Time Is Now For D.C. Bid
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The NCAA men's ice hockey committee is currently mulling over possible sites for the 2009-2011 Frozen Four. After receiving written bids, the field was narrowed to six for the three slots: Boston, St. Paul, Detriot (Ford Field), Tampa, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
This week there will be site visits. In the mean time, the lobbying efforts are in full swing.
It is considered major conventional wisdom that Boston — which last had the tournament in 2004 — and St. Paul — which last had it in 2002 — will receive two of the slots. That leaves the other four to contest the one last slot.
Last time the committee got around to choosing sites, I suggested Philadelphia would be a good pick.
This time, with Washington part of the mix, I can't support Philadelphia. That's because Washington is a humungous no brainer. It's a home run for college hockey, and better than its competition.
Detroit. The Ford Field idea is interesting, perhaps. It would be a novelty. But this should not be about novelties. Save that for the preseason games. This is the Frozen Four. And, sure, Detroit is a hockey city, but would you rather hang out in Detroit in Washington? And would you prefer to risk tens of thousands of empty seats?
Tampa. Another novelty. The arena is downtown, we'll give it that. But otherwise, what does Tampa have going for it that the other places don't? The last non-sellout of a Frozen Four was in Anaheim in 1999. What's in Tampa's corner other than it's in a warm place, and the big wigs would have fun playing golf in shorts? Maybe hockey is growing there, but there are other fish to fry first.
Philadelphia. This is a great, historic American city. The problem is, the arenas are nowhere near downtown. Do not be fooled by the Philadelphia sales pitch to the contrary. It will be a pain in the rear to have those games in South Philly, while everything else is elsewhere. Shuttle buses are for the birds. There is pretty much absolutely nothing to do around the arena itself. The only thing within walking distances would be the one bar/restaurant, located across the street at the new Phillies baseball stadium, and a couple other places here and there.
Last time around, I was willing to overlook that point in favor of the other things Philadelphia has going for it.
But this time around, there's nothing Philadelphia has that Washington doesn't, and Washington has a whole lot more.
After I wrote that article last time, I was contacted by officials in Washington. They said, "If you thought Philadelphia was good, what would you think of the efficacy of a Washington bid?" I thought about it for a bit, and immediately realized it was even better than Philadelphia. I encouraged them to go for it. Over the last couple of years, hearing about what Washington was putting in its bid, only strengthened that opinion.
- Washington's MCI Center is a relatively new arena that's smack in the middle of downtown. You are walking distance to about a zillion different places to hang out, drink and/or eat, and walking distance to all the attractions. And part of the bid includes a weekend Metro Pass offer that would get fans around on public transportation easily.
- Washington's weather that time of year is pretty warm. So, while it's not Tampa, it's also not Buffalo. And who wants it to be Tampa-hot anyway? I don't.
- The bid has been entered in conjunction with the Naval Academy. This is being looked at as a springboard to get Navy into playing Division I hockey, which has been talked about for years. The athletic director there is Chet Gladchuk, formerly at Boston College.
- Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis put up a bond to help fund the event. He'll make back his money if the FF sells to 75 percent capacity. The Capitals are big supporters of college hockey. The general manager, George McPhee, is a past Hobey Baker Award winner. In fact, McPhee was at the recent FF as a guest of Ohio State coach John Markell, a teammate from the Bowling Green days. The Capitals have always had college players on their roster.
- The opportunity to rub shoulders with politicians, and vice-versa (a number of them, if you look hard enough, played hockey in their early days), should be priceless for NCAA folks.
- Think about having the Hobey ceremony on The Mall, or at the Lincoln Memorial. How cool is that?
When you think about it, Washington has a perfect blend. It has just enough of a college hockey connection, just enough of a great climate, just enough of a non-conventional aspect, just enough of the big city aspect, and plenty of (easily accessible) things to do for officials and fans alike.
Philadelphia and New York City are similar in many regards, but neither has all of these different things going for it. The other biggest U.S. cities are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. I think we can rule out the first three for obvious reasons. Chicago would be tremendous, but it didn't put in a bid.
The committee should not let the opportunity pass to select Washington D.C.