This past weekend, the third annual Connecticut Ice Tournament featuring teams from UConn, Quinnipiac, Yale and Sacred Heart took place at M&T Bank Arena in Hamden, Connecticut.
This was the first year that the tournament was hosted at one of the participating team’s home arenas as it previously took place in Bridgeport, Connecticut at Total Mortgage Arena in 2020 and 2022. During those first few years, the tournament was a SportsNet New York production, but has since been dropped by the broadcast.
For the second year in a row, Quinnipiac won the championship. This season, they were able to celebrate in front of their home crowd.
There are mixed opinions on where the tournament’s permanent location should be. After the championship game between UConn and Quinnipiac, there were comments made about this topic in the post-game press conferences:
“I think Quinnipiac did a great job but I went on record last night and I’ll stay on record, I think this should be played at the XL Center. I think this should be played at a big venue,” said UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “I think we are short changing ourselves by limiting it to 3,600 fans. I really believe that this tournament would get 8,000-9,000 fans at the XL Center.”
Before UConn, Cavanaugh spent 18 seasons as assistant coach for Boston College. Over his years at BC, he had a lot of experience with the Beanpot Tournament, which features BC along with Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. This tournament takes place at the TD Garden, which is a big-time arena in Boston that can hold up to 19,580 people.
As Connecticut is emerging as a strong hockey state with Quinnipiac and the IceBus leading the way, getting the CT Ice Tournament to be on a similar level to the Beanpot should be the ultimate goal for the upcoming years.
On the other hand, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold is a fan of the rotation:
“I’ve always wanted rotation – I thought it was really important this year that we get momentum for the tournament,” said Pecknold. “Again, if 10-15 years from now, it’s a tough ticket to get and then maybe we will have to go to a 8,000-10,000 seat arena. But for me, I really felt like we needed momentum to move forward and I thought we got that.”
Both nights at Quinnipiac were sold out, and the tickets were difficult to come by. That’s definitely a sign that people are interested in the tournament, which only gives hope for its future growth.
“All the institutions think this event has legs,” Sacred Heart deputy athletic director Charlie Dowd said. “We want to grow it. We’ve got three of the best buildings, relatively new, and we’ve got an iconic venue that’s been renovated.”
As of now, the tournament is expected to rotate around each school’s home rinks for future years. Although, nothing is set in stone.
In 2020, the tournament garnered more than 10,000 fans over the two days. Even though that seems like a larger number, that fills the Total Mortgage Arena a little over halfway. Then, in 2021, there was no tournament due to complications and the lingering COVID-19 protocols. For last year’s tournament, there were no attendance figures released, so the official statistics are unknown. So from the past three years, there hasn’t been much visible consistency in attendance, which has made it hard to grow the tournament and its revenue. It took two decades for the four teams to get together to create this tournament after they all reached Division I. Since it took so long to organize in the first place, it’s going to take some time to get everything running smoothly.
There are two main points to the location of the CT Ice Tournament: On one hand, the intimacy of smaller arenas electrifies the competition. On the other hand, from a revenue standpoint, smaller arenas also make the tournament difficult to conduct. The landscape of hockey is starting to change in Connecticut, as Quinnipiac is a powerhouse and UConn is a rising program. Having a staple annual tournament among the Connecticut teams would make the competition that much more significant.