As reported on April 23rd, Barclays Center will host Notre Dame/UConn and Army/Bentley in the inaugural BROOKLYN HOCKEY college hockey event. The November 1, 2015 games will coincide with the New York Islanders first season in Brooklyn, the idea that the two flavors of hockey can generate fans across the hockey spectrum. Wonderful theory, execution is lacking.
If BROOKLYN HOCKEY is meant to showcase the greatness of college hockey, why these match-ups? Hockey East and Atlantic Hockey have little relevance to the New York area, nor do their member bases contain
Notre Dame is the draw here, arguably the biggest collegiate sports program in the nation. Fighting Irish football and hockey are the most widely viewed college teams not on specialized pay channels. That NBC television rights contract will probably prove essential to this partnership. Maybe it was the reason for the school’s inclusion. Having Notre Dame on this bill means the most beloved and most loathed program on TV gets more TV time. Matching them up with UConn is fairly more shrewd. The Huskies are new to the Boston-based power conference and ND hockey becomes the next team to actually join a conference, so this becomes a big promotion of the conference outside of New England. The hilarity of using New York City to promote the Boston-centered athletic conference.
“We are thrilled to be launching BROOKLYN HOCKEY, our college hockey programming platform, with a great doubleheader featuring teams from some of the best conferences in the sport,” said Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. “Barclays Center has become a must-play for major college basketball through our BROOKLYN HOOPS franchise, and hopefully soon the same will be true for our BROOKLYN HOCKEY program.”
The Army vs. Bentley clash…I’m lost here. This meeting of just above and just below average teams puzzles me. Bentley, a small school is Massachusetts that I was unaware of until this news, has been a top-4 Atlantic Hockey team over the past few years, while the Black Knights have owned the bottom third of the table. Army’s status as a service academy should help gate figures, as will their New York address. This match-up, with conference implications, is the good-faith undercard to the rest of college hockey.
Do not take this assessment as a knock on the legitimacy of these schools and their conferences. The BROOKLYN HOCKEY showcase is an awesome promotion and display of the greatest of sports. But they booked these four to be the inaugural event. No event can have a sequel if the original fails so maybe this is to test the waters, logistically and financially rather than competitively, for the 2016 edition.
One large element BROOKLYN HOCKEY lacks, before the first puck is dropped, is local appeal. Notre Dame is the (perceived) powerhouse that’s taking a paycheck, UConn is the basketball school bringing Name Brand appeal, Bentley skims the top of the surface of the Boston market, and Army brings up the rear as the token New York school. If this is to get off the ground quick the event will needs teams that naturally draw the spotlight. New York State has those schools.
Half of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference is in the state of New York, ranging from the Capital Region up to the North Country. Add Princeton and you get 7 of 12 teams with DIRECT ties to New York. Compare that to no teams in Hockey East and three teams in Atlantic Hockey (not Army) that are west of Syracuse. There’s no connection to BROOKLYN and what many view as NEW YORK. The same argument could be made against the ECAC schools but they’re more widespread and encompass NYC.
Here’s a BROOKLYN HOCKEY lineup aimed at bringing the local: St. Lawrence, Cornell, Princeton, Yale. In one fell swoop the Tri-State gets it’s representation with nationally known, solidly performing teams (and St. Lawrence, because it’s my list). If SLU and Cornell aren’t right, keep Army and maybe persuade 2014 national champion Union. Like rivalries? Invite Boston College and Northeastern to play against Colgate and Clarkson. New York versus Boston on ice. Use the backdrop of Brooklyn and NYC as the stage for meaningful games.
These are the more calculated draws BROOKLYN HOCKEY should be looking at down the road. Give teams and fans a narrative they can follow, centered around both stage and scene. It can work. I hope it works. College hockey is amazing and a great introduction to the grander stage of hockey. I eagerly await watching this showcase.
On NBC (thanks, Notre Dame).