COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With the 2016-17 season complete, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) reflected on the NCHC’s fourth season of competition, looking back at the conference’s successes, changes from previous seasons and how the NCHC can continue to build upon what’s already been accomplished. Highlighting the 2016-17 NCHC season was an all-NCHC national championship game, another great Frozen Faceoff championship weekend, a redesigned and relaunched website, the conference’s first Hobey Baker Award winner, the addition of Over-The-Top (OTT) apps to NCHC.tv and the College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden.
The NCHC completed its annual Board of Directors Meeting with member Presidents and Chancellors on Thursday, May 18 in Colorado Springs, after holding the conference’s Annual Meeting with Athletics Directors, Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs) and coaches in Naples, Fla. on April 24-25, both of which covered a variety of topics, including examining last season, as well as possible changes for the future. Below is a summary of the NCHC’s successes and accomplishments from the past season, as well as a “Focus on the Future.”
“The NCHC membership and staff are excited about the continued progress being made with the conference,” said NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton. “The 2016-17 season was another great year for our institutions, collectively. We are focused on improvement in all areas, which continues to be guided by serving our student-athletes and fans with the best possible experiences. We look forward to another great year in 2017-18!”
The NCHC once again had incredible success on the ice in 2016-17, with teams and student-athletes winning more championships and awards than any other season in the NCHC’s short history.
- NCAA Tournament – For the third straight season, the NCHC placed at least half of its members in the NCAA Championship Tournament with four teams making the NCAA field. Also for a third straight season, the NCHC had two teams win regionals to earn a spot in the Frozen Four – the first time a conference has had two teams in the Frozen Four three straight seasons since the WCHA from 2004-06. After both Denver and Minnesota Duluth won their national semifinals, it set up the first ever all-NCHC national championship game, which was won by Denver in a thrilling game to give the NCHC its second straight national champion (North Dakota in 2016). Overall, NCHC teams went 7-3 in the NCAA Tournament and have now earned seven Frozen Four berths in the conference’s four-year history, the most among any conference during that span. Over that same span, 53 percent (17 of 32 teams) of the combined NCHC membership has participated in the NCAA tournament, also the most of any conference.
- Non-Conference Success – Also for the third straight season, NCHC teams combined to post the best non-conference record among the six Division I men’s conferences, compiling a regular-season record of 48-21-14, with the .663 win percentage the conference’s second best mark behind only 2014-15 (.670). In addition, four NCHC teams won in-season tournaments, claiming the Brice Alaska Goal Rush (Omaha), the Florida College Hockey Classic (Colorado College), the Great Lakes Invitational (Western Michigan) and the final North Star College Cup (Minnesota Duluth).
- Individual Awards – While NCHC teams had plenty of on-ice success, individual student-athletes and coaches also collected lots of hardware in 2016-17, sweeping the major national awards. For the first time, the NCHC was home to the Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner as Denver’s Will Butcher claimed the honor, while DU head coach Jim Montgomery became the first NCHC coach to win the AHCA’s Spencer Penrose Award as Division I men’s national Coach of the Year. Denver’s Tanner Jaillet completed the hat trick of awards by earning the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s most outstanding goaltender – the second NCHC netminder to win the award. Montgomery also was recognized by College Hockey News and U.S. College Hockey Online (USCHO) as their National Coach of the Year, while Butcher was tabbed USCHO Player of the Year and USA Hockey College Player of the Year. For the second straight season, the NCHC had seven players earn AHCA All-America honors, including four on the West First Team, with the seven All-Americans the most from one conference in 2016-17.
- Scheduling - The conference continues to believe the current 24-game conference slate is the appropriate balance between conference and non-conference games while giving the NCHC the best opportunity to maximize teams in the NCAA tournament. The 2017-18 conference schedule has already been released while the 2018-19 conference schedule has been approved and the 2019-20 schedule is in draft form.
- Overtime – For the second straight year, the NCHC implemented a 3-on-3 overtime structure to follow the NCAA-mandated 5-minute 5-on-5 overtime. The NCAA added to its rulebook last offseason, allowing the use of 3-on-3 overtime and a sudden death shootout by conference policy, which was then adopted by another conference (WCHA). Of 96 NCHC conference games, 11 games (11.5 percent) required 3-on-3 overtime (up from six in 2015-16), with five of those 11 games ending in 3-on-3 overtime and the other six ending in a shootout.
