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Oakland University Exploring D-I Hockey Through NHL’s Feasibility Study

Oakland University, located in Detroit, has joined the NHL’s feasibility study for adding a Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey program. An announcement was made Monday at Detroit’s new Little Caesar’s Arena, and was attended by College Hockey Inc.’s Executive Director Mike Snee, among others.

The feasibility study was announced at the NHL Draft in Chicago last June. The first school to join the study was the University of Illiois. Three others will be added later. The study is being funded by the NHL and NHLPA.

“Oakland would be an exciting addition to the college hockey landscape,” said College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee. “The state of Michigan has proven to be a thriving environment for men’s college hockey, and there is a distinct need for a Division I women’s program in the state. We are confident that NCAA hockey would thrive at Oakland and look forward to the results of the feasibility study.”

“The feasibility study project is working exactly as we hoped it would, attracting interest from schools around the country,” Snee said. “Oakland contacted us in the days following that initial announcement and we are excited to work with them as they explore this possibility.”

The immediate Detroit area has been without a D-I team since Wayne State folded in 2008 after nine seasons.

The usual hurdles remain, of course: funding for scholarshsips and a new arena.

“I think it makes a lot of sense on a number of different levels,” Oakland athletic director Jeff Konya said. “At the same time, it has to make sense for the university.

“All those questions have to line up in a positive way. And hopefully, it will make sense to move forward with this process.”

The feasibility study is expected to be completed in the next few months. For any school that’s interested, the bottom line usually comes down to raising enough money to fund the program.

The state of Michigan doesn’t have any D-I women’s programs since Wayne State folded. There are seven men’s D-I programs, including Michigan, Michigan State, Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Westen Michigan and Lake Superior State. Combined, they play in three different conferences since the CCHA broke up.

“There’s still a couple hurdles to overcome,” Princeton alumnus Kevin Westgarth told the Detroit News. Westgarth played in the NHL after leaving Princeton, and is now the NHL’s vice president of business development and international affairs. “Finding funding for expensive programs is huge. But with the amount of passionate hockey people at Oakland, people in Michigan, hockey people, we think this has a very high probability of happening.”

Mike McMahon is in his 12th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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