Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012

Wisconsin hockey vs Minnesota in an outdoor game at Soldier Field?

By Nicole
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Ealier this evening Andy Baggot, the Badger hockey beat writer for the Wisconsin State Journal/Madison.com tweeted that an outdoor hockey game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Gophers at Soldier Field in Chicago was a possiblity being discussed.

Baggot came back later in the evening with a column about the topic that says the game would be scheduled for February 16, 2013 and that it would be a double-header, featuring the UW-UM game, plus a game between Notre Dame and Miami of Ohio.

While the tweet made it seem like the whole thing was hypothetical, the article says that the idea has been pitched to Badgers head coach Mike Eaves.

Baggot goes on to say that multiple schools have been approached with the idea, but that the promoters/planners say Wisconsin is high on their wish list.

If a meeting between Wisconsin and Minnesota does come to fruition, it would actually be the last time (in the regular season) the two teams meet as members of the WCHA - both teams will join the newly formed Big Ten Hockey Conference for the 14-15 season.

There are logistics that would have to be worked out. The game between UW and Um would be part of their regular conference season series - one that UW would have hosted. Not only will they have to figure out how to play the first game of the weekend series - likely on a Thursday night. But the loss of a regular Friday-Saturday weekend series against a huge rival like Minnesota would mean major revenue losses for the Badgers. It's probable the Badgers would never agree to the outdoor game without guaranteeing they could recoup those expected revenues.

Chuck Schwartz at Bucky's 5th Quarter points out that the last outdoor game - held at Camp Randall - was a huge recruiting tool for the Badgers. An outdoor game at Soldier Field would have an even bigger reach. Badgers head coach Mike Eaves apparently is a big fan of the outdoor games and has said he'd like to play one every four years or so.

The last two times the Badgers played outdoors, they were either the planners/producers or heavily involved. They enjoyed all of the revenue from the Camp Randall game and much of it from the Lambeau Field game. This new game would be produced by someone else and the Badgers would likely have a set amount of money they could make from it.

The gains to be made from a game like this would be a lot more intangible.

Baggot says the Big Ten Network is a likely candidate for a TV deal, but it would be hoped that this game could snag something bigger than that. The mid-February date is post Super Bowl and falls in a bit of sports no-man's land, prior to Spring Training. A larger national broadcast would be financially beneficial, but would also put the Wisconsin jersey in households nationwide. Most colleges can't buy the kind of exposure that would provide. The recruiting benefits are innumerable.

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