perhaps the shadow of Bill Wirtz kept more than just NHL lovers away for all those years, but now it’s a new era and the Blackhawks have reinvigorated the city’s passion for puck. Like Boston, Chicago is one of America’s biggest cities and brings all the great restaurants, hotels and touristy things that come with such a designation. The rink is beautiful and there’s also a nice Big Ten tie-in for the Midwestern location. True, the host school is Notre Dame, a Hockey East school, but just bringing attention to the college game in a state that shockingly does not have a team (c’mon Northwestern or Illinois…) can’t hurt.
Then there’s St. Paul, in the heart of Minnesota. The no-brainer of no-brainers, St. Paul has the excellent Xcel Center, home of the NHL’s Wild and the state’s vaunted state high school tournament. Like Boston, this is a traditional hotbed for college hockey, where fans may be more passionate for the NCAA game than anywhere else. Another similarity to Boston is the fact the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers are a consistent threat to win it all, so seeing the Maroon and Gold in the Frozen Four is a very good bet. Not that locals will need extra incentive to show up, but it would certainly make the stakes higher.
There were no bad choices for the NCAA in these bids, but with the selections made, an interesting slate has been created for the future.