SBJ/October 22-28, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Mike Snee, College Hockey Inc.

Mike Snee, most recently the executive director of Minnesota Hockey and a former sales director of the NHL Wild, started work in September as the new executive director of College Hockey Inc. Founded in 2010, the group aims to promote the sport at the NCAA Division I level, encouraging elite young players to pursue on-ice careers that include college hockey. Snee talked about the challenges and changes facing the college game, including the addition next year of Big Ten hockey and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Photo by: MIKE DOYLE
Changes in the conference structure mean our fans will be seeing different matchups as new rivalries develop. … We are also challenged geographically. Hockey participation is growing throughout the country, and some areas — California, Arizona, Texas — are producing talented players, but there aren’t any schools sponsoring Division I hockey in those states. Expansion in those areas is an exciting prospect, but there are many challenges for athletic departments to add additional sports.


What the NHL lockout means to college hockey’s business:
In the short term, I guess the optimist in me says it might lead to more attention for the college game. But I don’t see a lockout as a benefit for anyone involved in hockey at any level. I hope the NHL is back on the ice as soon as possible.

Story lines to watch this season in college hockey: I’m excited to see who might be this year’s Ferris State, Union or RIT — schools that may not be household names but have reached the Frozen Four and put themselves in the spotlight in recent years. At Boston College, Jerry York is just 12 wins shy of becoming the winningest coach in college hockey history.

The sports business issue he’s following: I’m fascinated by the growth of soccer in North America, particularly the way that MLS franchises like Seattle, Portland and Toronto have been able to build large, passionate followings in just a few years and create such a tremendous atmosphere at their games. It’s similar to what we see with student sections and pep bands in college hockey, but it’s really remarkable in pro sports, at least in North America.

A family rink: I live in Minneapolis and take full advantage of our beautiful winter weather by building a backyard ice rink. I’ve done it for five years, and each year I get a little better at the craft. I have three young children, and they spend a lot of time on the rink. Hockey anywhere is wonderful, but it’s a little extra special when it is in your own backyard.
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