The new Fiserv Forum hockey tournament considered a mixed success

Kwik Trip’s first holiday game – the first real hockey at the Fiserv Forum and the return of the Division I game in Milwaukee – was a success. *

Note the asterisk. Its importance cannot be overstated.

“We feel like given the environment and what we’ve seen in the rest of the country recently, with the bowling games, the basketball games and the NFL games, it was really important. to feel like we’ve started, ”Rick Giles, president of the event organizer. The Gazelle Group said ahead of the match for third place on Wednesday.

“As we try to attract and recruit teams, we have to be able to point the finger at something. Now we can do it. Two days ago we couldn’t do that, and another cancellation would have been difficult, a postponement would have been difficult.

“We feel really good about our results, given the circumstances. “

The event was originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed for a year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Attendance at the semi-finals on Tuesday and both games on Wednesday was well below the heyday of the Badger Hockey Showdown in the early 1990s, but that event at the Bradley Center ran its course in 2002. Overall, the face-to-face participation was probably affected by the uncertainty. surrounding the current wave of COVID-19, and the bad weather forecast on Tuesday held some Wisconsin fans – including friends of Wisconsin coach Tony Granato – in Madison.

But those who showed up were grateful and committed. The teams – Wisconsin and Providence, which met in the final, and their semi-final opponents Bowling Green and Yale – seemed to enjoy the experience. Kwik-Trip and other sponsors seemed happy, Giles said. And TV coverage has reached places as unlikely as Arizona and Louisiana via Bally’s regional sports networks.

“For this to be successful in the long term, we need more fans in the building, we need more support from the sponsors, because we’re in the business,” said Giles. “But to take that second step you have to take that first step, and now we have something to report for the sponsors, the people we were talking to who maybe were scared of COVID or how is it going to be okay?” , hockey in Milwaukee? They don’t remember the Badger Showdown or Wisconsin winning the national championship.

Wisconsin defenseman Daniel Laatsch handles the puck against Yale in the Badgers' 3-2 overtime victory over the Bulldogs in the semifinals of the Kwik Trip Holiday Face-Off college hockey tournament on Tuesday night at the Fiserv Forum.

Gazelle, a New Jersey-based marketing company that runs a handful of college basketball showcases, has a three-year contract with the Fiserv Forum for the face-to-face. Wisconsin is committed for the three years.

The dates – which conflict with the World Junior Hockey Championships and some college football games – could change in the future, Giles said. Adjustments to the seating arrangement and ticket price options are also possible.

Although events of this type have declined in number and popularity, as has the Badger Showdown, participating programs find them useful. Wisconsin had the opportunity to play against teams from the ECAC and Hockey East, for example, and Providence faced opponents from the Big Ten and CCHA.

“It also puts you in a context where there is a championship at stake,” said Providence associate head coach Ron Rolston after his team’s victory in the semi-finals. “So you play out one-game scenarios, just like you would later in your league’s playoffs or if you made it to the NCAA tournament. In the NCAA tournament, you play one-game shots against teams from other conferences. So these tournaments allow you to do that, a one-game scenario, an opportunity to win a championship.

“The downside if there is one, the travel part and the fact that the team is playing like they normally do in the first half of the season after a break like that.”

But that would happen somewhere, one way or another after the finals and the vacation, whether a team was in a showcase on limited practice or in a weekend streak with a conference opponent.

Granato from Wisconsin has been a cheerleader since the time the event was announced.

“We play 40 games, so each one should be special in one way or another,” said Granato. “To be able to come back to this tournament – our guys, I think some of them were born; I don’t think any of them remember the Milwaukee tournament, so for them it’s something new. But… they heard about it and knew how important it was to our program, how important it is to this community here, which supports Badger athletics at all levels in a special way. They took it upon themselves to get ready to play.

“So it’s big. Bigger than another game. Like I said on the way out, we’re trying to win a championship. This is how you build confidence in your team, this is how you build momentum in your team, this is how you grow as a player who wins matches (that have something) at stake. The games are there; you rise up and do the right things.