Commentary: UND should keep playing destination games
NEW YORK--A tour guide at NBC Studios asked his group of 12 where they were from. "Georgia," the first one said. "Massachusetts." "North Dakota." The whole group turned around. "There are people from North Dakota everywhere!" one tourist said. "H...
NEW YORK-A tour guide at NBC Studios asked his group of 12 where they were from.
"Georgia," the first one said.
The whole group turned around.
"There are people from North Dakota everywhere!" one tourist said. "Hockey, right?"
An estimated 8,000 UND fans descended on Manhattan last weekend, enjoying a vacation planned around UND's showdown against Boston College in Madison Square Garden.
It was the latest show that these unique, showcase games are a hit among the fans and they should be planned roughly every other year.
UND first ventured into the idea of a unique, destination game at an off-the-beaten-path location in 2012, when it hosted Clarkson in Winnipeg's MTS Centre, home of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.
Despite not having a marquee opponent, UND still drew 7,075 to that game.
The next year, UND played Omaha at T.D. Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series. The game drew 13,650. UND fans outnumbered Omaha fans, even though the game was played in Omaha.
Despite being stuck in a snowstorm on the way home-stranding thousands in South Dakota-the reviews from fans couldn't have been much better.
The New York game surpassed even the other two with fan support and reaction.
Sure, UND is putting these types of events together because they want the experience for the players. But it has become a terrific tool to build support and further connect with its rabid fan base.
When the team goes to Las Vegas in two years to play Minnesota, it will almost surely sell out.
UND always brings large contingents to NCAA Frozen Fours. But showcase games are a great way to engage fans whether the team makes a Frozen Four in a particular year or not.
There are definitely challenges to putting together events like this.
UND could probably make more money with a home game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It takes time, energy and money to staff them.
Sometimes, things go awry as they did in Omaha with the game being delayed because of the ice deteriorating and a pipe breaking.
But the benefits of keeping its fan base invigorated, connecting with fans-like the one in New York who hadn't seen the team play live in 24 years, and giving everyone an unforgettable experience has been worth it every time.
Doing one of these games every year could be tricky and could wear out the novelty. But doing one every other year would not to be too much, as long as UND can find the right destination-one that fans can make a vacation out of-and right opponents.
Think Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dublin. Think Target Field and iconic college football stadiums. Think Michigan, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Boston University.
As long as they are done right, they will be a hit.
Speaking of that: Las Vegas, you're on the clock.