Big Ten, Gophers both searching for an identity in men's hockey

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2013 - 12:37 AM

Both the first-year Big Ten hockey conference and the Gophers are not quite sure what to expect will happen this season.

 

The Big Ten hockey conference and Gophers men’s hockey team enter this season searching for the same thing — an identity.

The Big Ten has nearly 120 years of success in sports such as football and basketball. Now it’s the first major conference to sponsor ice hockey, which on some fronts is a risky move.

The Gophers are one of college hockey’s traditional powers. But they’ve replaced five NHL signees off last season’s NCAA tournament team with eight freshmen.

Uncertainty is relatively uncommon for the Big Ten and the Gophers hockey team, and officials of both are realistic that it might take time to develop their separate identities.

“I don’t know exactly what kind of team we’re going to be this year,” junior forward Travis Boyd said. “We got a lot of new players and a lot of new guys that need to fill roles that we lost last year. So I think it’s still a work in progress.”

Jennifer Heppel, Big Ten associate commissioner, has a similar view on the conference’s new endeavor. She said the league’s work began two-plus years ago asking the most basic question: “How we do this?”

Now the Big Ten is focused on how to become the face of college hockey, although the league has yet to play a game.

Building the brand

The conference’s inaugural media day last month in St. Paul looked more like a playoff gathering than a preseason introduction. The scene matched that of an NCAA hockey tournament, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.

“Cameras laden across the back. The room was full. There was good energy,” Eaves said. “I thought that was really, really exciting.”

Michigan State coach Tom Anastos’ media day schedule included interviews with the Big Ten Network, Fox, ESPN, NBC, a news conference and one-on-one interviews in the concourse of Xcel Energy Center.

Promotion and hype haven’t been a problem for the Big Ten. Since media day’s strong kickoff, TV commercials and national sponsorships have heightened anticipation. Anastos refers to this as the conference’s commitment to succeed.

“Seeing national advertisements of college hockey, who would have ever thunk it?” he said.

The Big Ten Network did. The conference’s TV partner was an integral part of the birth of Big Ten hockey and is intent on being a vital part of its success.

Heppel said Big Ten member schools voiced the importance of college hockey finding a regular TV home, and they got their wish. The Big Ten Network will broadcast 27 games nationally this season and begin a new tradition of “Frozen Fridays.”

Beginning Jan. 10, the network will have eight consecutive weeks of Friday conference doubleheaders. The Gophers will play in six of them.

Many longtime hockey fans have fretted over how the Big Ten will change the college hockey landscape. The storied Western Collegiate Hockey Association was picked apart once Penn State added hockey and the Big Ten had the six schools required to sponsor the sport.

  • related content

  • Series preview: Ice Breaker Tournament

    Thursday October 10, 2013

    GAME PREVIEW: MERCYHURST ATNO. 5 GOPHERS7:10 p.m., Friday, first round of the Ice Breaker tournament at Mariucci ArenaTV/radio: Fox Sports...

  • Minnetonka's Steve Johnson commits to Gophers hockey

    Thursday October 10, 2013

    Gophers women's hockey will raise 41-0 championship banner on Friday.

  • Gophers co-captain Kyle Rau skated recently at Mariucci Arena, which has a huge Big Ten logo near the blue line. Minnesota opens the season Friday against Mercyhurst.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close