The Big Ten Conference is looking at neutral sites -- that's sites plural -- to hold its postseason hockey tournaments when the conference debuts with the 2013-14 season.
Scott Chipman, the Big Ten assistant commissioner for communications, confirmed Monday that the conference has scrapped its previously announced format. That had all six teams playing a tournament at the arena of the conference champion.
The Xcel Energy Center, of course, will be one of the sites the Big Ten explores. Minnesota and Wisconsin, two of the six teams in the Big Ten Conference, have had a long history of playing in Final Fives there.
Other options for the Big Ten would be arenas in Detroit, Chicago and perhaps Pittsburgh.
XCEL IN DEMAND
The Big Ten Conference is just one of three conference looking at the Xcel as a possible site for its postseason tournament.
"It is still in play" for what will be a newly configured WCHA in 2013-14, said Bruce McLeod, commissioner of the present WCHA. "But we have a plan A and B. There are still some thing going on that will effect everybody."
McLeod said the Big Ten, the WCHA and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, an eight-team league starting in 2013-14, too, are all doing their homework on a site for their conference tournament. The NCHC is the third team eyeing the X.
"The way things are lining up, we [the WCHA] are not the first in line," McLeod said, referring to holding a postseason tournament at the X. "Once the Big Ten decides what they would like to do, it will have a domino effect. They might decide to rotate their tournament and not have it exclusively at the Xcel."
Reading between the lines, this seems probable: A college hockey conference tournament will continue to be held at the Xcel in 2014 and beyond. The only question is which one -- or two -- of three possible conferences will be playing there.
* Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, was one of the Big Ten schools pushing for a neutral site for the conference tournament. An on-campus tournament in Madison would have tied up the Kohl Center for two weekends in March. The first weekend would be for the bottom four seeds to play a best-of-three series, the second weekend would be for the semifinals and championship.
And, in such an arrangement, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association, would have to move several of its state tournaments from the Kohl Center. Ohio State also would have scheduling issues with a Big Ten tournament at the home of the conference champion if the Buckeyes were ever the host.
McLEOD STILL HOPEFUL FOR POSTSEASON
McLeod said he is still hoping more than two or three WCHA make the NCAA tournament this year.
The PairWise rankings, which mimic the way the NCAA fills its tournament field, have not been kind to the WCHA so far.
If the NCAA tournament was starting today, UMD and Minnesota, both top 10 teams in the PairWise ratings, would definitely be in, and possibly North Dakota, tied for No. 15 -- provided no major underdog won a conference tournament. That's it.
"Each weekend there is a lot of movement" in the PairWise, McLeod said. "There is quite a bit of volatility.
"But the writing was on the wall. Look at our out of conference records," McLeod said.
The WCHA finished below .500 against both the CCHA and Hockey East. "I can't remember being under .500 with any other league," McLeod said. "A couple of years we may have been right around .500 with Hockey East.
"The depth of quality is not where it has been," McLeod said. "A lot of times in past year, even team in the lower half of the conference were pretty good in nonconference games."
* The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game between the Gophers and Notre Dame at Mariucci on Jan. 7 raised between $70,000 and $100,000 for the hall of game, McLeod said.