Gophers and Terriers deserved an audience in women’s national championship

Published On April 3, 2013 | By Jill Saftel

The women’s Frozen Four last weekend marked a historic moment, as the Minnesota women’s hockey team completed a perfect 41-0-0 season with a win in the championship game over Boston University.

The only problem? Nobody really saw it. The game was not televised anywhere.

The women’s NCAA ice hockey championship should have been televised. No ifs, ands, or buts, that game should have been on TV. The players deserve it and the fans deserve it, not to mention the coaches. It’s that simple.

It doesn’t matter which teams were playing, but when you take into consideration what the Minnesota Golden Gophers did this year, it’s just atrocious that this game didn’t make it to TV. The Gophers not only defended their national title, but did it in perfect fashion. Literally, perfect.

Amanda Kessel (Phil’s younger sister) scored 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) in 36 games for Minnesota and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in the country. That’s 48 more points than the top scorer in all of men’s Division I hockey. If she can do all that, contract negotiations over television rights should be a piece of cake. But they weren’t.

It was because of contractual disagreements that Kessel, the Golden Gophers and the Boston University Terriers were blocked from audiences despite playing at the highest level of their sport. The Minnesota Star Tribune broke down the issue in a post from Joe Christensen on March 24.

According to Christensen, with Minnesota going for history, school officials made a strong push to get the game on TV. The Big Ten Network got involved and tried to televise Sunday’s championship game but was unable to reach an agreement with the NCAA. He went on:

Apparently, the NCAA asked the Big Ten Network to cover the costs of buying out the Turner contract for this event, which would have been tens of thousands of dollars. Gophers officials directed all questions to the NCAA.

“We just weren’t able to reach agreement that would satisfy the contractual agreements already in place,” said Keith Willard, the NCAA’s assistant director of championships.

Asked if the NCAA is disappointed the event won’t be televised, Willard said, “We’re very excited about the interest level, and there’s going to be a very exciting atmosphere in here and a full house.”

The women’s championship game didn’t make it on TV last year, either, when Minnesota won their third title. Both Friday and Sunday sessions of the Frozen Four sold out Ridder Arena, with a 3,400 seat capacity.

Kat Hasenauer Cornetta covered the women’s Frozen Four, and while in the press room at the championship game found herself in the midst of a conversation where one of the local Minneapolis stations mentioned that they had requested rights to broadcast the game as well.

Their distribution would be only have been local within the Twin Cities, so they said they thought they may get a deal from Turner Sports. They had also spoken to a few of New England’s regional networks and an affiliate in the Erie, PA area to offer a simulcast on a preliminary basis. The Minneapolis stations also had discussions with advertisers and had received a ton of interest in ad sales for the game.

Unfortunately, Turner and the NCAA quoted them a ridiculous figure for the rights that a local station would never be able to pony up, even with the amount of ad interest they had received, so it was a no-go for any of those stations.

Hasenauer Cornetta said the game brought incredible interest in Minneapolis. All of the local stations were there, and every single press chair was filled for the championship game.

Regardless of how good Minnesota or their Boston University opponent was, we’ve also got a bit of an equality issue here. Sure, women’s hockey is a different sport than men’s. They are not allowed to hit, and that does change the game. That doesn’t make it any less of a game, just different.

The NCAA men’s hockey tournament is televised from the beginning. All 16 teams that make it in get a shot to be on TV in some way or another. So that’s eight first-round games and four finals from all the regional sites combined for 12 NCAA men’s hockey games televised over the course of a single weekend.

And I’m not saying every single one of those games shouldn’t have been televised. I cover college hockey, and I love that the whole men’s tournament makes it on TV. But with that being said, we couldn’t get just one game from the women’s tournament for all to see?

That’s a shame, because the talent of these teams deserved to be recognized on a national scale.


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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.