It's like 1996 all over again.
A coupel weeks ago, the Wahington Post ran a story about how terrible the Verizon Center's Ice is. That article has caused some concern among the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Committee, who will hold a conference call tomorrow to discuss the situation.
I can see where there would be cause for concern. If the ice sucks in January, what is it going to be like in April? It sounds like one of the major problems is that it is a multi-use facility and the ice has been to removed and put back in a number of times in a short period of time. The good news is that looking over the Verizon Center's event calendar, that hopefully shouldn't be much of an issue.
It looks like the circus is in town March 21 and 22, so I would assume they'd need to take the ice out for that. The ice would have to go back in for a March 27th hockey game. They likely wouldn't have to take it out again before the April 9th Frozen Four semifinals. In fact, they wouldn't have to even cover the ice after an April 4th basketball game, and there is nothing going on the three days prior to the Frozen Four, giving them some lead time to really work on the ice.
Still, these concerns bring back memories of the debacle of the 1996 Frozen Four in Cincinnati, considered by most to the be most poorly hosted Frozen Four of all-time. A worker at the Riverfront Coliseum, which was not primarily a hockey building, drilled in the wrong spot on the ice, causing a leak in the ice's refrigeration.
Colorado College and Vermont had to play the afternoon in a swamp, neutralizing the speed favored Catamounts two stars, Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin, and helping Colorado College pull off the upset win. The ice surface was unplayable by the second game rolled around, and it had to be delayed until much later in the evening.
Some of these issues have to bring about questions about the importance of having a "destination" Frozen Four. I understand the people that travel to the event annually want to go to different cities, and the bigwigs that make these decisions enjoy being wined and dined by the various bidding cities, but at a certain point, don't the safer pick where you don't have to worry about this kind of thing become more attractive?
I don't even really buy the argument that having it in far away places helps grow the game. The average person in southern/western city X can't get into the event since you need to have earned years of priority points to get into the event. Aside from the St. Louis Frozen Four, where the Blues had two major prospects in the event, I don't see it making a huge impact on the city. It doesn't really grow game in that schools are going to run out and start a program just because the Frozen Four is in their city--this year hopefully being an exception with Navy.
Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the NCAA just decide to host the Frozen Four in St. Paul one year, Boston the next, and alternate between Dever and Detroit for the third. It's a little west-heavy, but I don't know of another viable eastern city, and each western city is at least 10 hours drive from each other, so no one region would have much advantage. They could even throw in a wildcard city every four to eight years--maybe a New York City or St. Louis?--if they want to keep things fresh.
I doubt people would ever get too tired of holding the Frozen Four in a nice, hockey-crazy city like St. Paul or Boston. It's hit-or-miss with the adventurous Frozen Fours, but the reviews for those two cities always seem to be rock solid. Plus, you'll never have to worry about what the players are skating on.