Connor Gaarder of Univeristy of North Dakota celebrates a goal at the Frozen Four. (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
The NCAA had considered moving the regional tournaments to give the top seeds home ice advantage, but if it's up to the league's coaches the games leading up to the Frozen Four will continue to be played at neutral sites.
If the NCAA coaches have their way, home ice advantage won't be factoring in to who captures the Frozen Four championship any time soon.
According to a report from Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, during a meeting between college coaches last week, the issue of awarding home ice advantage to the top seeds in each regional tournament was brought to the fore and quickly batted down. Of the 59 coaches to vote on the subject, 52 voted against putting the first round of the regional tournament at the site of the higher seed.
The current format, which has four cities play host to the regional tournaments, uses neutral sites instead of giving a true home ice advantage to any of the participating clubs.
“There were a lot of conversations about the regionals and things they’d like to see improved in terms of on-site things,” UND athletic director Brian Faison told Schlossman. “But the coaching body gave a pretty strong statement that they want to keep them at neutral sites.”
Schlossman writes that just because the coaches voted so heartily in favor of nixing the idea doesn't mean the regional tournaments will absolutely stay at neutral sites, but it does make it highly unlikely that the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Committee will go against the coaches' vote.
Even if the tournament remains in neutral cities, allowing for a more balanced fan base to attend each game, there are still hometown teams. For instance, the 2015 regional tournaments took place in Fargo, N.D. (West), Manchester, N.H. (Northeast), Providence, R.I. (East), and South Bend, Ind. (Midwest). University of North Dakota, which competed and made the Frozen Four, played their two regional games in Fargo, less than an hour and a half drive from Grand Forks, where the school is located. The same goes for Providence, who played mere minutes from their home rink at the home of the AHL's Providence Bruins. Both were technically neutral sites, but it's clear who the favored team was in each building.
However, it's impossible to outright deny the opportunity for nearby locations to host the tournament as the NCAA needs fans in the buildings to make the regionals financially viable.
According to Schlossman, Faison told him that the men's ice hockey committee will discuss the regional sites for upcoming regional tournaments at a meeting in June. Because of the uncertainty about how the NCAA would proceed with regionals, hosts were only selected for 2015 and 2016. Hosting honors for the two years following 2016 are up for grabs, but the league could request new submissions for host cities seeing as coaches are in favor of neutral sites.