The NCAA will select the next four Frozen Four sites in April, but we’re so overanxious to discuss tournament sites that we took it upon ourselves to do power rankings for tournament sites.
It was sort of up to the panel to decide whether they were voting for “best places generally” vs. “best places to pick for the next 4- year cycle.” After all, Minneapolis is a great place to have a Frozen Four, as is Boston, but not everyone might want to have them host every four years.
Just for informational purposes, voters were Joe, Grant, Laura, Shep Hayes from @blogginbabcock, Chris Boulay from College Hockey News, and myself, Arthur.
1) Boston (3.5 First Place Votes)
The only city to appear on everyone’s ballot, our totally non-biased opinion is that Boston deserves to be in the next rotation.
Why It Works: Put aside the fact that Boston has a rich history of college hockey, the city has a ton to offer. For out-of-towners, the Freedom Trail offers plenty for people to do on the off day. Outside of the Freedom Trail, people can explore all that Boston has to offer, from the bars in Fenway, to the shops in the South End, to Harvard Square. The best part is that all of this is connected by mass transit. Before the game, people can congregate in the countless bars surrounding the Garden, so there wouldn’t be any problems with people meeting up before the game.
Now for the sports element: Boston is the nation’s best college hockey town (sorry Minneapolis-St. Paul, but it’s true). The tournament would not be starved for intrigue by any means.
This is not the first time Boston would host the Frozen Four. It has worked before, and it will always work.
Why It Doesn’t Work: Boston’s a little expensive? I guess?
2) Tampa, Fla. (1 First-Place Vote)
The site of the 2016 Frozen Four got a lot of love from our panel. Maybe they were cold when they voted.
Why It Works: Tampa has a history of getting solid crowds from the sport’s predominately Northern fans. Perhaps the cold drives the Northerners down. In any event, the arena fills up.
Tampa also has Ybor City, which offers many bar and restaurants selections, in addition to other entertainment options on an off day.
If that is not enough, perhaps the average 81 degree weather in April, and the activities associated with hot weather, are an option.
Why It Doesn’t Work: The problem with playing games in non-traditional markets is that it doesn’t have a built-in base to fall back on. While Tampa is popular destination right now, it’s entirely possible that, as the exotic location niche wears off, there is going to be less of a desire to fly down for Northern fans. Demand doesn’t have any indication of slowing, and the Frozen Four always will draw thousands of college hockey fans regardless of location, but it’s worth not trying to overdo it.
3) Minneapolis-St. Paul (.5 First-Place Votes)
Joe was the only person to leave Minneapolis-St. Paul off his ballot, for the sake of ensuring Boston and Tampa stay in the rotation.
Why It Works: Minneapolis-St. Paul is another great fit for college hockey. While Minneapolis-St. Paul only has one Division I college hockey program (the Gophers), the area (known as the State of Hockey) has a rich hockey culture.
Minneapolis is a fantastic city. The area around the University of Minnesota has a ton to offer. The area around the arena in St. Paul has plenty of restaurants and bars to chose from. The arena is also connected to Minneapolis by light rail.
Like Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul has hosted a Frozen Four before. It has worked, and it will always work.
Coordinating the men’s Frozen Four with the women’s Frozen Four (hypothetically held at Ridder Arena in this scenario) might also present an interesting option that wouldn’t necessarily be available elsewhere. (Editor’s update: Don’t listen to Bailin. The Women’s Frozen Four is held 3-4 weeks prior to the Men’s Frozen Four, so unless you want to delay the women’s hockey season by a month, this isn’t really an option. Kind of a neat idea though. —Joe)
Why It Doesn’t Work: I got nothing. (Editor’s note: It’s exceedingly unlikely they’re going to repeat 3 of 4 cities from the last cycle. That’s the Down Side here. A vote for Minneapolis is a vote against Tampa or Boston.)
Denver scored just below Minneapolis-St. Paul on our rankings. Perhaps its nostalgia from the 2008 Frozen Four.
Why It Works: Like the first two cities on our list, Denver has hosted a Frozen Four before, and it was successful. Denver is also a city that many on the east-coast would probably enjoy having an excuse to visit.
