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CHN: UConn will apply to Hockey East

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According to a report by College Hockey News, Hockey East officials are taking a site visit today at the University of Connecticut and are also expected to visit XL Center in Hartford.

Hockey East adding Notre Dame to begin with the 2013-14 season. Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna expressed in the past that the league’s preference would be, if Notre Dame joined, to extend to 12 teams.

UConn currently does not meet two of Hockey East’s standards. First, it’s current arena is too small and second, it does not offer scholarships for hockey.

Sources tell CHN that UConn officials are committed to upgrading the program, with details still to be worked out, and will soon formally apply to Hockey East. The main sticking point is over where will the Huskies play.

CHN also reports that UConn officials would prefer to build a new on-campus arena, even though the current home, Freitas Arena, was just built in 1998. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Molly, who is considered to be a huge hockey fan, would prefer the team plays at Hartford’s XL Center — former home of the Hartford Whalers — which is 26 miles from UConn’s Storrs campus.

About Mike McMahon

9 Comments

  1. troublemaker

    March 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    A history lesson.

    Q= What happened when UMass-Lowell (then called U of Lowell) moved into a brand-spankin’ new arena, owned by the city of Lowell, but virtually on their campus — but shared the building with an AHL team?

    A = Attendance dropped so dismally low for the college team, and the AHL team had trouble hanging on to an affiliation, and eventually also lost most of their fan support, and they effectively almost killed each other off.

    The city had to give the arena away to the University, which then informed the AHL team that they could no longer bleed cash through a low-rent sweetheart deal. The AHL team packed and left. Franchises in that league move at the drop of a hat. Finally, U Mass-Lowell became a contender, and as the only game in town — now have adequate fan support. They’ve even had sellouts in a 7,000 seat building.

    The whole twist of this history lesson is that an AHL team, and a college hockey team, might not co-exist well in the same building. Now, the college campus is 20+ miles from the “shared” arena, and no doubt the AHL team will get a preference on dates in the building. That’s even worse. Not too many students will venture down there on a weekend night for a hockey game. Let alone a weekend night, if that has to be done.

    So – not a good idea to play in Hartford. Oh yeah, did I mention, downtown Hartford ain’t a warm and fuzzy place to go at night? Just sayin’. It isn’t North Andover, or Durham, or Chestnut Hill, or Lowell, or Amherst, or Comm Ave in Brighton, folks. Note that the NCAA has opted to hold its regionals in Bridgeport, and not Hartford.

    If UConn is admitted as a conference team, there will be a reduced conference schedule. 11 conference dates in each arena. One will be Notre Dame, another Boston College, and another one Boston University. Make sure those games are on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when the Connecticut Fightin’ Icepalookas (or whatever the Hartford AHL team will be named in 2013) aren’t playing and move those to Hartford for big paydays. Keep the other games on campus. They’re going to fill out the schedule with schools like Quinnipiac, Rhode Island, RIT, Yale, and so forth. College hockey generally belongs on a college campus.

    They’re not going to draw over 2,200 for those other games anyway, and work on expanding Frietas Arena or building a new one soon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if their entry to HE was conditional on getting a new facility going on-campus that will seat over 4,000. That will facilitate some neat regional rivalries – UMass vs UConn, Providence vs UConn.

    Welcome to Hockey East, UConn! But stay out of Hartford — for the most part, and build an on-campus rink — and make sure it’s not another Lawler Arena.

  2. salvuccim

    March 28, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Don’t move any of the games to Hartford. Build a nice arena on campus and play 100% of your games there and foster a sense of community around your hockey team. If you can build a nice little 3-4K seat arena there is no reason to play any of your games 25 miles away from campus.

  3. Mike McMahon

    March 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    I agree, a rink on campus is better. But, if you’re the state, do you spend $30-40 million on a really nice 3-4,000 seat rink on the UConn campus? Or, do you just play at XL? … I agree that playing on campus is a better long-term solution, but I certainly understand where the governor is coming from.

  4. rethcir

    March 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Troublemaker, are you suggesting Lowell is a warm and fuzzy place at night?

  5. troublemaker

    March 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    reithcir – where Tsongas Arena is, and compared to where the XL Center is, most definitely.

    Yes. I am not suggesting it, I’m stating it. Certainly Lowell has its less desirable areas, but the area around the Tsongas is not one of those areas. Boston, too, has its bad areas, but the area around BU? Chestnut Hill and BC? Darn safe and friendly. And yes, Merrimack and its North Andover campus are safe.

    Ever been to downtown Hartford at night, near the XL Center? OK?

    Perhaps an improvement could be made to Frietas — an expansion? Or, does a 4,000 seat rink HAVE to cost $30 million? If you can’t afford a Hockey East facility, then perhaps you don’t belong in Hockey East. Even Lawler is suitable – not great, but it gets by, with what, 2,400???

  6. Mike McMahon

    March 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Not saying it has to cost $30 million, but I think QU spent about $40mil on theirs, didn’t they? Somewhere around there. The systems for the ice along cost between $1-2 million. Not sure they could get funding together, and get a building built by 2013. Sounds unreasonable to me. Maybe Xl for a year or two until a campus building is ready?

    But if the Governor wants them to play at XL, my guess is that’s where they’ll be.

  7. Chief Wahoo

    March 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Doesn’t HEA require a minimum capacity of 5000 for new members?

  8. salvuccim

    March 29, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Short term the XL is certainly a solution. I was merely objecting to the idea of building an on campus arena and then still playing big games at the XL…that to me makes no sense.

    Trouble…have you been to Frietas? It’s a tin shed with 3 rows of bleachers…I don’t think much expansion is happening there.

    As for the Hockey East requirement I’m not sure but 5K seems overkill to me (whether it is the requirement or isn’t). What’s the average attendance at BC and BU? It can’t be much over 5K and they’re the league’s premiere teams in a large market area–Boston. So to require smaller teams in the middle of nowhere to have capacity for 5K just seems like wasted space to me.

  9. troublemaker

    March 29, 2012 at 7:57 am

    No, I haven’t been to Frietas, but its capacity is listed at around 2,000. Not much smaller than Lawler. Remember, three years ago, Lawler was regarded as somewhat of an oddity within Hockey East. Even with its improvements of late, there have been criticisms that it’s too small, and and still has a “neighborhood rink” atmosphere. That’s good in one sense, for its “homeyness”; bad in another, if you’re one of those fans sitting in the first three rows.

    A 5k requirement is not too small. The average attendance at BC or BU may not be much over 5,000 — but when BC does play BU — they fill the place up. 8,000 or more. They draw substantial crowds for several other visiting teams. And college hockey is expected to grow in the next few years, especially with NBC’s sports channel providing coverage. Notre Dame is coming to an arena near you in 2013.

    The Hartford Courant reports that a top priority for UConn is building a new basketball arena. They’re in a 10k+ facility now, and have two of the nation’s top hoops programs. This might be the opportunity for them to build a new MULTI-PURPOSE facility — such things exist at Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, UMass-Lowell, UMass-Amherst, and so on … entry to Hockey East could be UConn’s way of getting the funding for that.

    In fact, I found it rather screwball that Merrimack is building a second ice rink; I’d think they’d want to replace Lawler, or expand it.

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