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Gophers hockey notebook: Reduced ticket prices announced

Skating for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL last fall, Bryce Brodzinski had 10 points in eight games. He was named USA Today's national prep player of the year earlier this week. (Deb Hestness, Omaha Lancers USHL)1 / 3
This year Bryce Brodzinski became the third Blaine Bengal of the past decade to be named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey, following Nick Bjugstad in 2010 and Riley Tufte in 2016. (Walt Berry / Minnesota Minute Men)2 / 3
The University of Minnesota has reduced the price of season hockey tickets for 2019-20 in five of the 24 sections inside the Gophers' home rink. (University of Minnesota)3 / 3

MINNEAPOLIS -- The refrain that “ticket prices are too high” has been repeated for years as the number of empty seats for Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey games has become more apparent, despite the team winning consistently at home.

In announcing 2019-20 season ticket prices for men’s basketball and men’s hockey on Wednesday, University of Minnesota athletics officials seem to be listening. Of the 24 sections inside the 10,000-seat 3M Arena at Mariucci, five of them will have season tickets starting at $500, which is $200 less than they were just two seasons ago, and $100 less than last season.

With the Gophers generally playing 20 home games, that means an average ticket price of $25 in sections 23, 24, 1, 2 and 3, which are on the west end of the arena, where most fans enter the building and where the opposing team shoots twice. Seats in those sections do not require a scholarship seating contribution, which can run as high as $1,500 per seat in other parts of the arena.

“I think it's important to listen, collect information and then make the best decisions for our programs,” said Mark Coyle, the school’s athletics director, in a statement. “That's what our staff did. They took feedback, studied the data and were able to find solutions. Our goal is to make Gopher athletics accessible to as many fans as possible, and I believe we have done that.”

While the Gophers have not yet released their schedule for next season, the ticket price announcement notes that they will have home games versus Big Ten foes Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State as well as Niagara, North Dakota and defending national champion Minnesota Duluth. They will host in-state rivals St. Cloud State, Bemidji State and Minnesota State Mankato in the Mariucci Classic over the holidays, and will play two of those teams.

The Gophers sold an average of 7,944 tickets for their 22 home games this season, which was second in the Big Ten (behind Wisconsin) and third in the nation. That average attendance figure factors in a pair of Big Ten playoff games versus Michigan, for which the Gophers sold just 1,835 and 1,911 tickets for the Friday and Saturday games, respectively. For the regular season, the Gophers averaged 8,551 paid attendance, and set an arena record with 10,686 tickets sold in a 4-3 loss to Wisconsin on Jan 26.

North Dakota was the nation’s attendance leader with an average paid crowd of 11,389. In terms of percentage of capacity, the Gophers sold fewer than 80% of their tickets, compared to 99.1% at North Dakota and better than 100% (with standing room and overflow tickets sold) at Big Ten schools like Penn State and Notre Dame.

The Gophers were 12-8-2 overall at home last season.

National recognition for future Gophers

High-scoring Blaine forward Bryce Brodzinski isn’t just the best played in Minnesota, according to some. The future Gopher and winner of the 2019 Mr. Hockey award was also recognized as the top prep hockey player in the nation by USA Today this week.

Brodzinski, who will be the second of his brothers to play for the Gophers, was among three Gophers recruits on the six-player first team, which was decided by a national poll of voters. He was joined by defensemen Mike Koster of Chaska and Jackson Lacombe of Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

“It’s nice for those guys to get recognized on a national level like that,” said Gophers assistant coach Garrett Raboin. “They’re a big reason why there is excitement around the program and we’re excited to have them become Gophers.

Three future Gophers -- Holy Family forward Garrett Pinoniemi, Edina defenseman Jake Boltmann and Eden Prairie forward Jack Jensen -- are on the USA Today second team, while Chaska junior forward Rhett Pitlick, who will be the third member of his family to skate for the Gophers after father Lance and brother Rem, is on the third team. Asked if the national recognition will put a target on some players’ backs on the ice, Raboin feels it’s part of playing for the U of M.

“There’s certainly some expectation that comes with being a Gopher commit, but those guys relish in the moment and love playing with pressure,” he said. “It’s all part of the development.”

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