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An NIT for college hockey? A group is exploring the idea.

The Gazelle Group, which runs the College Basketball Invitational, is gauging interest for a secondary college hockey postseason event.

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The University of North Dakota and Minnesota face off Thursday, April 10, 2014, during the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
David Samson / The Forum

GRAND FORKS — A group is exploring the idea of creating an NIT-style college hockey tournament for men's teams that don't qualify for the NCAA tournament.

The Gazelle Group, based in Princeton, N.J., sent emails to college hockey administrators this week saying they intend to start a new postseason tournament this season. The group asked schools to respond by the end of next week with their interest level.

It is the same group that puts on the College Basketball Invitational.

The Gazelle Group is proposing an eight-team, single-elimination tournament at campus sites.

The quarterfinals would be played the same weekend as the NCAA regionals. The semifinals would be played during the week in between the regionals and Frozen Four. The championship would be played on the Friday between the NCAA semifinals and championship game.

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The email indicates the Gazelle Group wants to start this postseason tournament as soon as this season.

The teams would be selected by a small committee on an invite basis. The criteria would be position in the Pairwise Rankings, performance leading into the postseason, willingness to host games on campus and geographical considerations.

Teams will be required to submit a $30,000 bid to host a quarterfinal, $30,000 to host a semifinal and $40,000 to host a championship game. Road teams will receive a travel stipend between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on travel distance.

Host teams would retain revenue from tickets, media, sponsorships, parking and concessions. Host teams also would be responsible for the cost of game operations.

"The Gazelle Group believes that the depth of college hockey programs nationally — and the quality of its student athletes and coaches — should be showcased and rewarded," the email states. "Currently, only 25% of college hockey programs conclude their season with a national championship tournament. This number of championship opportunities in college hockey falls far short of other sports like FBS football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball where up to 50% of teams compete in a national postseason competition to the benefit of their student athletes’ experience."

Getting teams to agree to participate could be a challenge, though.

Players often turn pro immediately when they find out they're not in the 16-team NCAA tournament — or once their squads are eliminated. A secondary tournament is unlikely to persuade them to stay and extra couple of weeks.

Teams who don't qualify for the NCAA tournament also may be eager to begin the process of figuring out next season's roster and recruiting players in the transfer portal.

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The Gazelle Group has been involved in college hockey. It currently produces the Kwik Trip Holiday Faceoff, an annual four-team tournament in Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum. Next year's participants of that event will be Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth, Northeastern and Air Force.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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