By John Lachmann
Obviously the on-ice result of Sunday's Hockey City Classic is not what Miami wanted, but overall the experience was a major success for all four schools involved.
Miami led all four teams in ticket sales, which bodes well for the team's prospects of being invited to this event again in the future. The total attendance for both games was 52,051.
Earlier this week, RedHawkey sat down with (well, actually recorded a phone interview from 50 miles away) Miami hockey administrator and senior associate AD Josh Fenton to discuss the previous week's events, and also to look ahead to the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, in which the RedHawks will begin play this fall.
Fenton, an assistant coach for the RedHawks in 2004-07, is also a member of the NCHC council and the NCAA rules committee.
Q: Except for the on-ice result, I thought the Hockey City Classic went very well overall. What were your thoughts on last weekend's outdoor game?
Fenton: "I think the actual hockey game and the result of the hockey game was kind of an ancillary event, in and around the entire event itself. I've been at Miami for almost 11 years and – there are people that have been here a lot longer than I have – but I thought it was one of the best events that's ever portrayed and showcased Miami University in the time I've been here, sporting event or otherwise."
Q: Has there been formal talk or will there be formal talk at some point about making an outdoor game a regular occurrence?
Fenton: "I think there will be discussions about doing this again in the future, I don't know when those discussions will take place or what type of schedule or timeframe there would be to consider an event like this again.
"The one thing I do think related to the event: You've got to be careful because I think if you do them too often or too regularly, they can lose their luster. And the one thing that I think is important for people to understand in relation to this past weekend is we had a perfect storm. The weather could not have been better. They played a game outside at TD Ameritrade Park over in Omaha the weekend prior – North Dakota and Omaha – and they had 50 degrees and sunny and they had just a mess on the ice and they had delays in the game and the schedule got a little messed up. If you try to do this thing every year or with some regularity you're going to run into some issues."
Q: What would you think about having this every four years, since the Olympics occur every four years and retains that special quality, and also considering we're talking about college hockey, theoretically every Miami student-athlete could participate in this event once?
Fenton: "I think that's a perfect way of looking at it. We look at, frankly from our student-athlete perspective, if they have an opportunity for a team to travel abroad once every four years, it gives the student-athlete an opportunity to travel abroad once in their time at Miami. Similar in thinking is if we had an outdoor game on the schedule once every four years, yeah, you would provide that opportunity to at least those that are staying here, completing their four years of eligibility.
"A four-year cycle would probably work. It's just there's been some discussion about, well we need to do this every year, and I want to put a pause on that and say let's just be careful about what we ask for. Certainly it was a great event, but we want to make sure it's a very meaningful event every time we do it."
Q: There were some complaints about the ice. What about having the marquee event as one of the earlier events after the ice goes down, so the ice quality is better for the players during the game?
Fenton: "The ice was fine. I've seen a lot worse, I can tell you that.
"I think that the quality of the ice should improve as more people skate on it. I wouldn't suggest that the ice was better two weeks ago because I wasn't there, but it probably wasn't. Not being able to see lines or logos, that has a lot to do with how temperatures warmed up and cooled down and warmed up and cooled down during the two weeks in which the rink was in.
"Had they put that thing in four days in advance of the event they probably would've had a little more clarity on the lines and the logos, but the ice quality may not have been as good at that point in time because it would not have had the time to sit and kind of set up and get skated on as we talked about."
Q: It seems like it would be best in the future if the match-up wasn't against a conference foe at such a critical time of the season. Would you prefer Miami face a non-conference opponent if the RedHawks should play in an event like this in the future?
Fenton: "I think that's something that we've talked about a little bit. It's just really going to come down to, the people that are putting on events like this, they're going to drive what they need from a tickets standpoint, from a media standpoint,
and certainly the opponents are going to be an important part of that.
"If it can work from a non-conference standpoint, I think that would probably be the best of everybody's world, whether it's us or any other institution that would participate in an event like this, but if it can't work it was a good setup and a good alignment for Intersport because they had Miami-Notre Dame and Minnesota-Wisconsin. Three of those institutions compete at the highest level of Division I college sports and have pretty good brands across the entire country."
"So it kind of happened to work in that regard that Minnesota and Wisconsin were on the schedule this weekend and Miami and Notre Dame were on the schedule. It was somewhat of a coincidence and probably ironic in that sense."
Q: Switching gears to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, are we close to determining the format for things like overtime, a points system and other conference game operations nuances?
Fenton: "Those things are close but they're not quite there yet. I would expect to take what would be maybe the spring season to finalize the rules side of it, if you will, or I guess I would call it more the code of regulation or protocol in which we're going to approach games in our league."
"This spring you'll see those decisions flushed out. We have an annual meeting in Florida the last part of April the first week in May in conjunction with the national hockey coaches' convention.
"That'll be a very important time to make sure that we're clear on some of the decisions and some of the things that you're alluding to, so yeah, we're close on those but I guess nothing definitive to say, hey, we're doing this or we're doing that."
Q: Considering how Miami has done in shootouts this year maybe I should change my opinion, but I'm not a fan of them and I was wondering if the new conference was going to have them.
Fenton: "Frankly with shootouts, it really isn't something that's been discussed, so that's something that'll have to be discussed."
Q: I like 4-on-4 for overtime vs. the current 5-on-5, so I'm wondering if there is a chance the NCHC will go to that for its overtime format.
Fenton: "That portion relates to the NCAA rule. The NCAA would have to change that rule, which is not out of the realm of possibility, but we can't play 4-on-4 as a conference when other conferences may not be playing 4-on-4."
Q: On the conference tournament format, is it safe to say one weekend under the CCHA system will go away when Miami begins play in the new conference, since the NCHC will only have eight teams?
Fenton: "Again, it's not completely finalized, but most people looking at it can probably put two and two together to say, hey, we're going to have four campus-site series to determine four winners that would play in a championship weekend with two semifinal games and a final.
"So your question about one less weekend is probably accurate."