The NCHC Frozen Faceoff, which has been hosted at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis since the league’s inception in 2013-14, will travel to downtown St. Paul and the home of the Minnesota Wild for the future.
There was one year left on the initial five-year deal with the Target Center, but the NCHC reached an agreement with the Target Center to opt out of the final year instead of having an awkward divorce year this spring.
Financial terms of the agreement with the Target Center weren’t immediately available.
The Xcel Energy Center became a possibility after both the Big Ten and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association pulled out of the venue and changed their postseason tournament formats to home sites.
The Big Ten and WCHA previously alternated years at the Xcel Energy Center.
For fans of many NCHC teams — North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Colorado College and Denver — the move may bring back memories to the old WCHA Final Five, which was hosted at the Xcel Energy Center from 2001 until the breakup of the league in 2013.
While no one is expecting the crowds of 19,000 to show up like the old days at the Xcel Center when UND, Minnesota and Wisconsin were all in the same conference, the NCHC hopes bringing the event to a building that hosts the NHL and the top high school hockey state tournament in the country will help the Frozen Faceoff.
The league playoffs — both the best-of-three first-round series and the Frozen Faceoff — is the primary financial driver for the NCHC.
The conference has been financially profitable during its first four years while the event was at the Target Center. UND, which has by far the largest fan base in the league, has reached the Frozen Faceoff each year, ensuring decent attendance numbers, though.
League members have debated whether to try to keep the tournament at the Target Center or to move it to the Xcel Energy Center in recent months.
While the other two Western conferences — the Big Ten and WCHA — have determined that holding a neutral-site league championship isn’t financially viable, the NCHC appears hopeful that it will be able to sustain its current format.