Amsoil Arena, NCAA changes, and AHL

      When Minnesota Duluth opens its $70 million new home on Dec. 30 against North Dakota, fans will be welcomed to — Amsoil Arena. The building has been known only as the DECC expansion rink during its construction but a naming rights deal has been struck, according to Tuesday’s News Tribune:  

     Amsoil, the Superior-based maker of synthetic motor oil, is paying $6 million over 20 years for the right to name the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center’s new arena, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

     This is not the first time Amsoil has bought the naming rights for a local event or attraction. The annual snocross event at Spirit Mountain is named the Amsoil Duluth National Snocross.

     Construction on the $70 million arena began in April 2009. The arena will include 6,700 seats and an NHL-sized ice sheet.

     The DECC is officially announcing the deal Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. The full story is here.

    Catching up on some recent news starting with the NCAA considering a change to the Division I playoff format. Some ideas were exchanged at the recent NCAA coaches convention in Florida and Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reports:

Under the most popular proposal, the tournament would stay as a 16-team field, but the first round would be a best-of-three series played at the venue of the higher seed.

The eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals would play at one of two super regional sites. The quarterfinals would be single games. The Frozen Four would not change.

The proposal would have need NCAA approval and wouldn’t happend until 2011-12 at the earliest. Regional sites already have been awarded for the upcoming season.

The proposed format would reward teams for having strong seasons.

Recently, top-seeded teams haven’t had any big advantages in the NCAA tournament.

Since the NCAA changed to its current 16-team single-elimination format in 2003, No. 1 seeds have made the Frozen Four 46.9 percent of the time. That’s down considerably from 1992-02, when top seeds received byes and reached the Frozen Four 65.9 percent of the time.

The last time the NCAA tournament had a best-of-three series in the first round was from 1988-91. Top seeds reached the Frozen Four 87.5 percent of the time under that format, which included 12 teams.

     Also, it was announced last week that public sale of tickets for a Dec. 11 game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., between Michigan State and Michigan, has been suspended. More than 100,000 tickets have been sold for the Big Chill at the Big House, assuring a world record for attendance at a hockey game. Michigan Stadium capacity is listed as 106,201.

     The world mark was broken last week in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, at the World Championships, when 77,803 fans at Veltins-Arena, showed up to watch Germany defeat the United States 2-1 in overtime in the opening round.

     Also, Tim Stapleton and the Chicago Wolves face Texas in the seventh game of the American Hockey League West Division Finals on Tuesday night in Chicago. Stapleton leads the Wolves in playoff scoring with three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 13 games.

     Hamilton (Ontario) eliminated the Abbotsford (British Columbia) Heat and defenseman Josh Meyers on Monday night 4-0, to take the AHL North Division Finals series 4-2. Hamilton faces Chicago or Texas next.

     Mason Raymond and the Vancouver Canucks are home Tuesday night against Chicago in the sixth game of the NHL’s Western Conference semifinals. Chicago leads 3-2. Raymond has three goals and an assist in 11 playoff games.