While football and basketball get the most national press as far as collegiate athletics go, there's another sport that may take precedence here in Minnesota (and not just because Gopher football is basically an embarrassment). As the unofficial "State of Hockey", we know that while we may not look forward to the long winter ahead, at least there's college hockey to get us through.
The majority of college hockey programs don't get attendance numbers anywhere near the top D-I football schools, but games at top hockey schools like University of North Dakota and University of Wisconsin draw larger crowds than UCLA, Duke, Texas and Florida basketball. Another example of the game's popularity? Rivals Michigan and Michigan State are playing a game dubbed "The Big Chill" this December at The Big House (Michigan's football stadium). Ticket sales for this game are over 105,000 and counting, with a hope of breaking the Guinness World Record for largest attendance at an outdoor hockey game.
A number of schools are also investing in their hockey programs as of late. Up-and-coming program Bemidji State, which made it to the Frozen Four for the first time in 2009, opened a new, $90 million complex on the shores of Lake Bemidji just last weekend. St. Cloud State is renovating its rink and the University of Minnesota Duluth opens a new facility in December. This trend isn't limited to just Minnesota either; Notre Dame and Nebraska Omaha both have new arenas in the works as well, which should have a positive effect on attendance numbers at those schools. And Penn State officially announced last month that they will be starting a D-I hockey program in 2012, which will include a new arena to be completed by 2014.
Because college hockey flies more under the national radar than football and basketball, it also means that there's less advertising clutter. Marketers can use this to their advantage to get in the door supporting these programs before the environment becomes more saturated. Further, the abundance of new stadiums could mean more sponsorship opportunities for marketers to tap into. Schools such as North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan have strong programs year after year, and would be priority campuses to focus on for those advertisers wanting to reach a "hockey" school.