We were the epicenter of men’s collegiate hockey this weekend, with the two top-level “western’’ conferences that survived this season’s upheaval holding tournaments here: the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff at Target Center and the Big Ten at Xcel Energy Center.
Nationally, this caused the same amount of attention to be focused on the Twin Cities as did two Division I basketball tournaments being held in the Houston area last weekend: the SWAC in the city and the Southland in the suburbs.
There have been occasions when I’ve referred to our six “big-time’’ sports entities: Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild, Gophers football and Gophers men’s basketball.
That list is offered as a bow to reality, but the responses generally include ridicule for not including A) Gophers men’s hockey or B) the Lynx.
The conflict comes in defining “big-time.’’ To me, it’s competition in a sport and a league that captures the interest of a fair share of the nation’s sports fans.
The only questionable piece of our Big-Time Six would be the Wild — and I would say, the NHL reaches the “fair share’’ threshold during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Local interest is a different matter. There is a respectable level of interest with the Twin Cities sporting public for the postseason adventures of the Gophers men’s hockey team.
It will enter the NCAA tournament as the favorite to win the national title after a decade-long drought. If it does so, a couple of hundred students might be happy enough to burn a mattress in Dinkytown.
College hockey doesn’t register nationally. There are 59 schools — and many are Division I only on the ice. That number could decline in the future, what with the WCHA being left as a collection of the orphans with the breakaway of the most prestigious programs to the Big Ten or the NCHC.
I asked this question of 10 local sports reporters with no agenda this week. What is more significant nationally: The Lynx winning the WNBA title or the Gophers winning the men’s hockey title?
Nine said “the Lynx’’ quickly. Mike Rand debated for a time before saying “Lynx.’’ There you have it.