The Question…

With the Big Ten conference slated to announce its hockey plans, it prompted this question: Could this lead to other major schools adding hockey?

I’ve put this question to a few people and it all comes back to the money schools are willing to invest. Athletic departments, depending on the school, just aren’t rolling in the money so it would take something major for them to add hockey.

There’s also Title XI to consider too. Another women’s program, whether it be hockey or another sport, to possibly balance that out because it has to be similar numbers in budget.

Still, here are some schools that would be interesting to consider in no particular order.

-Syracuse: New York state has Cornell, RIT and Niagara is hanging around too. College hockey in the state can work. ‘Cuse is a really good sports town and Chris Peters, smartest man covering junior hockey, said it could be a challenge because the town has the Crunch, an AHL franchise. It would be interesting to see how the town could juggle two hockey teams and a basketball team always in the title hunt.

-Rhode Island: Kind of figured this would be a good fit but thanks to Fiona Quick, come to find out, URI has wanted to do this for a while. She made the point that URI has a somewhat new arena and how the athletic director has been quoted as saying that he’d like to bring hockey to the school. That and it could make for a good Providence-URI rivalry too, which is needed.

-Navy: Weird pick, but it makes sense. Army and Air Force have hockey and so far it has been a winner for both schools. Navy would work because it could serve that DC/Baltimore/Annapolis demographic, which has supported the Capitals for years. If Navy isn’t an option then consider Delaware or even Georgetown.

-Iowa State: The more people you talk to in hockey circles, the more they tell you that this is a winner. Peters, smartest man in junior hockey, made the point that Iowa State would be an ideal choice because of where it sits geographically. He also has researched the subject itself and his findings concluded that it makes sense for Iowa State to add hockey. He pointed out that the schools have donors willing to give money, there’s a growing youth hockey community and the current AD was an assistant AD at Wisconsin and saw first hand how hockey can be a good thing for a school.

-Colorado: To a degree, it is a bit of a surprise that CU does not have hockey. Denver, Colorado College and Air Force are all powers so it would only make sense that the state’s largest school would have it too. Hockey at CU could work and there’s already been a booster working towards a fundraising campaign to get the school to attract hockey. It could take work, but it could be done.

-Oklahoma: OU has the largest budget in the ACHA, the governing body for club hockey teams in the nation. They were up here in Fargo a few months ago and they looked like a D1 team. OU has always been a school to support its teams and hockey would make a lot of sense for the following reasons. No. 1 – The North Texas/Oklahoma market is getting more active in hockey from a youth level so having a college team to feed into that would help. No. 2 – Buddy of mine was telling me how OU had 2,000 fans show up for a game after the football team played a home game. So there is obviously a fan base there. No. 3 – Nothing against UAH, but OU could be the right “Southern” school to get the ball rolling on this because it has a name and maybe others will think it is possible if OU can achieve success.

-Utah: How hockey isn’t in Salt Lake is a mystery to me because that seems like the prime place for hockey to survive. SLC has the feel and look of a hockey town. Make whatever jokes you want about SLC, but know this. They support a team, pro or college. I lived out there for a month and whether its Utah, BYU or the Jazz, they’re adamant about it. They’d have to build a rink, which could get costly, but hockey for Utah could do wonders for the school trying to build its national image.

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this and what you think would be a good choice for college hockey. This should be a good one.

16 thoughts on “The Question…

  1. This topic should get a ton of different responses and ideas!
    Indiana & Illinois- First of all I think you take a look at current ACHA and scrolling through the list of teams, Big Ten members Indiana and Illinois jump out, perfect fit for new Big Ten conference that is supposed to be formed, however, they are also HUGE basketball schools. If its feasible, why not, the allure of their own Network broadcasting games might be worth it.

    Wayne State= Field a women’s Ice Hockey team in the CHA. A program that never should have never been lost!

    -A west coast movement! I would love to see U of Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Washington State, hell even some of the Cali schools. I think its a matter of time before hockey in California warrants a University program out there.

    Ryan I think you are onto something with the OU program but where do they go conference wise? If you add OU do you add an Iowa State to the mix?
    Its all a big dream but it only takes 1 booster with a huge financial backing and they could be on the competitive path in under 5 years.

  2. When you were in SLC, did you ignore the Grizzlies? Probably, because they don’t draw well. They are below ECHL average attendance, one reason they dropped out of the AHL. Utah surely is NOT a hockey state. Wrestling? Yes. Soccer? Of course. Hockey? lol no.

    A Pac-10 conference would be great, the SJSU club team is a HUGE draw on campus/in town. The Oregon Knights would be a great addition, as well as a team in Seattle.

    • I was there late 2004-early 2005 and they arrived the following season. SLC, I think, could do better than them. No offense to that franchise, but college hockey would really carve its way there.

        • OK. I looked at another page that says the Grizz started in 05-06. I’ll just say this. I don’t remember them being there or even hearing that much about them from people like my ex who lives out there who knew I was a hockey nut. You’re are right that soccer and football are big there but I still think hockey can work, it just has to be marketed in the right way, which I think is possible. Though I will say how much it surprised me to see soccer take over that town. Very shocking. I take it you are from Utah or SLC?