While the NCHC is proud of its accomplishments on the ice, it’s equally as gratified to recognize the successes of our student-athletes and institutions in the classroom.
- Awards – In the second year of its current format, a total of 39 NCHC student-athletes received NCHC Scholar-Athlete Team distinction for achieving a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better, topping the 33 who earned the honor in 2015-16. In addition, 123 student-athletes garnered NCHC Academic All-Conference, an increase of 25 from 2015-16 and the second-most in the NCHC’s four years (133 in 2013-14). Eligible freshmen will be added to the academic teams in June. In addition, St. Cloud State’s Nathan Widman was named Academic All-District by CoSIDA.
- Post-Graduate Scholarship – In its second year of existence, the NCHC again awarded its post-graduate scholarship, which is provided by a grant from the El Pomar Foundation. The scholarship was split between Western Michigan’s Aaron Hadley and Omaha’s Kirk Thompson. Thompson will continue his graduate studies at Omaha next season while Hadley is pursuing options to attend graduate school in Canada.
- APR Scores – The NCAA released its latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores recently and NCHC teams saw an improvement from the previous season. NCHC teams posted an average APR of 985.6 in 2015-16, up from 981.8 the year before, with five NCHC teams improving their scores from 2014-15. Ice hockey again led all NCAA Division I men’s sports with an average APR of 986, with four NCHC teams posting an APR higher than that, led by Miami at 995.
After generating a surplus in each of the conference’s first three seasons, the NCHC is again projecting a surplus position for the 2016-17 year, though the fiscal year does not conclude until Aug. 31. The NCHC has been able to sustain a positive financial model thanks to appropriate budgeting, efficient spending, growing existing revenue streams and adding new revenue opportunities. Among the revenue factors that contributed to the NCHC’s financial success in 2016-17 are: NCHC Tournament (Quarterfinal and Frozen Faceoff rounds), the College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden, conference and tournament sponsors and NCHC.tv.
- NCHC Tournament –Like in previous seasons, the 2017 NCHC Tournament provides a majority of the NCHC’s revenue for the season. The combined two-day Frozen Faceoff attendance was 18,465, second-most among men’s hockey conference tournaments behind only Hockey East. Revenue associated with the overall tournament (Quarterfinal and Frozen Faceoff rounds combined) was down 8 percent from 2016.
- Special Events – The College Hockey Showdown was the first special event ever conducted by the conference, which led to a new revenue stream that previously was not part of the financial results. The game at Madison Square Garden between North Dakota and Boston College was hosted by the NCHC, along with MSG, and had an attendance of 11,348.
- Sponsorships – Another source of revenue for the NCHC is corporate sponsorships. Multiple new sponsors were brought on board in 2016-17, including Mills Fleet Farm, Preferred One and X-Games. Trade partnerships also created significant value-in-kind, allowing for items such as student-athlete/fan gifts, medical services at the Frozen Faceoff, printing services and more. The NCHC’s partners in 2016-17 included:
Global Sourcing Connection
Hennepin County Medical Center
Howie’s Hockey Tape
Mills Fleet Farm
Preferred One Insurance
RBC Wealth Management
Stinson Leonard Street, LLP
- NCHC.tv – NCHC.tv revenue continued its growth with an overall increase of 16 percent from 2015-16. Approximately 85 percent of all revenue generated through NCHC.tv is distributed back to the conference members through an internal model based upon subscriber affiliation. The remaining fifteen percent of revenue is retained by the conference office.
- E-Commerce/Merchandise/Licensing – While not accounting for a significant portion of NCHC revenue, apparel and merchandise sold through the NCHC Fan Shop on NCHCHockey.com and at the Frozen Faceoff continued to generate revenue. Merchandise and apparel sold at the College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden also helped create new revenue. Having Denver win the national championship and having a first-time Frozen Faceoff champion in Minnesota Duluth also sparked e-commerce sales. In addition, the NCHC collects licensing fees for apparel and products containing the NCHC’s logos through Learfield Licensing Partners.
