Mail Time: NCAA Hockey Regional Hosting Rules Clarification

Fans of the Wisconsin Badgers take photos outside Ford Filed prior to playing Boston College in the championship game of the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four on April 10, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Reader Robert sends this email last night:

"First, I agree with your suggestions to seeding of teams (ed. note - link here) etc. However, I am wondering why BC would not have applied to host at Manchester to receive the home ice in the event that they were to have qualified for the Tournament. I have had an ongoing argument with a friend and I stated that the AD Gene DeFilippo drops the ball when he doesn't apply to be the host, especially with our current and past success in qualifying.

[snip]

Am I all wet in being critical of the AD regarding his lack of aggressive action in applying for hosting privileges. I am a loyal BC fan, but don't understand "Hosting Rules" and strategies."

Let's tackle this in two parts. First let's take a look at why BC couldn't host this year's Northeast Regional. Here is the rule that keeps host institutions at home, per the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship Handbook:

"In setting up the tournament, the committee begins with a list of priorities to ensure a successful tournament on all fronts, including competitive equity, financial success, and the likelihood of a playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

[snip]

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home."

The NCAA awards regional hosts much like they reward Frozen Fours. The selection process is completed multiple years in advance, so BC would have had to apply to host this year's Regional several years ago.

Here's a look at the host institutions of the Northeast Regional since the tournament expanded to 16 teams:

2003: Centrum Center, Worcester, Ma. (Host: Boston University)
2004: Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H. (Host: New Hampshire)
2005: Mullins Center, Amherst, Ma. (Host: Massachusetts)
2006: DCU Center, Worcester, Ma. (Host: Boston University)
2007: Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H. (Host: New Hampshire)
2008: DCU Center, Worcester, Ma. (Host: Holy Cross)
2009: Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H. (Host: New Hampshire)
2010: DCU Center, Worcester, Ma. (Host: Holy Cross)
2011: Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H. (Host: New Hampshire)

And here is next year's Northeast Regional location and host:

2012: DCU Center, Worcester, Ma. (Host: Holy Cross)
2013: Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H. (Host: New Hampshire)

As you can see, in recent years the Northeast Regional has been hosted by UNH in Manchester or Holy Cross in Worcester in alternating years. That's not a problem in and of itself, as BC has either gotten to play in Manchester or Worcester along with the host school (like 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007).

The problem comes in when BC gets shut out of both the Northeast and East Regionals and gets sent West. That's what happened this year, with UNH hosting the Northeast as a 4 seed and Yale hosting the East Regional as a 1 seed. BC, as a 1 seed, couldn't land in the East (due to Yale) and couldn't be the 1 seed in the Northeast, since that would set up a intra Hockey East matchup in the Regional semifinal (a selection no-no).

Here is a list of the East Regional hosts since 2003:

2003: Dunkin' Donuts Center, Providence, R.I. (Host: Providence)
2004: Pepsi Arena, Albany, N.Y. (Host: ECAC and RPI)
2005: DCU Center, Worcester, Ma. (Host: Boston University)
2006: Pepsi Arena, Albany, N.Y. (Host: ECAC and RPI)
2007: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, N.Y. (Host: ECAC)
2008: Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y. (Host: ECAC and RPI)
2009: Arena at Harbor Yard, Bridgeport, Ct. (Host: Yale and Fairfield)
2010: Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y. (Host: ECAC and RPI)
2011: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Ct. (Host: Yale and Fairfield)
2012: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Ct. (Host: Yale and Fairfield)

The East Regional was first hosted by PC in 2003, but since 2006 has been hosted by either the ECAC / RPI or Yale and Fairfield. The problem this year was that both Yale and New Hampshire qualified for the NCAAs, and based on their seeding, this sent BC out West.  

Next year, with the Northeast Regional back in Worcester and Atlantic Hockey's Holy Cross hosting, the problem BC had getting shut out of the two Regionals held in the Eastern US won't likely befall Hockey East's top seeds in the NCAAs. Yale hosts the East Regional again next season, but the Hockey East top seeds will likely find themselves playing in Worcester. 

This year was just a perfect storm where UNH faded down the stretch and fell to a 4 seed, and Yale played some really good hockey in the regular season and earned one of the four top seeds. This shut BC out of the East's two Regionals. It won't happen every year, but the possibility exists every few years because of this regional hosting rule ... which has to go.

At the very least, the regional hosting rule should be modified to ensure placing a team from the hosting team's conference in the regional. Not the team itself. While I understand that hosting a Regional is a significant financial obligation for the host, with so few NCAA Tournament teams in the field each year, this gives an advantage to the hosting institutions, even if the host has one of the lowest seeds in the Regional. 

As to the question of whether GDF should be more aggressive in applying to be host, I'll leave that up to you. My opinion is why not? If Boston University can apply to be host for the Regionals in Worcester, why isn't BC also pursuing this option? I know it requires a financial obligation from the school, but until the current hosting rule is modified, it makes sense for the school to apply to host if it is going to affect the NCAA selection process.

Unfortunately, with the economy still in recovery, there are two trends working against BC when it comes to hosting the NCAA Northeast and East regionals. One is that there appears to be a reticence to try new Regional sites, as evidenced by the fact that the Northeast Regional hasn't been played outside either Worcester or Manchester since 2005 (and the East has been played in either Bridgeport or Albany since 2008). With struggling attendance, why mess with what has "worked" in the past.

The other is that it doesn't seem like any other host schools are stepping up to host these events. Where is the bid to bring a regional back to Providence? How about the Garden? Or any number of the other AHL arenas in the area, such as Springfield's MassMutual Center or Hartford's XL Center? Unlike the CCHA and the Midwest, there are a number of different arenas in the Northeast that could host either the Northeast or East Regional. Instead, the NCAA keeps going back to Manchester, Worcester, Albany or Bridgeport.

One reason why the Frozen Four is in a different location every year, and has been played in "traditional college hockey hotbeds" like Anaheim, St. Louis, Washington DC and Tampa (next year), is to mix it up for those fans that go to the event every year. Provide a different and unique fan experience. Why aren't we attempting the same for the Eastern US's two Regionals, instead of going back time again to Manchester and Albany?

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