MINNEAPOLIS — When he stood on the street outside 3M Arena at Mariucci an hour before a sold-out hockey game between the Minnesota Gophers and North Dakota, and watched two ticket resellers first get into a kind of profane bidding war, then nearly come to blows, over what they would pay for four tickets to that night’s on-ice battle, Mike Chandler knew that college hockey hype in the Twin Cities had reached a fever pitch.

After 24 years as one of the ticket managers for U of M athletics, and the primary contact for Gophers men’s hockey, Chandler, 62, is retiring this week, and took a few minutes to reflect with The Rink Live on his nearly quarter-century as the go-to guy when you desperately needed to get in the rink.

He started in the job not long after the Gophers’ 10,000-seat rink had opened, when the market did not have a NHL team, and there was a waiting list of 5,000 folks wanting to buy season tickets at what was then called Mariucci Arena. It was clearly a different era, as in-person attendance at nearly all college sporting events has slipped, and the waiting list is long gone.

“There was no Minnesota Wild then, and another thing that’s not endemic just to college hockey is people stay home and watch their 80-inch TV and don’t feel like driving down to campus to look for parking,” said Chandler. “I think there are still as many Gophers fans as there always used to be, they just don’t show up as much.”

Those who do show up, and the teams he has gotten to work with, have been the best parts of the job for Chandler. He laughs when talking about trips to Buffalo, Tampa and Philadelphia with the Gophers, helping arrange and deliver tickets for the scores of Minnesota fans who made those trips. He also recalls a long-time customer who bought single tickets for himself and was unmarried when Chandler started on the job. Recently, the same fan bought season tickets and began taking a grandson to games.

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With pandemic-related budget challenges facing U of M athletics, Chandler found this to be the perfect time to step away from the job, and switch his focus to family, faith and friends, in addition to fueling his passion for gardening.

“Then we’ll see,” Chandler said. “I’m sure I’ll get bored, but not for a while.”

And if he ever needs Gophers tickets, Chandler has a few sources that can secure them.

On-ice homecoming for Schammel

When you think about the legends of hockey from Red Wing, Mr. Hockey winner and Gophers national champion Johnny Pohl comes to mind first on the boys'/men’s side. In terms of girls/women’s hockey, there’s no bigger Red Wing name than Nicole Schammel.

So when the Wingers girls program needed an assistant coach, Schammel was the obvious choice, and announced her on-ice homecoming this week. Schammel, who also skates for the professional Minnesota Whitecaps and was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior with the Gophers in 2018-19, will be an assistant coach for Red Wing this season, pending the Minnesota State High School League’s plans for winter sports.

“It’s not only huge for the hockey community, but for the entire community of Red Wing as well,” said Nicole Olson, who will be heading into her fourth season as the Wingers’ head coach. “It’s been overwhelming the amount of emails, text and social media posts we’ve seen about Nicole, so we’re super excited and hopeful that we’ll be in a position where we can play some hockey this winter.

As a high schooler, Schammel helped the Wingers make five consecutive state tournament trips. She played at Minnesota State University-Mankato as a freshman, then transferred and spent three seasons with the Gophers, helping them reach the NCAA title game as a senior.

Olson said the Wingers have 24 players returning, most of whom have played together since youth hockey, from a team that went 9-15-1 last season.

Schmidt and Knights moving on

If you picked Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt for your playoff fantasy team, you are in the hunt for at least another few weeks. The former Gophers blueliner assisted on the game-tying goal on Tuesday as the Knights rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to beat Chicago 4-3 and eliminated the Blackhawks from the playoffs.

Schmidt, who had four shots on goal in the game, has a goal and five assists in eight postseason games for the Knights, all of them played in Edmonton. He began his career with the Washington Capitals and went to Vegas in the expansion draft prior to their inaugural season in 2017-18.

The loss by the Blackhawks means the playoffs are done for Nick Seeler, another former Gophers defenseman, who was on Chicago’s playoff roster but did not see game action. Of the 17 Gophers initially on playoff rosters, as of Wednesday morning there were seven still playing: Washington’s Travis Boyd, Arizona’s Alex Goligoski, Colorado’s Erik Johnson, Arizona’s Phil Kessel, New York Islanders’ Nick Leddy, Carolina’s Brady Skjei and Schmidt.

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