Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Big year for BillyRob

Photo by Shane Frederick
Bill Robertson is on a "goodwill tour" of WCHA cities and hopes to hit them all before the year is out. On Monday, the new league commissioner was in Mankato, playing golf and getting to know more about Minnesota State hockey and the culture surrounding it. It was a perfect venue to rub elbows with coaches, administrators, sponsors, boosters, alumni and even fans and players.

Read my story on Robertson's visit in Tuesday's edition of The Free Press.

A few highlights of note (and some things that didn't make the cut):

* Robertson said the league soon will be moving into a centralized office in Minneapolis and plans to have all staff working out of the same venue. Before, Bruce McLeod worked in Denver while others were in Madison and St. Paul.

* New women's commissioner Aaron Kemp also will work in the Minneapolis office and the two leagues, while separate, will share staff. Robertson said they're currently reviewing the league's staffing needs.

* Robertson acknowledged the talk of another shift of the college hockey landscape in the next three to five years but also mentioned that he's had conversations with "western" schools that have at least explored the idea of adding hockey. It would take big donors for that to happen, of course (like Penn State), and a school likely would have to add women's hockey. Nothing imminent, he said, but he would like to see college hockey expand.

* Current stability and promotion of the league as it goes into its second season post-realignment is important, though, especially in the revenues-expenses area, which has changed dramatically. A lot of focus is on the Final Five, which will return to St. Paul this year, and acquiring sponsorships and boosting ticket sales. But promoting the league and the current teams in order to educate fans is big, too. Social media will be an important part, no doubt.

* Robertson said he was encouraged by having two WCHA teams in the NCAA tournament last year (Minnesota State and Ferris State), but the hope is to have three teams in the tournament. Two or three every year would be ideal, he said.

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