Bob Belber misses the ECAC Hockey tournament championship round, and he wants it back in Albany.
And the Times Union Center general manager is getting some help in his bid to bring the tournament back to the downtown arena.
Belber announced Wednesday that he will be at the American Hockey Coaches Association’s annual convention in Naples, Fla., to present the TU Center’s bid to ECACH officials on Monday.
The bid is for the 2014-16 tournaments. The ECACH tournament concludes its three-year deal with Atlantic City, N.J., next season.
Besides the TU Center, which hosted the tournament from 2003-10, and Atlantic City, the ECACH could hear bids from Bridgeport, Conn., Lake Placid and Providence, R.I.
“We were honored to be host of the tournament for many years,” Belber said. “And with it not being here for the last couple of years, we have missed it and, frankly, so have the business establishments downtown, and even in the Capital Region in the way of hotels and restaurants.”
If the TU Center wins the bid, CDPHP will be the tournament’s title sponsor.
“As a not-for-profit, community-based health plan, CDPHP is committed to supporting goals and initiatives that showcase health and fitness, as well as teamwork,” CDPHP president and CEO Dr. John Bennett said. “The ECAC Hockey tournament and the Times Union Center also embrace those core principles. That is why I’m proud to support this initiative.”
CDPHP’s support is crucial, according to Belber.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, because we are stepping up our bid, and would not be able to do so, if it wasn’t for CDPHP and other companies that will also be sponsors,” Belber said. “But, certainly, the magnitude and level of support that CDPHP is offering to provide, should we receive the bid, is substantial, and that’s allowing us to increase our bid, as compared to the last time that we bid on it, in a substantial way. Our cash amount is being increased by 50 percent, and some of the contingencies we had in the past have been eliminated.
“There’s reason for hope.”
With Albany centrally located to all 12 ECACH schools, Belber believes that should help in winning the bid. Plus, the ECACH offices are in the TU Center.
“It’s so much easier for these schools to have their athletes, coaches, as well as their fans and parents drive in,” Belber said.
The TU Center took over as host of the ECACH tournament championship round after a 10-year run in Lake Placid. The 2003 tournament attracted 15,232 for the four games, including 8,296 for Cornell’s 3-2 overtime victory over Harvard.
The best-attended year was 2005, when 16,217 fans showed up. The championship game, once again featuring Cornell and Harvard, drew 8,637, the most ever for the final during the tournament’s run in Albany.
But attendance started to decline after that. The low point was 2009, when the tournament had just 9,107 fans. The championship game between Yale and Cornell attracted 5,074 fans.
Thanks to Union’s appearance in the final ECACH tournament at the TU Center in 2010, attendance increased. The Dutchmen’s 3-0 loss to Cornell in the final had 6,505 fans in the building. The two-day total attendance was 12,208.
The ECACH’s final four has been in Atlantic City since 2011. Attendance has not been good in the first two years of the three-year deal.
This season’s attendance at Boardwalk Hall was announced at 7,593, including 4,131 for Union’s 3-1 win over Harvard in the championship game. Those numbers were down slightly from last year, when the Cornell-Yale championship game attendance was 4,126, and the two-day total was 7,677.
The league came under heavy criticism because this year’s championship round wasn’t available on TV. It was available on the Internet, but fans had to pay to watch each game.
ECACH commissioner Steve Hagwell declined to comment on matters relating to the bidding process.