Does the Boys MSHL Hockey Tourney Need Help?

The Boys MSHSL Hockey Tourney Needs to be Fixed!

Everything Else Hockey

It’s official. A few weeks ago, the U of M men’s and women’s hockey teams both lost in the regional finals of their respective NCAA tourneys. Now, the Wild will wrap up their finale against the Kraken, and Minnesota hockey will end for the 23-24 season. Let that sink in. Feels awful doesn’t it? To be honest, it couldn’t come at a worse time. We just got teased with a couple of 75º days. Now, it’s cooling off, and there isn’t a single gosh dang hockey game to keep the juices flowin’. Pretty dismal time of year… But, in the words of my high school football coach, “If you don’t have real juice, make some fake stuff and chug it.” So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do by investing our energy into fixing the Boys’ MSHSL Hockey Tourney.

Does the Boys MSHL Hockey Tourney Need Help?

Does the MSHSL Hockey Tourney need fixing?

People find problems with everything. If someone created a program where people could donate old hockey equipment to less fortunate youth, people would find a way to trash it. You’d probably have some ole geezer in the comment section telling 2nd graders to “GO GET A JOB” in order to pay for their stuff. Same thing with the boys’ MSHSL Hockey Tourney. It’s an amazingly fun weekend that brings together hockey fans from all over the state and even the country. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, some points could be made about changing the setup, and that’s what we’re here to discuss.

The Problem with the MSHSL Hockey Tourney

Currently, the 76 A and 69 AA teams are split into 8 sections in their respective divisions based mostly on geographic location. From there, they play a sectional tournament that leaves one team standing from each section. Those 8 teams receive the invite to go play in the X. Pretty simple. The main issue lies in that most of the best teams are grouped into the same couple of sections.

Some people think this is a good thing because it gives other teams a chance to go to state. That is an important part of the high school hockey experience. Others think it’s bad for two main reasons. First, only a few of the best teams get a chance to compete for the title. This point leads to reason #2. It causes the quality of the state games to decrease because those teams from the loaded sections walk through to the championship.

For example, sections 2AA and 6AA held the top 6 ranked teams in the state this year. Chanhassen and Edina emerged battered and bloodied as they won the wars. Obviously, those two teams met up in the boys’ MSHSL Hockey Tourney final, and they basically walked through their opponents on the way there. The closest game of the tournament before the final was a 5-2 Edina win over Grand Rapids. This doesn’t exactly make for captivating TV in the hockey capital of the USA. So, how do we fix it?

Does the Boys MSHL Hockey Tourney Need Help?

The Potential Solutions for the Boys MSHSL Tourney

1. Create More Divisions

Pros: This suggestion would split all 145 teams into 3 or 4 divisions based on school/city population. Teams would be able to play interdivisional games in the regular season, but they would be grouped more evenly. If 4 divisions were created, they could adopt the MSHSL football-style bracket for the tournament with the top 28 teams seeded 1-7 based on regular season performance. Then the last 8 teams are playing play-in games for the 8 seeds. Every team gets a chance to win state but at a more appropriate skill level.

Cons: Scheduling is without a doubt the biggest conflict here. The regular season stays largely the same, but playoffs become more difficult because you would need more days to play in the X. The biggest workaround would be alternating which division gets to play in the X, Mariucci, Ridder, and Amsoil each year. Otherwise, if state hockey was able to get 2 weekends at the X, that would also work. Another downfall is that reorganization would take some time for the coaches and heads of the MSHSL.

2. Take the Final 16 Teams to State

Pros: This suggestion is the easiest to get done. Nothing would change in terms of divisions or sections. Instead of playing sectional finals across the state, they are played during the week of the MSHL Hockey Tourney. This would still give every team a bid, but the final rounds of the state tournament are likely played at a higher level. For example, teams like Wayzata and Minnetonka would’ve been there to shake things up.

Cons: The cons are pretty simple for this one. First, you would basically need the entire week at the X for scheduling with an additional 8 games to play. Second, 4 games is a ton to win in one week for the championship team. Lastly, the Edinas, Hermantowns, Warroads, and Minnetonkas of the world are still going to win most years.

What should be done?

Regardless of which option the MSHSL Hockey Tourney could adopt, there are ways to improve the product at the end of the year. Ideally, every team in the state should have a chance to win it all. However, we don’t need to sacrifice more opportunities for great hockey to accomplish that goal. As the hockey state of MN, we’re probably past the point of 7-0 poundings in the first round of our state tourney. Also, there’s not a single person who lives on MN soil that would want less hockey, so let’s just make it happen. Who knows, maybe this article will jumpstart some talks, or maybe teams should just be better and stop complaining.

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