NCHC TOURNAMENT/FROZEN FACEOFF
Perhaps the biggest focal point of the NCHC throughout the season, and certainly the most visible, is the conference’s postseason tournament, which culminated in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis March 17-18. Using fan, school and media feedback, along with our own experiences from the first three tournaments, the NCHC made several changes and improvements for the 2017 NCHC Tournament, specifically at the Frozen Faceoff.
- Quarterfinals – Hosting best-of-three quarterfinal series on campus sites, the four higher seeds advanced to the Frozen Faceoff for the second straight year. Three series ended in two-game sweeps while one series required a decisive third game. All nine games were streamed live on NCHC.tv, while three of the series also had some or all of the games televised locally or regionally. Quarterfinal programs were distributed to fans for free for the first time in 2017.
- Frozen Faceoff – For the fourth consecutive season, the NCHC held its championship weekend at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. During the weekend, Target Center was undergoing significant renovation, with many of the venue enhancements positively affecting student-athletes and fans, one of many factors leading to an improved Frozen Faceoff experience.
- Fan Engagement/Fan Experience
- In-game Entertainment/New Display Technology – As part of Target Center’s renovation, a giant new scoreboard was hung above center ice, with supplemental video boards all around the arena. New speakers were also installed for better sound projection. To help in-game entertainment operations run smoother, the NCHC hired a dedicated staff member to plan out in-game operations at the Frozen Faceoff. Nationally known public address announcer Alan Roach was also brought back to the Frozen Faceoff.
- Season Ticket Holder Perks – Fans that purchased 2017 Frozen Faceoff tickets prior to Dec. 31 were treated to a complimentary beverage and event program, as well as a discount on Frozen Faceoff merchandise and at other Minneapolis stores and restaurants. In addition, Season Ticket Holders were able to enjoy Target Center’s new TCL SixOneTwo Lounge on the Skyway Level as part of their perks.
- Concessions – For the second straight year, Delaware North, which is the concessionaire at Target Center, offered several new menu items during the Frozen Faceoff, some of which were hockey themed and based on local favorites from NCHC arenas. Beer brands were also made available with each NCHC market represented by a local brewery.
- Community Involvement – Members of local police and fire departments were recognized for their service during the games, along with members of the Minnesota National Guard, which held a U.S. flag on the ice during the national anthem for the championship game. The National Guard and Minneapolis Police Department also participated in a hockey game on March 15th at Target Center to kick-off Frozen Faceoff weekend activities. Through partnerships with Minnesota Hockey and TRIA Orthopaedics, youth teams skated between periods for intermission entertainment, as well.
- National Television – Both semifinals and the championship game were broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, which is in approximately 60 million homes throughout the country. The Frozen Faceoff is the only men’s college hockey championship aired on a national TV network.
- NCHC.tv/Live Stream – The Third-Place Game was streamed on NCHC.tv in HD for the first time and had a much improved stream with graphics, replays and multiple camera angles. Once again, all press conferences on Thursday and after the games each day were also streamed live for free on NCHC.tv. Free feature content, interviews and highlights of each game were also created at the Frozen Faceoff and placed on NCHC.tv for fans to enjoy.
- Frozen Faceoff Live – SportsEngine, which hosts NCHCHockey.com, helped run the Frozen Faceoff Live page on the NCHC’s website, which serves as a one-stop shop for fans to stay connected to the championship weekend. Content included event information, behind the scenes photos and videos, and social media. It was the most viewed page on NCHCHockey.com outside of the home page for the second straight year.
- Minneapolis Visitors Information Center –Thanks to a partnership with Sports Minneapolis for a second straight year, the MVI Center near Target Center displayed the Frozen Faceoff Trophy, apparel and promotional information throughout the week leading up to the tournament. Frozen Faceoff-themed street banners were also hung on the blocks surrounding Target Center. Through the partnership, a Frozen Faceoff Fan Guide was once again created to help fans get around Minneapolis and the Frozen Faceoff.
- Fan Events
- Awards Celebration – For the first time, the NCHC Awards Celebration was streamed live for free on NCHC.tv, allowing fans worldwide to watch the awards banquet. Approximately 500 fans watched the stream. The event was again held at Muse Event Center in Minneapolis on the eve of the Frozen Faceoff semifinals. The Awards Celebration was hosted by CBS Sports Network personalities, while honoring the NCHC’s top players and student-athletes with videos and awards. The venue was heavily branded with NCHC graphics.
