Gophers hockey leads Big Ten in fan disinterest

Serious question: Are you really the state of hockey, Minnesota?

Can you be with an empty arena for your signature college hockey team?

Those I asked on Twitter over the weekend insist that the University of Minnesota being forced to join the Big Ten’s hockey program, eliminating regional rivalries, is to blame for the disinterest in the program.

City Pages says there’s more to it:

The same year the team switched conferences, students who wanted season tickets for hockey were forced to buy seasons for football as well. Prices for everyone else soared, accompanied by mandatory donations with each purchase.

Talk of the “Gopher Family” tends to ring hollow when the Gopher’s always trying to raid your wallet.

And all this arrived with a precipitous decline in play. Despite having the most money, the best facilities, and all the prestige of a multi-generation dynasty, the Gophers began their tumble from greatness.

The quality of hockey is “stunningly bad,” City Pages’ Pete Kotz writes, more the result of bad effort than bad talent.

Kotz suggests the empty arena supports the notion of the state of hockey, since fans know lousy hockey when they see it and they demand better.

  • This is – beyond the poor quality of play – a trend that affects other sports and activities. (Golf, I’m talking about you.) I expect a decline in American football but an increased interest in world football (soccer) as demographics change.

    • ec99

      Community youth soccer, where everyone plays, has been big for several decades. The sifting out process begins at the middle school, where the better players gravitate to summer traveling teams, and the rest leave. This continues at the high school level, where playing “for fun” is replaced by playing to win.

      • lusophone

        But over the past couple of decades here in the US, pick up games among us adults who grew up playing rec soccer and some competitive soccer is increasing. I can see a growth in places like La Dona Cerveceria, where they have a small field outside for adult league games and things come back full circle to playing for fun.

        We will ultimately see how the business side of ticket sales plays out in professional soccer in the US. We can’t expect it to follow a different path than what we see in all the other major professional sports.

    • Jay T. Berken

      Good point. In the ’50s and ’60s, my grandfather had 30 Packers tickets in his name. He sold to friends and family through the years. Now as time went on, the number was whiddled down to 10 by the 80s. I do not know the reasons, but it could be that Packers stunk, kids moved out or my grandparents and their friends got older.

      In the 90s, eight tickets were transferred to my uncle and then four tickets were transferred into my dad’s name later. Due to Favre, interest in tickets spiked big time and then again in the 2010s with Rodgers.

      Now that we had a couple of bad years, it is harder to get rid of them, even with the internet. With selling on the net, one can sell on NFL Exchange or equal, but one needs to hike to price up to get the value of the ticket back and on the other side of the sale, a charge is added on. So looking at a $100 face value, I would price the ticket at about $115 to hit even and the buyer would be seeing that ticket at $130 for another fee on the buyer. I can also sell on the Craigslist or Facebook with no fees but more hassle to send the tickets to the purchaser.

      Another reason that the it could be harder to sell tickets is because of family and friends, as my grandma use to say, ‘are like horse sh!t, they’re spread all over the place’ and live outside of Green Bay or Wisconsin. So a night game turns into a two day affair of travel. Plus families are getting smaller.

      This weekend, my dad had gotten the invoice for the tickets. The invoice is due March 29th. For two tickets, six regular season games, one preseason and no playoffs, the invoice was little over $1660. Prices went up $7 for regular season and $2 for preseason, which is little, but it have been creeping up this way for a decade. It is getting annoying that prices are going up and the invoice due date is getting to be almost at the end of the season before.

      #firstworldproblems

  • Ben Chorn

    Another big reason I heard is athletic department decided to not include playoff games in season ticket packages. Just searching twitter you can find other reasons:

    https://twitter.com/GopherPuckLive/status/1104559648781164544

    https://twitter.com/prblock/status/1104926440439668738

    https://twitter.com/JestersDead13/status/1104894110392045568

  • QuietBlue

    The high school hockey tournament this past weekend probably didn’t help either. There was lots of good hockey in St. Paul to watch. That said, this is a long-term issue that goes beyond one weekend.

