The Big Ten will officially announce some time this summer what is one of the worst kept secrets in college hockey, the Big Ten playoffs will return to campus after Notre Dame joins the Big Ten Hockey Conference for the 2017-18 season. This was basically confirmed by Wisconsin radio announcer Brian Posick Tuesday morning after the WCHA officially announced their intentions to do the same.
B1G Hockey will go best of 3 first round on campus playoff series once Notre Dame joins 2017-18. No.1 seed gets bye https://t.co/i4O4od9uJ8— Brian Posick (@brian_posick) May 17, 2016
The 2016-17 Big Ten Tournament will still take place at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, but it will be the last year of the all six teams in one location format.
Beginning with the 2017-18 season, the regular season Big Ten Champion will receive a first round bye, and will have home ice advantage for the rest of the tournament. The other six teams will play a best-of-three series with the #2 seed playing #7, #3 vs #6 and #4 vs #5 with the higher seed hosting. The four advancing teams will play in two single elimination semifinals at the higher seeded team, thus, the lowest seed remaining travels to #1, and the next highest seeded team would host the fourth team. The two winners would advance to a single elimination Championship Game with the highest remaining seed hosting.
If this format would have been in place for the first three seasons of the Big Ten Hockey Conference, the Gophers would have had home ice in every single tournament game. So you can see how this could be advantageous to the top teams.
This will hopefully bring back some excitement to the Big Ten Tournament after the lackluster last few seasons at both Joe Louis Arena and the Xcel Energy Center. Additionally, it means at least another home weekend fr the top three teams, of which the Gophers should almost always be....unless they get the first round bye. While the logistics will need to be worked out (reserving arenas, ticket sales, etc), this would seem to be a positive step in the right direction to appeal to the fans, and guarantee a good atmosphere for almost all of the tournament games.
Additionally, adding the home ice component along with the initial best-of-three series may ramp up some of the Big Ten rivalries that have yet to fully blossom/rewarm. That can only be a good thing for the college hockey fan as well.