Updated: NCHC, Target Center ink 5-year deal

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference announced it has signed a five-year deal to hold its championship tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis beginning in March 2014 to conclude its inaugural season.

The winners of the conference quarterfinals, which will be played on the home ice of the top four regular-season finishers in the eight-team league, will qualify to come to Minneapolis for the NCHC Championship at Target Center.

CBS Sports Network, the league’s national television partner, will televise the tournament’s two semifinal games and the championship game.  A third-place game also will be played at Target Center.  The dates and times for the games of the NCHC Championship at Target Center will be announced at a later date.

NCHC Commissioner Jim Scherr and Target Center Vice President and General Manager Steve Mattson were joined by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak in making the announcement today in a news conference at the arena.

“This is what a very happy mayor looks like.  This is tremendous, tremendous news,” said Mayor Rybak.  “With the improvements planned this will be an extraordinary event for the city of Minneapolis. This is a time we need to roll out the red carpet.”

The Target Center recently received the go-ahead to make $135 million in renovations to the facility which league officials said will enhance the fan and team experience at the venue, which was originally designed to host both basketball and hockey. The arena is the home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and WNBA champion Lynx.

The central location for college hockey, a strong fan base and a top-end facility was too good for the league to ignore.

“The athletic directors and coaches of our member institutions are pleased that we will present our men’s ice hockey championship at a first-class venue in one of the nation’s best markets for college ice hockey,” Scherr said.  “This tournament is central to the success of our conference. We feel we found a winning combination.”

During its 21-year history, Target Center has hosted an array of outstanding ice hockey events, including National Hockey League regular-season and preseason games, International Hockey League games, four University of Minnesota “Border Battle” showdowns against Wisconsin, WCHA Final Five tournaments, Minnesota State High School tournaments, and United States Olympic Team exhibition games.

North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol remembered that his school won the last Final Five tournament held there. After a tour showing off planned renovations, including new dasher boards, glass and improved locker rooms, he thinks naysayers will be nullified.

“The plans will make for an outstanding hockey facility with great atmosphere,” Hakstol said.

“As the conference develops, the tradition will develop in this facility,” Scherr said. ‘We are not concerned.”

The NCHC’s members are Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.  Since 2000, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has produced four NCAA champions, 14 NCAA Frozen Four appearances, 12 conference regular-season championships and 12 conference tournament championships.  All eight members have been participants in the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship tournament at least once since 2010, including five teams in 2012.

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About paisleyhockey
I am a freelance writer specializing in sports with 20-plus years of experience.

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