In the span of two months, UND officials began to fully understand the potential of destination UND hockey games.
In December 2016, roughly 8,000 UND fans descended upon New York City to watch the Fighting Hawks play rival Boston College in Madison Square Garden. Two months later, tickets went on sale for the 2018 destination game against rival Minnesota in the 7,500-seat Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. It sold out instantly.
UND and Ralph Engelstad Arena officials immediately began working on the 2020 event, knowing it had the potential to sell out an NHL building.
They were right.
Just 36 hours into general ticket sales, UND has nearly sold out Nashville's 17,159-seat Bridgestone Arena for next season's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against Penn State, which will be played Oct 17.
Only a couple hundred tickets remain in the upper bowl on the end where Penn State will shoot twice. The rest of the tickets were quickly snapped up through a UND Champions Club presale last week or during the first few hours of general sales.
The fact that tickets have been gobbled up this quickly is no surprise to team and arena officials.
When the game was officially announced last month, Ralph Engelstad Arena general manager Jody Hodgson said: "We absolutely plan and absolutely anticipate a sellout. We believe Bridgestone Arena is going to be full to the rafters when the puck gets dropped in October of 2020."
To accommodate the anticipated crush of UND fans in Nashville, 2,500 hotel rooms have been set aside and two days of parties have been planned.
Hodgson said he's been in touch with officials at Grand Forks International Airport about adding flights.
"They're working with the carriers to try and see if we can add flights or if arrangements can be made to meet what we think is going to be heavy local demand," Hodgson said last month. "Much like the Las Vegas event, the carriers added planes and larger planes in order to accommodate demand. We're optimistic that carriers out of Grand Forks will be able to do that again and help us accommodate what we think is going to be significant demand for travel."
UND fans came from at least 44 different states and four Canadian provinces to the Las Vegas game last season. They watched the Fighting Hawks beat the Gophers 3-1, keeping UND perfect at these types of events.
In 2012, UND beat Clarkson 3-1 in Winnipeg's Bell MTS Place.
In 2015, it easily handled Omaha 5-2 in an outdoor game at T.D. Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series.
The Nashville game will mark the first time that UND has played against Penn State.
UND plans to continue playing destination games every other year. UND already has the rights to host the 2022 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game and it is planning to use it for another destination game. The city has yet to be decided, but numerous options have been discussed, including Seattle or a potential return to Las Vegas.
Nodak is fixin’ to invade Music City ya’ll! There are now less than 1,500 tickets remaining for the UND game in Nashville following the Champions Club presale this week and the public on-sale this morning. If you don’t got ‘me, you better get ‘me quick! #IncredibleFanSupport pic.twitter.com/8roHXm6KAJ— Jody Hodgson (@JodyatREA) December 14, 2019