- Fan Fest – Due to renovation construction in front of Target Center on First Avenue, the outdoor portion of Fan Fest on Friday was moved across from Target Center to 6th Street between First and Hennepin Avenues. Half of 6th street was closed allowing fans to enjoy live music, food, drinks and games in the street before the hockey games. Saturday Fan Fest moved inside to the Upper Concourse of Target Center, which allowed Fan Fest to spread out as it previously was held on the Inner Skyway. Several sponsors were involved in Fan Fest while many fans enjoyed the entertainment on Saturday as the colder and windier weather limited Friday’s crowd.
- NCHC Fan Skate – Held for the fourth straight year, the free skate for fans open to the public took place at Target Center the Thursday night before the semifinals. This year Sports Minneapolis once again served as a sponsor to help promote the event.
- Postgame Party – The NCHC used a new bar for its official Postgame Party after the games each night, partnering with The Pint Public House, less than two blocks from Target Center. The Pint offered food and drink specials for NCHC fans to enjoy after the games in a sports bar, hockey-themed atmosphere.
- Student-Athlete Experience
- Playing Surface – The ice at Target Center was reported by the participants to be in excellent condition again in 2017. Target Center was able to transform the arena in a timely manner, allowing for the ice to settle and also be skated on prior to team practices Thursday.
- Awards Celebration – One new award was presented at this year’s Awards Celebration, while several media members were in attendance to cover the 60-minute event. Feedback from the participating institutions and others who attended the event continues to be very positive.
- Branding – Through a new partnership with Tukaiz, branding in Target Center was enhanced and updated from 2016, including graphics featuring the student-athletes on locker room doors, a large mural on the Skyway, and various concourse applications.
- Apparel – Through value-in-kind from corporate partners (STX Hockey, CCM Hockey and Bauer Hockey) and Target Center, the NCHC was able to supply participating student-athletes with gift packages to commemorate their experience.
- Media – Over 100 media members were credentialed to cover the championship. Press conferences were held after each practice on Thursday and after each game, while select players were also spotlighted during CBS Sports Networks’ coverage of the tournament.
- Medical – The health and well-being of our student-athletes remains a focus for the conference. For a third straight year, a partnership with TRIA Orthopaedics and Hennepin County Medical Center allowed the Frozen Faceoff to have superb medical care for participating teams.
While the NCHC staff certainly spends a lot of time planning the Frozen Faceoff, another area the NCHC focuses heavily on is engaging with fans and telling the story of the conference. Several enhancements were made on the technology side to help fans follow and learn about the NCHC, while other methods were used to expand the NCHC brand to a more national audience.
- Website – In the summer of 2016, NCHCHockey.com was redesigned and relaunched to create a more fan-friendly experience, while also providing more NCHC branding within the website. Among the new enhancements were:
- Mobile Responsive – NCHCHockey.com now adapts to a user’s mobile phone or tablet with the same information a fan would find on a computer.
- Design/Background – The website is now banded into sections, with several of the bands using a NCHC picture in the background, allowing for more branding.
- Video Player – A larger video player was added that shows NCHC.tv content, including highlights, features and interviews.
- Tagboard – Through a subscription to Tagboard, a section of NCHCHockey.com is dedicated to aggregating social media content from the NCHC and its teams across several platforms, allowing fans to more easily view the content in one spot.
- Larger News Aggregator – The images and headlines for stories were made larger to make it visually more appealing.
- Players of the Week – One band on the site is dedicated to recognizing the NCHC Players of the Week each week, while also highlighting Bauer as the sponsor of the awards.
- NCHC.tv – The biggest enhancement to the NCHC’s digital network, NCHC.tv, was the addition of Over-The-Top (OTT) apps on AppleTV and Roku. The NCHC.tv app on each OTT platform allowed fans to watch live games directly on their television if they had AppleTV or Roku, along with an NCHC.tv subscription. Over 140 games were streamed live on NCHC.tv in 2016-17, as well as other events that were streamed live for free. Several schools made improvements to their live streams while all eight schools are now streaming games in HD. In addition, free on-demand content was made available on NCHC.tv, including highlights, postgame interviews, a new weekend preview video “Morning Skate,” Top Plays of the Week and other features.
