The Gophers, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Mankato will participate in a four-team men's hockey tournament next winter at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul. Bemidji State is waiting in the wings as a substitute for St. Cloud, Duluth or Mankato in future years.
The idea is to emulate Boston's famed college tournament _ the Beanpot, where Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern are the participants.
It is my contention that the Beanpot is so popular because it is the Beanpot, not the Greater Boston Cup, or the Prudential Cup.
The working title for the tournament in St. Paul is the Minnesota Cup. It is my fear the promoters will find a corporate sponsor and the four hockey schools will be at work trying to claim the TCF Bank Trophy or the Dairy Queen Cup.
This tournament needs a great name, in the manner of the Beanpot, and forunately for this state, it has a creative thinker such as me who already has offered the title over the AM airwaves: "The Herbie.''
Herb Brooks had an impact on the Gophers, on St. Cloud State's upgrade to Division I, and on this state's hockey reputation as the coach of a U.S. team that won an international tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The Minnesota college tournament will be played in St. Paul, Herbie's hometown. There is a statue of him in the front of the arena.
The Gophers are headed off to the six-team Big Ten. St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth will be members of the new, eight-team National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which figures to be the best in the country. These are the big-league teams and all should be in the field annually.
MSU Mankato and Bemidji State are in the new WCHA,. which will be several steps below the NCHC and most of the Big Ten. If this tournament is going to be great annual attraction, you can't worry about hurt feelings. Either Mankato or Bemidji can fill out the field, based on which team had a better finish in the WCHA the previous season.
The Herbie. There is no other name for it.
I already pitched it to St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko on a visit there this week. "I love it,'' he said. "Let's do it.''
ST. CLOUD LANDED ON ITS SKATES
There was a time when it looked as if the St. Cloud Huskies were going to wind up in the new WCHA rather than with the big boys of the NCHC. Then, Notre Dame proscrastinated before going to Hockey East, and St. Cloud talked its way into the eighth spot in the power conference.
St. Cloud is now leading the WCHA with three weekends left in its final season. It is also in the midst of an impressive remodeling of its arena. Things are looking better than ever for Huskies hockey. Meantime, you have to wonder about the long-term ability of the 10 WCHYA schools to sustain the financial obligations that exist for Division I hockey.
Here are the size of the metro areas for the NCHC: Denver-2.6M; Omaha-880,000; Colorado Springs-660,000; Kalamazoo-327,000; Duluth-280,000; St. Cloud-200,000; Grand Forks, N.D. & Miami, Ohio, around 100,000 each.
The three largest metros in the WCHA will be Anchorage (380,000), Fairbanks (100,000) and Huntsville (400,000). The trouble is two of those markets are stuck in Alaska and the other is for an isolated college hockey program in Dixies.
There are three teams on Michigan's Upper Peninsula drawing from markets that have fewer than100,000 people combined. Ther rest of the teams are in Mankato (53,000), Bemidji (15,000), Big Rapids, Mich. (11,000) and Bowling Green, Ohio (30,000).
How can they possibly bring in the needed dollars from communities that size and with no powerhouse attractions on the conference schedule to fill the arenas? The long-range feasibility of the new WCHA seems questionable, at best.