Denver Airport is easily accessible from many college hockey towns, so getting to Denver wouldn’t be a problem.
Finally, the arena is easily accessible by mass transit.
It’s been 9 years since Denver last hosted the FF so it's about time for them to get one.
Why It Doesn’t Work: The arena is somewhat isolated, with many of the bars and restaurants surrounding the nearby ballpark a decent walk away. It isn’t necessarily prohibitive, but it’s not ideal either.
Denver is also fairly far out west, with most of the country’s hockey playing Division I schools to the east of the city. Again, not necessarily prohibitive, but an ideal location would be more central.
5) New York City
Why It Works: It’s New York City. If someone can’t find something to do, they aren’t trying hard. It’s also a great alumni center for... well, almost every school.
Why It Doesn’t Work: It’s tough to break down neighborhoods, or mass transit, or even arenas without establishing where the game would be held.
It’s not an easy question to answer: while New York City is intriguing, in theory, the question of where to put the game inevitably comes up.
The first suggestion would be the obvious Madison Square Garden. The problem with The Garden is availability. The NIT is before the days the Frozen Four would likely be, so that wouldn’t be an issue. The problem is that, between the Big East Tournament, and the NIT, the Rangers and the Knicks are forced on the road for a decent amount of time. It wouldn’t be prohibitively difficult to find time to host the Frozen Four, but it wouldn’t necessarily be as easy as at other arenas.
If it would be the Garden, midtown Manhattan offers a ton in terms of bars and restaurants, and accessing the arena couldn’t be easier.
The next option would be the Barclays Center, which would likely have a little bit more availability. The problem is that the Barclays Center is a terrible arena for hockey, with many of its seats having an obstructed view. That simply won’t do.
Finally, there’s the option of going across the Hudson to Newark, and the Prudential Center. The Prudential Center is not ideal, mostly because of its location. It’s not near a whole lot in terms of bars, and it requires a lengthy train ride from Manhattan to get there. That probably wouldn’t work.
A favorite option of Laura’s, the city has never hosted the Frozen Four, but with the emergence of the Nashville Predators, might be worth consideration.
Why It Works: Nashville might be an interesting exotic location to work in to the rotation to allow Tampa to keep some of its allure.
Bridgestone Arena is right in the middle of an area with bars and restaurants, and countless entertainment options. Put simply, no one would be wanting for somewhere to grab a pint before the game.
Finally, with Nashville being the capital of country music, there will be tons to explore in the musical realm.
Why It Doesn’t Work: Nashville, a non-traditional market, is a risk. It is a risk that could pay dividends, but it is a risk nonetheless. Will the tournament be welcomed in the city? It’s just a big question mark.
Another opportunity for an exotic location, Arizona appeared on Laura and Grant’s ballots.
What It Works: It’s hot. It's also the home of Arizona State, a nascent and fast growing program
What Doesn’t Work: The only way a Arizona Frozen Four would work is if a new arena is built in a place that’s not Glendale. Other than an outdoor shopping mall, there is nothing near the arena. It is also really hard to get to, as the arena is very isolated.
In addition, there’s an issue of local interest. Tampa works and Nashville could work because there is genuine interest in the sport in those cities. Arizona simply doesn’t have that right now.
I’m going to label this one a “wait and see,” as Chicago has a Frozen Four this year. It’s got a ton of potential, let’s see how it works out.
T-9: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit
Philadelphia: Philadelphia was not a popular Frozen Four, as Wells Fargo Center is isolated from the rest of the city. However, it may be worth another shot as Philadelphia is a (pro) hockey hotbed. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The other issue with Philly is that it is bad and dumb. Also the attendance was underwhelming there in 2014 —-Joe)
Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh might have gotten a bad rap in 2013 because a bunch of non-traditional powers made the tournament. However, I thought Pittsburgh was a great city to host the Frozen Four, and is definitely worth trying again.
Detroit: This is predicated on the game being played in the new arena. Detroit isn’t a sexy option, but it’s near a lot of traditional hockey powers, and there’s a lot of hockey interest in the area.