    • Jay T. Berken

      A lady at work has two kids in hockey in high school. She spends 50% of her time outside of work in a hockey rink or hockey related stuff it seems. Their family shares Wild tickets, and she no longer goes due to over saturation of sitting in a hockey rink.

    • Frank

      This is not the first time the high school tourney has conflicted with Golden rat play off hockey. It never used to be a problem.

  • ec99

    College hockey is still big in Minnesota. It just moved up I 35 to Duluth and I 94 to St. Cloud. But the U of M is not the only traditional power falling on hard times. Witness Michigan, Mich St, BU, BC, North Dakota. Too many players leave for the pros after one or two years.

    • Ben Chorn

      Snowed this weekend and UMD at St Cloud got 5,500 fans:
      https://twitter.com/SCSUHUSKIES_MH/status/1104542956458045440

      Alabama Huntsville at Minnesota State (Mankato) drew almost 3,000 and 2,500 fans on Fri/Sat.

      North Dakota has fallen on hard time but their attendance never will. Then again, North Dakota also decided not to have a women’s team.

      • ec99

        The women’s team lost over a million a year. They couldn’t draw charging a dollar a ticket.

  • Katie I

    Gopher *men’s* hockey—just sayin‘.

    • 404

      • Katie I

        Oh, shoot – was trying to link this page, sorry!
        https://www.ncaa.com/rankings/icehockey-women/nc/ncaa-nc-womens-hockey-rpi

        • ec99

          Lamentably, women’s hockey has next to no attendance. The Gopherettes are always great, but the Mariucci stays empty. As a sport, it generates no interest. The U of M/BC championship game was broadcast on CBS Sports Channel a week after it was played.

          Edit: That should read Ridder Arena.

          • Katie I

            It’s definitely a frustration for those of us who are already fans and want to see the fanbase grow; I remember rallying interest from some of my men’s-hockey-fan friends in a particularly huge game a few years back when the Gopher women were playing Wisconsin only to find it wasn’t even available to watch on a glitchy livestream, just live stats updates. As with many women’s sports, the lack of coverage leads to an ugly cycle of “But there’s no interest!”/”But people need a way to watch it if they’re going to get interested!”

          • ec99

            Women’s teams are the one shining light of U of M sports: hockey, softball, volleyball…

          • Minnesota, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

          • lusophone

            Soccer

  • Al

    The expense killed our season tickets. My family had them for, literally, 30 years. I remember going to games in the barn as a kid, with Goldy up on his perch. I know I’ve said here before that growing up attending men’s hockey games every weekend pretty much sealed the deal for me to attend the U (I finally made it there for grad school). Three of the four of us are alums. We were devoted.

    But damn, those tickets are expensive, and when the U wants to shake you down on the way to every game, well: no thanks.

    • My brother and I had season tix up until this year. The half-empty venue, the ticket cost, and “not up to snuff” play of the Gophers was what prompted us to not renew this past year.

      /Plus I play beer league hockey up to three times during the week, so that’s a lot of hockey to deal with.

  • Frank

    This far beyond high ticket prices.

    Herb Brooks made sure the student section was general admission, and directly across from the visiting team’s bench. Bucky hated playing here.

    Then AD Rick Bay decided he needed to polish his resume to get to a big time program. A shiny new arena would do it. But to pay for a new arena, it would take corporate dollars. The blue collar crowd was gone; the new corporate crowd was noisy only when the Golden Rats were winning.

    Last, the U should have to told the Big Ten to pound sand. They only wanted hockey for some more programming on the TV network.

    The WCHA was great, and the WCHA Final Five was a fantastic tournament.

    It’s all gone like yesterday. No putting Humptey back together.

    • Al

      The WCHA Final Five was better than the national tournament. By far.