When I moved to Columbus with my wife, two kids and dog, we, like any transplants, needed to find something to do with our time. As a person who loves watching athletic competition and stuff to do with young kids, the Ohio State University was the first place we looked for affordable options — aka we didn’t look for football tickets.
Moving in the fall, we went to soccer games because of the free tickets and free parking price tag. We saw last second game-winning goals, extra time thrillers and got our fair share of free popcorn.
As the temperature dropped, the easiest decision for us was going to Ohio State women’s hockey games. In the first year for Buckeyes head coach Nadine Muzerall, we were at the OSU Ice Rink just about every other weekend.
The first game we attended, the arena usher called me to invite my daughters to the entrance of the rink at the end of the period. A tradition of letting kids in the crowd give the players fist bumps and get an icy cold puck from the referees.
That experience turned into a stack of pucks, one set of dual pucks after a WCHA playoff shootout, autographs and more memories than we can count.
Since we started attending that 2016-17 season, coach Muzerall and the Buckeyes have created memories of their own. In seven seasons, the Scarlet & Gray won one regular season conference title, two conference tournament trophies, appeared in three Frozen Four NCAA final tournaments and won the granddaddy of them all last season, Ohio State’s first National Championship in ice hockey, regardless of gender.
Saturday, Ohio State goes for the back-to-back, taking on the winner of the Penn State Nittany Lions and Quinnipiac (a play-in game on Thursday March 9) in the first round of the Frozen Four, with the winner moving on to the semifinals. It’s a game that’s likely to sell out, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
That’s because the OSU Ice Rink is not suited for competitive NCAA hockey. The arena that holds a few hundred people, all on one side of the ice, is more like a public rink than a home for a National Champion.
Opponents use the locker room below the ice level, walking upstairs to get to the ice. Ohio State uses a locker room across a covered walkway inside St. John’s Arena, requiring a few stride walk outside to get from the lockers to the ice rink.
Ohio State is rectifying this situation, announcing their hopes for a new men and women’s hockey-specific arena on campus, but it could be shut down by the board of directors, and a projected open date of April 2024 doesn’t help the Buckeyes in 2023.
Good news though, Ohio State and NCAA, I’ve got you covered. I did the research for you. Move the Saturday Frozen Four game to Nationwide Arena.
Now, you might be wondering, why can’t they use the Schottenstein Center, the home of the national championshipless Ohio State men’s hockey team? The OHSAA high school wrestling state championships are at the Schott. That’s ok, because the Schott isn’t fit for champions anyway.
Moving the games to Nationwide Arena would be a win-win, with a minor schedule change. Push the Frozen Four quarterfinal to Sunday afternoon. It would give the visiting team an extra day of rest and Nationwide Arena is already hosting a slew of hockey games, so there’d be no venue updates needed.
OHSAA has their hands all over Columbus this weekend, hosting the men’s high school finals this weekend at Nationwide Arena. Saturday even has a double-header with the amateur athletes competing in the morning and the Columbus Blue Jackets playing Saturday night.
So, shift the OSU game to Sunday after the OHSAA State Final drops puck at noon ET. Sell tickets at general admission cost, the Ice Rink tickets were only eight dollars till they went sold out in Emma Maltais shot speed.
Bump the tickets up to $10 or $15 dollars, have both teams be honored at the Blue Jackets game to get those butts in the arena seats coming back for more hockey the next day. Give Blue Jackets season ticket holders a discounted rate or sell the general admissions right there in the lobby of Nationwide Arena. Give the local NHL fans a chance to watch actual good hockey, something they’ve been pining for all season.
Penn State, who plays in a different conference due to the Big Ten not having a women’s hockey conference (don’t get me started on the situation up in Michigan with the Wolverines’ women’s hockey club), would draw a crowd.
The Nittany Lions have their own hockey barn: Pegula Ice Arena. It’s a hockey-specific arena that holds over 5,700 people, a great size for the college game and suitable enough for an NCAA championship game. Coincidentally enough, the very place the Buckeyes lifted their first NCAA title.
Should Quinnipiac beat the Nittany Lions, they’re also a side that will travel well for a game of this magnitude, sitting in 10th in the country in average attendance.
That doesn’t include all the Buckeyes fans who could attend from here in Columbus. Scarlet & Gray supporters who won’t have to miss the game to watch guys run, jump and catch balls at a combine this weekend.
So, NCAA, Ohio State and Nationwide Arena, give more families the opportunities to create memories while watching a Buckeyes team who’s more than worthy of a large crowd. I mean, the citizens of the city are the ones paying off the arena, why not let the local public university use it for a game of this stature?
Let’s get this done. You have Land-Grant Holy Land’s full support.