- Television – The NCHC continued its strong television partnerships in 2016-17 with CBS Sports Network, American Sports Network (ASN) and FOX Sports. A total of 14 NCHC games once again aired nationally on CBS Sports Network, including the College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden and the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. In its second year on ASN, the NCHC had 10 games air on American Sports Network, which was two more than in 2015-16. Eight NCHC games were also shown in the Upper Midwest region, a key NCHC region, on FOX Sports North, originating from St. Cloud State or Minnesota Duluth, with all eight of those games, along with 11 other games, being elevated up to FOX College Sports, which is available nationally. Seven games involving NCHC teams were also aired on TSN or one of its affiliates in Canada.
- Social Media – The NCHC continues to engage with fans through its three mediums on social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Through these channels the conference is able to spread the NCHC’s message quickly to a large audience, while also answering fan questions, providing unique content and holding fan contests. Twitter gained over 5,700 followers from last season (now 22,641), Facebook picked up more than 2,600 likes from a year ago (now 9,417) and Instagram increased more than 1,800 followers (now 3,975). To provide more visual graphics on social media, the NCHC added a subscription to ScoreShots for 2016-17, which allowed the conference to quickly create unique graphics for a variety of situations. The addition of Tagboard also allowed the conference to display its social media channels in more places.
- Written/Video Features – To help showcase the great student-athletes and programs in the NCHC, the conference hired a freelance writer to write feature stories for NCHCHockey.com, while the NCHC’s videographer produced short feature stories for NCHC.tv. At least one written feature focused on a player/aspect of each NCHC program, while one feature video was created on a student-athlete from each program. In addition, a new “game show” was filmed at Media Day with head coaches and student-athlete representatives testing their knowledge of each other.
- Podcasts – Once again the conference produced the NCHC Radio Show, which was a podcast recapping and previewing the week in the NCHC that is available on iTunes and Podomatic. The show was also posted on NCHC.tv and provided to each team’s radio broadcaster for play during their game broadcasts.
- Media Day - The unofficial start of the season, NCHC Media Day was held at Target Center for the fourth straight year in late September. NCHC branding lined the space while NCHC and school logoed backdrops were used in several rooms. Approximately 35 media members were in attendance, including TV partners CBS Sports Network and American Sports Network, as well as St. Cloud State’s Husky Productions. The head coach and one student-athlete from each team took part in interviews with the media, as well as filmed videos for NCHC.tv. Fans were also engaged with Twitter Takeover Q & A sessions with the student-athletes, Facebook LIVE interviews with coaches and players, and a free live stream of the State of the Conference address on NCHC.tv. SportsEngine also helped run a live blog on NCHCHockey.com covering the day.
- College Hockey Showdown – Held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the NCHC’s name and brand were on national display as the game’s co-host at ‘the world’s most famous arena.’ Over 11,000 fans saw the game in person while it was also broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network. In addition, several East Coast and New York media covered the game that normally would not be exposed to the NCHC.
- Creative Graphic Campaign – While the conference worked with Touchpoint Media on a limited basis in 2015-16, the NCHC used the Minneapolis-based design and content group more in 2016-17. Touchpoint gave the NCHC a common look and feel throughout all its materials, as they helped design the NCHC brochure, Awards Celebration program and ticket, quarterfinal round program and Frozen Faceoff program. Touchpoint also did work on the College Hockey Showdown, as well as producing digital creative for the Frozen Faceoff.
- Member School Promotion – One of the best ways to reach fans for branding and advertising purposes is in the member schools arenas. Schools were provided with several general and school-specific marketing and promotional materials by the NCHC to promote the conference and the NCHC Tournament.
The NCHC continued its process of focusing on on-going education, communication and supervision with the Officiating Program.
- Staff - NCHC Director of Officiating Don Adam continued to lead the NCHC’s officiating program for a fourth straight season. Three referees were added to complete a 15-man NCHC referee roster for 2016-17, with referees located throughout the country. The NCHC used 30 linesmen during the season, with several in each NCHC region to help limit travel/expenses. Two new linesmen were added.
