UConn to Apply to Hockey East
CHN Staff Report
Hockey East officials are taking a site visit this week at the University of Connecticut, and are also expected to visit Hartford's XL Center. And Connecticut is ready to commit additional resources to hockey — both according to CHN sources.
Hockey East is exploring the possibility of adding a 12th team for the 2013-14 season. Notre Dame has already been accepted starting that season, leaving Hockey East with 11 for the time being. The league has expressed an interest in balancing out its membership with a 12th team if possible.
Connecticut is believed to be the first choice among a large majority of the conference's athletic directors. It is a natural fit because it is a state school in New England, a la Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Mass.-Lowell and Vermont. And Connecticut's women's program currently plays in Hockey East.
UConn does not currently meet Hockey East standards in two ways — its arena is too small, and it does not offer any athletic scholarships for hockey.
Sources indicate, however, 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.
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.
Last year, UConn hired the same consulting firm used by the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), to determine the school's capability for upgrading the program.
Last month, UConn hired a new athletic director, Warde Manual, who was, at one time, an associate athletic director at Michigan, overseeing hockey. Most recently, he was AD at Buffalo for the last five years. Buffalo, at one time last year, was exploring the possibility of starting a D-I varsity hockey program and joining some Atlantic Hockey schools in a new-look CCHA. But that idea could not come to fruition in time to satisfy some schools eager to secure a new conference, and the plan never materialized.