We gather here, on this cold November day, to mourn the loss of the College Hockey Showcase. It only recently celebrated its 17th birthday, and already it has gone the way of Fruit Brute cereal, the DeLorean Motor Company and Heath Ledger (too soon?).
It began as the brainchild of four coaches (Jeff Sauer, Doug Woog, Ron Mason and Red Berenson), who thought it would be a great idea for the former WCHA rivals and Big Ten foes to meet each other in non-conference play. The first Showcase was held 1993 as a single-venue event in Auburn Hills, MI. It moved around a bit in its infancy, but finally settled on its most recent format.
It served as a reminder of the titan-like status each of the four schools hold in the college hockey community. Currently, the four schools collectively hold 23 of the 63 official D-I NCAA hockey championships. Along with BC, BU, UND and DU- they are THE strongest programs in the country. While the games weren't necessarily memorable in themselves (certainly, the atmosphere tended to be thin, on account of it being over Thanksgiving weekend, when students and old people alike frequently had other plans), you always knew that you would be seeing a matchup of some of college hockey's finest talent.
Now, it is dead. Killed mostly by Barry Alvarez, who last year decided to opt out of the arrangement, citing the desire to include Ohio State in the mix. Of course, we all know that it isn't really gone. It's just like a villain from a slasher flick. We will all pretend like it's dead and gone, but the wise and savvy among us know better. It's only a matter of time before the Showcase's jerky corpse rises from the dead, rebrands itself as the Big Ten Hockey Conference and hobbles about, slashing the throats of the annoying teenagers who dare get in its way.
Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Fade to the BTHC.
Post Script: A few links discussing the demise of the Showcase, and the inescapable connection to the BTHC:
Andy Baggot (Madison.com)
Roman Augustovitz (Star Tribune):
Neil Koepke (Lansing State Journal/GreenAndWhite.com)
A few articles out there (notably in Augustovitz's column linked above) are noting the WCHA's attempts to be proactive by (a) offering a non-conference scheduling agreement to Wisconsin and Minnesota and (b) hiring some consultants to help them plan out some damage control. Something to keep in mind. I'm no expert on Minnesota's Athletic Department (other than knowing that Maturi has been the one AD that has spoken out against the BTHC), so I can't say anything about how they will react to such a proposal. I've a sneaking suspicion that Alvarez will tell the WCHA to shove it, since my gut instinct says that he's probably going to want to go the same route as basketball and football- go with whatever non-conference schedule gives you the most home dates, since that's better for the bottom line. To assume that UW will have 14 non-conference games and eagerly fill most of them with ex-WCHA teams is foolish. It only happens if we get all or most of those games at home, I can promise you that.
Other, tangentially related news: The Pioneer Press has quoted Paul Kelly as hinting that the Big Ten (Twelven? Tenve?) has once again made an offer to Notre Dame. With the BTHC as a cherry on top of whatever sundae the Big Ten had offered the last time around (you know, when Notre Dame rejected it and we got Nebraska instead). WCHBlog has the most amusing reaction to it, so you can find the article through there.