The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

April 8, 2014

New WCHA commissioner faces big challenges

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will introduce its new commissioner today, and the early speculation is that the job will go to former Minnesota Wild executive Bill Robertson, a public relations and communications guru, who also has worked with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Anaheim Ducks.

Whether the job goes to Robertson or a surprise figure who also quietly interviewed last month at Grand Rapids, Mich., the new commissioner faces some big challenges.

As fans found out over the course of this past season, this ain’t the old WCHA.

The commissioner’s introduction will take place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. While there is no conference school in the Twin Cities (Minnesota State is the closest), the arena will be the site of next year’s Final Five, the league’s championship weekend and one-time crown jewel of college hockey tournaments this side of the Frozen Four.

After seeing the attendance figures during this year’s event in Grand Rapids, one of the commissioner’s first tasks might involve sitting down with the folks who run that building and try to quell any fears about next year’s tournament.

Even with the benefit of a heavy turnout of Ferris State fans who made the 50-mile trip to Van Andel Arena from Big Rapids, Mich., there were just 3,968 people in attendance for the Broadmoor Trophy championship game between Minnesota State and Ferris State.

The three-game attendance figure for the Final Five totaled 11,162. Compare that to the previous year when X where 18,782 tickets were sold – and that was just for the championship game.

In 13 years at the X, the title game never had an attendance figure lower than 16,414. In 2004, 2006 and 2007, the building was jammed with more than 19,000 people.

Every year, the Final Five was a must-see event for WCHA and college-hockey fans in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.

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