In talking to Gophers men's hockey fans in recent days, it was clear there was a certain amount of trepidation as to what the 2013-14 schedule would look like. Would the Big Ten -- and its TV network -- demand a lot of changes to the traditional Friday-Saturday structure?
The schedule -- for the most part, without game times or TV information -- was released Wednesday, and fans can breathe a little easier. While many of them still haven't embraced the move to the Big Ten for competitive and rivalry reasons with the WCHA, the schedule remains quite palatable.
The Gophers will play 10 Big Ten series, and eight of them will be Friday/Saturday.
Home series against Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State, as well as road series against Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are Friday/Saturday. Two of three other series -- home against Michigan and Michigan State and at Wisconsin -- will be Friday-Saturday, while the other will be Thursday-Friday. Which is which will be determined at a later date.
That TBA Thursday-Friday series and a Sunday-Monday series at Penn State are the only outliers. The Big Ten tourney, as the WCHA Final Five was, is Thursday-Saturday. That tourney is at Xcel Energy Center next season.
Here are some thoughts from Gophers coach Don Lucia, with whom we chatted this afternoon:
*On the non-Friday/Saturday Big Ten weekends: "We knew going in that we’d have some games that would possibly be on Thursday, with the majority on Friday/Saturday and maybe on Monday to accommodate the Big Ten Network. It’s not just our sport. TV is a driving force in all sports now that are on, and we understand that and accept that. From our standpoint, it worked out well. Our only Sunday-Monday, we’re on the road at Penn State, and it’s during break so we won’t miss any school. We have some options whether they are going to be Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday, which I think will be determined once the Big Ten basketball portion gets parceled out."
*Lucia said the home series against UMD in late November, slated to be Friday/Saturday, could end up being Friday/Sunday to work around football. He also said the long layoff -- the Gophers play Dec. 7 and not again until Jan. 3, a week longer than they usually take off around the holidays -- was a function of the calendar and not wanting to have the Mariucci Classic so close to Christmas.
*On having eight games against Minnesota teams (three series and the Minnesota Tournament): "That was a priority. The other schools in the state were appreciative and want to maintain that rivalry. We’re unique in our state, and it was important for us to do that. Who knows, down the line, if teams get added in any of the different leagues if that can continue, but right now we’re pretty much into a four-year deal will all those teams."
*On game times in the Big Ten: "The reality is on Friday, there could be some 8 p.m. starts. There is talk of some doubleheaders on Friday, with 6:30 Eastern [5:30 Central] and 8 p.m. Central. You have four Big Ten teams in the East and two in the West, so it would be us or Wisconsin doing an 8 p.m. start on a Friday night. That’s fine. That’s not as big a deal for our fans because it’s Friday night. I don’t think we’ll run into that on Saturdays. Who’s to say ever, but the indications I hear is that … it’s not as big of a priority for a television date."