Hockey: UNB coming to terms with hockey shocker

Friend of the blog Bill Hunt had a great column capturing the hand-wringing at UNB after the Varsity Reds were vanquished by St. FX.
"Athletic director Kevin Dickie was among those in mourning the other day, even before he contemplated the gates that got away.

" 'I'm not a bean counter,' he said. 'I have to manage a budget and that's part of my responsibility, but for me, my whole thing around winning and losing is the winning and losing.'

"Make no mistake. The losses are significant, especially in an era in which the V-Reds operate under the ever-sharpening pencil of fiscal filbert Dr. Eddy Campbell.

"Playoff ticket prices were $12, $10, $6 and $4. Call it a $10 average. Indulge me, if you will, when I suggest that Saturday night would have been a sellout - 3,768 - $37,680. A victory there would have produced two more (in an AUS final -- Ed.), totalling: $113,340.

" ... in terms of lost revenue, 'it's substantial,' admitted events and marketing manager Dave Morell."
Hunt hit on a phenomena on sports, that a franchise can get to a point where its business model almost demands an extended playoff run almost every season. The New York Yankees run on that model. The Toronto Blue Jays were like that for a couple years in the 1990s. In football, Manchester United promises a Champions League appearance (top four in the EPL).

On the many-millions-times-smaller CIS scale, UNB men's hockey might well run on that expectation. It doesn't take a member of the Ottawa Senators front office to know it can get ugly if public expectations are very high.

However, there is little reason to believe UNB will not bounce back. It is worth noting, as Bob Stauffer did, that the Alberta Golden Bears came back from a disappointing result in 2004 to win the University Cup back-to-back as the host team in '05 and '06. UNB is in the same scenario, early exit the season before it begins a two-year run hosting the nationals.

Besides, the annals of hockey are strewn with regular-season juggernauts who were bounced early -- take the 1944-45 Montreal Canadiens, the '70-71 Boston Bruins, the '81-82 Montreal Canadiens, the '05-06 Detroit Red Wings. Typically, they all came back to win a Stanley Cup within a year or two (four seasons in the case of the Habs, who won in 1986 after the Calgary Flames ousted the Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers).

Meantime, it's a little post-hoc for people to come out of the woodwork and say this was karma for UNB busting down its women's hockey team in 2008. Disagree with a two-year-old decision on general principle all you wish, but at best it's barely interrelated.

(It's no more than a coincidence, but the men's hockey post-season has been good to schools with successful women's teams. Alberta and McGill qualified no problem. Saint Mary's has a chance for both teams to make nationals. Manitoba, whose women's team won a CIS bronze medal in 2008, is also going to the University Cup. Then again, how does that explain the Laurier men's team failing to get past the first round?)

'Substantial' financial hit with hockey V-Reds early X-it (Bill Hunt, Fredericton Daily Gleaner)
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