BEMIDJI — Last weekend’s Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis marked the first all-Minnesota men’s college hockey tournament since the North Star College Cup was discontinued following the 2016-17 event.
If Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore had it his way, he’d resurrect the defunct tournament.
“The only way I want to see it is at the (Xcel Energy Center), like a North Star Cup,” Serratore said. “I’ll play in the Mariucci Classic again. I have no problem playing four Minnesota schools. I have no problem being vocal about it. Why we don’t have the North Star Cup blows my mind.”
The North Star College Cup featured four of the state’s five Division I men’s hockey programs and was held annually from 2014-17 at the Minnesota Wild’s home rink as a way of keeping in-state rivalries alive following the breakup of the old WCHA. One school sat out each season with the exception of tournament organizer Minnesota.
The North Star College Cup was discontinued due to a perceived lack of fan interest and schools’ desire for more home games.
The Mariucci Classic has deeper roots as it’s been held annually since 1991, with the exception of a two-year hiatus that ended with this season’s event.
This year’s Mariucci Classic was the first to feature all Minnesota schools. The U of M has not indicated whether it would continue to invite only Minnesota schools to the tournament.
“We are the state of hockey,” Serratore said. “And we had the North Star Cup and we were having 9- and 10,000 people at the games and people are saying we’re not drawing well enough. Take a look at college hockey. College hockey isn’t drawing.”
Attendance has dropped nationally across college hockey from 3,532 fans per game in 2010-11 to 3,085 through the first half of 2019-20.
Attendance for each game at last weekend’s Mariucci Classic was only provided for games involving the Gophers. It is not clear whether those figures include attendance for both games played on that day or just Minnesota’s games.
Officially, 7,615 fans attended the BSU/UM semifinal and 6,772 attended the championship between the Gophers and St. Cloud State. The non-Gopher games appeared to have only several hundred fans in attendance.
In comparison, the inaugural North Star College Cup drew 28,906 fans over two days. The final tournament drew 23,265.
“I would love to see the North Star Cup come back,” Serratore said. “So would some other schools in the state of Minnesota. … But it’s not going to probably happen.”