- Officiating Camps – Before the 2016-17 season began, the NCHC held its annual officiating camps in September. For the first time, the three-day referee camp was held near Minneapolis to coincide with NCHC Media Day. One-day linesman camps were also held in Denver, Minneapolis (following referee camp) and Detroit. The camps encompassed a wide spectrum of educational sessions for referees and linesmen, including on and off-ice training, as well as a focus on NCAA rule changes/clarifications, team building and video review capabilities.
- Supervision – With Derek Shepherd retiring from on-ice officiating, he was retained as a supervisor for the conference, giving the NCHC four officiating supervisors (Mike Schmitt, Ron Foyt and Brent Rutherford), in addition to Don Adam. With four supervisors spaced across the NCHC footprint, complementing the NCHC Director of Officiating, more than 90 percent of NCHC games had a supervisor in attendance. This allowed the officials to receive feedback immediately following the game, while supervisors also provided written evaluations and participated in post-game video review sessions.
- Education/Evaluation – As part of the officiating process, NCHC officials were educated on all NCAA rule changes and clarifications for 2016-17, which marked a rule-change year. During the season, the officials are evaluated and ranked by Adam and supervisors to help evaluate the staff, provide each official individual feedback and also determine who has earned the opportunity to work the NCHC and NCAA Tournaments.
- Mentoring – Named in memory of former college hockey official Butch Mousseau and building on what the NCHC had done in 2015-16, the NCHC Butch Mousseau Officials Mentoring Program was officially unveiled in 2016-17. In seven NCHC cities, an official from the local youth hockey association was invited to attend an NCHC game and go through the pre- and post-game process with the NCHC officials, while meeting coaches and players. As the mentoring program continues to grow, the hope is to develop more quality officials in the game of hockey.
- Promotion – The NCHC continues to promote its “ninth team” through stories, videos and awards. In addition to the NCHC officials page on NCHCHockey.com, stories were written focusing on the NCHC officials Movember efforts, which raised more than $10,000 in 2016-17 (nearly double 2015-16), Butch Mousseau’s legacy, Don Adam’s Colorado Ice Hockey Referee Association Hall of Fame induction and Joe Sullivan winning the third annual Mark Rudolph Officiating Achievement Award. A video was also produced to showcase the officials at the Frozen Faceoff using a GoPro camera.
Although not typically seen by fans, behind the scenes the NCHC has several documents, committees and governance structures, which make decisions for the conference and outline the day-to-day procedures for conference staff. The governing documents are updated each offseason with policy and rule changes, while the leadership of various Boards, Councils and committees changes.
- Board of Directors – Represented by the Presidents/Chancellors
- The Board of Directors has general oversight over all decisions, with specific attention to membership, budget and commissioner staffing. The Board delegates many other policy decisions to the Athletic Council.
- Current Chair: Dr. Jill Tiefenthaler, Colorado College President
- Past Chair (2015-17): Dr. John Christensen, Omaha Chancellor
- Athletic Council – Represented by Athletics Directors
- The NCHC Athletic Council consists of the eight member institutions Athletics Directors, who have voting power on general, day-to-day conference policy decisions.
- Current Chair: David Sayler, Miami Athletics Director
- Past Chair (2016-17): Ron Grahame, Denver Deputy Athletics Director
- Advisory Committee – The committee offers advice and guidance to the NCHC Commissioner, Athletic Council and Board of Directors in decision-making processes. The committee consisted of the following people for 2016-17:
- Ron Grahame, Denver Deputy Athletics Director (Chair)
- David Sayler, Miami Athletics Director
- Josh Berlo, Minnesota Duluth Athletics Director
- Ken Ralph, Colorado College Athletics Director
- Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs)
- FARs are involved in academic awards and post-graduate scholarship processes, participate on the Athletic Council and other committees, and look out for student-athlete welfare.
- Current Chair: Dr. Steve Castleberry, Minnesota Duluth (entering second year of term)
- Other Committees – Meet as needed
- Head Coaches
- Finance Committee
- Conduct Committee
- Awards Committee
- Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC)
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
After a strong 2016-17 season, the NCHC is focused on improving operations as the conference looks forward to the 2017-18 season. During the NCHC’s 2017 Annual Meetings in Naples, Fla. and Colorado Springs, Colo., many topics were discussed with some changes finalized. In addition, the conference will review its strategic plan while examining feedback from fans, coaches, student-athletes and administrators to come up with our goals and strategies for next season. At the forefront of any new or existing initiatives will continue to be a focus on improving the fan and student-athlete experience.
