Yesterday, I attended the WCHA press conference that was held in the basement of the Xcel Energy Center before the Broadmoor Championship game, and one of the interesting participants at the press conference was Jennifer Heppel, Associate Commissioner, Big Ten Conference.
I am not sure if I am the only one I found it odd that she would be in attendance at the WCHA press conference. Apparently, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod and Ms. Heppel are pushing a partnership between the Big Ten Hockey Conference, and the WCHA. Which I found odd, since two of the Big Ten Schools are leaving the WCHA for another conference. Why would you invite them to your press conference?
What you’re going to find odder, is their brilliant new marketing strategy.
You have to give Rachel Blount beat writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune a lot of credit, when they opened the press conference up for questions, the first thing MS. Blount did was ask a great follow up question of Jennifer Heppel of the Big Ten. In what I would classify as an awkward moment, it went kind of like this.
Rachel Blount asked, “Can you explain exactly how the Big Ten and the WCHA will be working together and what kinds of things you will be working together on and how you will be partnered?”
Jennifer Heppel responded back with this, “What we have done so far is again the WCHA and the Xcel Energy Center since the time the facility has opened has really built a tradition with the fan base here. We recognize the support the fans in this area have given to college hockey. We have for the last month made available the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance for those fans in this area that supported the WCHA tournament. Tickets for the general public go on sale on Monday. We wanted to extend that opportunity. We worked out some initial joint marketing efforts and we will continue to do that. Again, this community has a lot of fans of specific schools, but you also have just incredible support for hockey and college hockey. The WCHA and the Big Ten want it to be a seamless transition from year-to-year for those that support college hockey and the “X” has been on that same page, and they don’t want there to be any drop-off in the tradition that has been created.”
So after Jennifer Heppel gave us her canned answer, WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod jumped in and said this.
“Rachel… we set a record this year in our packages [tickets]. We sold pre-tournament wise, I would have to check, almost 13,000 [tickets]. I think. That was a record for us. All of those ticket bases; those email addresses have been shared with the Big Ten people, and hopefully as Jen said the end result is, everyone benefits. We’re working on the same, you know, kind of the same [fan] base, and sharing all of those names, and I think the basic idea of what Jen says if we can provide, I don’t know what you’re going to call it eventually, the collegiate hockey weekend, or something like that. One year it’s the Big Ten Hockey weekend, the next year it’s the WCHA. The more we can get that across, the better off we’re going to be.”
You got that? Those people that bought tickets to the Red Baron Final Five will get a first crack at next year’s Big Ten Hockey tourney. So the Big Ten is hoping that you will decide to not go to the WCHA conference tourney in Grand Rapids and instead go the Xcel next season.
That’s absolutely brilliant.
First off, shouldn't the WCHA be marketing it’s conference tourney in Grand Rapids, Michigan next season? The Big Ten will be in better shape than the WCHA and they really don’t need the WCHA to share it’s email addresses and names with the Big Ten.
Cross-posted at the Hockey Writers Combine.