          • Nope. Massachusetts actually. I just have a lot of contacts with former players(I have deep ties to the Springfield Falcons franchise, who was an affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotoes, who moved their affiliation to Utah, so I kept up with a number of the players) of the Grizzlies both when they were in the AHL and now in the ECHL. Attendance was terrible in that town every year. I also know from friends from college who lived in Utah, that Utah is a soccer state first and foremost. Hockey doesn’t draw in a very “pacifist” state.

  3. Why doesn’t North Dakota State startup a D1 hockey program and join the WCHA if Michigan/Minnesota drop out? Isn’t a local team in the town you live in the most glaring omission?

    • You make a point, but its not the most glaring omission and here’s why. NDSU faces the challenge of having UND, an established program 70 miles up the road. UM isn’t far away either. That and UND has established itself in such a way that it would make NDSU’s potential program really hard to create. There would be those automatic expectations of competing with UND and after so long, the fanbase would lose patience. NDSU isn’t like UMD, Bemidji or Mankato where it has a staked out territory. UND owns this state and even though NDSU has been better lately, more dollars, I feel, flock to UND. This is an extremely valid question to ask and I asked it when I got here. These points are the points others have made to me that have been reinforced since I’ve been here. That and with the Force along with Moorhead High being the big draws, what else do you have left when these people are all in Grand Forks, Moorhead or Scheels Arena on a Friday/Saturday? Not much.

      • WIth Gene Taylor at the helm with NDSU athletics, it will never happen. He is a southern guy who has been at schools with a basketball/football background and he insists hockey cannot make enough money to support itself. MSUM has a better shot at D1 hockey than NDSU, because they want it.

  4. I have very little knowledge of the areas that have been suggested regarding expansion of hockey outside of this area. The places I have lived as an adult all had hockey of some level beyond high school. However in regards to adding WCHA hockey at NDSU, I do not think it would fly. I look at the lack of coverage and interest that hockey gets in this town short of Moorhead High and it is pathetic. Be it TV or print. These media outlets do a poor job of covering it and have for years.

    I remember when I first moved to Fargo in the 80′s a friend took me to a NDSU club hockey game. They went on to compete in the national club hockey tourney and do very well. Yet nothing in the paper, but we have big write ups and tv spots about local beer league softball teams competing at national events.

    Concordia has a hockey team, how much local coverage does that get as well. The point I make is this a result of media bias or is it the reality that this market is driven by football and basketball as its point of interest. I have been a passionate hockey fan for well over 35 years. Never played nor do I ice skate. I was exposed by my brother at UND and became hooked.

    We may reach a point if the Fargo Force remain in town and continue to put a good product on the ice evolve in this area to be a place that would support hockey at the DI level. Right now we are far from being that community. Maybe we need a home grown boy to make a splash in the NHL to jump start it. Moorhead loves its home grown boys like Matt Cullen, but for now the rest of us will have to live through UND.

    • I just moved to this town and what I can say in terms of exposure for the sport in Fargo is, the Force are practically useless. Their staff is absolutely clueless in terms of reaching out to the community, advertising both internally and externally, their promotions staff just doesn’t do enough to drum up interest for the sport and team. I say this as someone who has worked in those fields in junior hockey previously. I know how small a junior hockey budget is, but they simply have no idea how to do extremely cheap(see: free) things well. They also have an attitude when approached that their “doodoo” doesn’t stink and they think they do everything right. I’ve offered my suggestions to members of the staff, including my time, yet they think they are great. Once the Force/Urban Plains Center(drrrr, Scheels Arena) get a new staff, then making hockey bigger in this town will happen. Honestly, I’m a hockey lifer. I’ve played, coached and worked in the Gameday operations at various levels(along with being a season ticket holder for AHL and QMJHL teams, going to countless games across the US and Canada) and honestly, the inept staff has made me NOT like going to hockey games. Something I honestly thought I would never say. The Force are a serious crutch in terms of growing the sport with people here.

  5. Interesting that you mention OU as a possibility. I think they are just waiting for the right time and I hear that their are alumni just chomping at the bits to get started. I also believe that if OU does this, that schools like the University of Texas, Texas A&M will follow. At least I hope so. These schools really support their teams. Also, what recruit would turn down a D1 offer to OU, UT or A&M, where the weather is mild, the college life is amazing and the education is great.

    • Hmm. Todd you sound like someone who might have something to gain from this. :) Just kidding. You’re right when it comes to the kind of expansion OU adding hockey could have. I know the Barons just started their first season there and I haven’t heard anything negative either. Austin has the facilities if UT started a team and A&M would have to build, which shouldn’t be a problem. It’d be interesting to see OU add hockey if it ever happens.

      • A little trivia in case you didn’t know. The state of Texas has the most professional hockey teams?

  6. What’s the status of Arizona State? I just saw them at UD for the ACHA tourney and, from what I’ve heard, it seems like they’re one of the most prominent ACHA clubs in terms of record and national recognition (up there with OU). Would this even be feasible for them? I would think the travel costs would be insane

    • If there were to be a PAC-10 conference, which certainly could happen but not for 10-15 years, I think hockey could hit a resurgence at all levels nation wide.