- Scheduling – Starting in 2018-19, NCHC teams will conclude the regular season playing against their rivalry partner to allow for easier travel home the week prior to the conference tournament beginning. The rivals will alternate ending the regular season at home and away, but will still face each other in two series each season.
- Overtime – With the NCAA adding the NCHC’s 3-on-3 overtime and sudden death shootout as an allowable format to resolve a tie after a 5-on-5 five-minute overtime in the NCAA rule book, the conference plans to continue to use the format it has used the previous two years.
- Branding/Exposure/Fan Engagement
- Television – Announced earlier this month, the NCHC and CBS Sports Network agreed to a two-year extension to keep CBSSN as the NCHC’s premier national television partner. CBSSN will once again air 14 NCHC games over each of the next two seasons, including the Frozen Faceoff semifinals and championship game. The NCHC is also set to continue its partnership with FOX Sports North (FSN), with a select number of games from St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth to air on the regional sports network. The conference will work to continue the national relationship with FOX, elevating games from FSN or other regional outlets to simulcast over FOX College Sports.
- NCHC.tv – As NCHC.tv continues to grow and expand, the conference is currently developing a long-term strategy to improve technology and the fan experience with the product. One possible improvement in the future includes customizable iOS and Android apps. The conference will also work with certain schools to continue improving their live stream quality.
- Website – With the NCHC entering the final year of its contract with SportsEngine to serve as the host of NCHCHockey.com, the conference will begin discussions with the NBC Sports-owned technology company about a possible extension.
- Social Media/Content – While the conference will continue to utilize the three social media channels it currently uses, the NCHC will also explore the possibility of other social media platforms, such as Snapchat, as well as other tools that may help amplify the conference’s current social media channels.
- NCHC Tournament/Frozen Faceoff
- Target Center Renovation – The home of the Frozen Faceoff is amid a significant renovation with Target Center currently closed through the end of September for changes to both the interior and exterior of the building. Although new technology, a new sound system and a renovated suite level were in place for the 2017 Frozen Faceoff, some of the changes that will improve the student-athlete and fan experiences at the 2018 tournament are:
- Seats – All seats in Target Center are being replaced.
- Exterior/Entrance – In addition to a slightly different look along one side of the building, the main entrance to Target Center and the box office are being moved to the corner of First Avenue and 6th Street.
- Ice Deck – As part of the renovations, Target Center will be getting a new ice floor and refrigeration system, which will make for better ice and playing conditions during the Frozen Faceoff.
- Wi-Fi – Fans will be able to access free Wi-Fi while in the arena.
- Locker Rooms – The locker rooms and team areas are being renovated to improve the space for student-athletes to use.
- Concessions/Restaurants – While the TCL SixOneTwo Lounge was open for Priority Ticket Holders at the 2017 Frozen Faceoff, an additional premium space is being constructed where the previous main lobby existed. Concession stands are also being redone to allow better operations.
- Restrooms – All restrooms are being renovated.
- Skyway – An additional Skyway will be added from Ramp A Parking Garage and connect to a new entrance at Target Center on the west side of the facility (side facing Target Field). This will create a new entry and exit point for all events in the facility.
- Fan Experience/Fan Engagement
- Fan Fest – With Target Center construction and less than ideal weather for the outdoor portion of 2017 Fan Fest, the conference will explore alternative options, including possibly moving both days of Fan Fest indoors, to help increase attendance and attract more attention from sponsors to the event.
- Student-Athlete Experience
- Tournament Travel – With NCHC member schools located across several states, travel to both quarterfinal round games and the Frozen Faceoff can be difficult on short notice. While some plans were put in place to help with possible air travel to the Frozen Faceoff this past season, the conference will continue to explore different possibilities while still minimizing missed class time and remaining financially responsible.
- Game Times – The top remaining seed will have preference on their semifinal time at the Frozen Faceoff given the current format.
- Future Location of the Tournament – With only one year remaining on the NCHC’s contract with Target Center to host the Frozen Faceoff, the conference has been holding discussions with its Board of Directors and Athletic Council about the overall tournament structure and future location of the NCHC’s championship weekend. The conference plans to make a decision later this summer on the future of the post-season tournament.
- Scholar-Athlete Team – With the recommendation from the Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs), the NCHC Scholar-Athlete Team, which consists of student-athletes that achieve a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, will be renamed NCHC Distinguished Scholar-Athletes. The name change helps make the impressive achievement more prestigious and creates more differentiation from the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team (3.0 GPA and above).
- Postgraduate Scholarship – Faculty Athletics Representatives further defined the criteria for who is eligible for the NCHC’s Post-Graduate Scholarship. The student-athlete must be in his last year of eligibility, which was already in place, and is eligible as long as they are listed on the official NCAA Squad List as of January of the selection year. Current student-athletes already enrolled in graduate school are also eligible for the scholarship.
- Year-End Playing Awards – Beginning in 2017-18, student-athletes will no longer take part in the voting process for all-conference teams and individual specialty awards. Voting will be done strictly by the conference’s head coaches for year-end playing awards.
- Team GPA Award – The FARs are gathering information and exploring the possibility of creating a new NCHC team GPA award that would be presented to the program with the highest cumulative team GPA among the NCHC teams at the end of each season.
- Staffing – With a limited number of NCHC referees currently, the conference will seek out any new referees that are interested, available and qualified to work for the NCHC. In addition, the linesman staff will be assessed to make sure the conference has an adequate number of linesmen in the right geographic locations. Don Adam will also perform a complete review of all officials, while also working closely with USA Hockey’s Officials Development Program to potentially recruit and hire new staff.
- Video Reviews – With certain video reviews taking longer than the conference would like, the NCHC is exploring how communication between all parties involved – officials, television and replay technician – can be improved to allow for a smoother review and easier access to the video needed by the officials to make an accurate decision.
- Supervisors – The conference hopes to continue expanding the responsibilities of supervisors in the NCHC Officiating Program. Although not full-time staff, supervisors could get more involved with video reviews and communicating with coaches.
- Special Events – After seeing the success of the NCHC’s first special event, the College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden, this past December, the conference is actively exploring the possibility of future special events at unique venues. Although challenging to plan on an annual basis, these events help provide great experiences for student-athletes and fans, create an opportunity for additional revenue and expand the conference’s name and brand.
- Governing Document Updates – All NCHC Policies and Procedures and manuals will be updated over the summer to reflect changes enacted by the Board of Directors and Athletic Council, as well as other changes to create more efficient and improved operations.
- Board of Directors Positions – With several member institutions having new presidents or chancellors this year, the rotation of officers was altered slightly to have Colorado College serve as the Chair of the Board in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Following 2018-19, the rotation will resume as was previously set up (alphabetically). Dr. Jill Tiefenthaler, the President of Colorado College, will assume the Chair position. In addition to Colorado College being confirmed to represent the Chair position for the next two seasons, Miami President Dr. Greg Crawford was approved as Secretary and Minnesota Duluth Chancellor Dr. Lynn Black was approved as Treasurer for 2017-18 and 2018-19. The Vice-Chair position will continue with the University of North Dakota, being served by Mark Kennedy.
- NCAA Ice Hockey Championship Committee – Omaha Associate Athletics Director Mike Kemp will serve as the NCHC’s representative on the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship Committee starting this summer. He replaces North Dakota Athletics Director Brian Faison.
As the National Collegiate Hockey Conference begins to plan for the 2017-18 season, the conference would like to thank all its fans for their support and passion during the past season. The feedback provided by fans is very insightful to the NCHC and helps steer our focus for improvements and changes. The 2016-17 season was one for the history books with a second straight national champion, an all-NCHC national championship game and a Hobey Baker Award winner, but the conference would like to commend all our teams for their success and impact they had on further showcasing the NCHC. As we head into the summer and move closer toward next season, we encourage fans to stay involved on social media and visit NCHCHockey.com. The NCHC looks forward to creating an even better fan and student-athlete experience next season as we build upon the NCHC’s fourth season. We’re excited for next season and hope to see all our fans in venues in five months as we drop the puck on our fifth season!