The Desert Hockey Classic, hosted this year by Arizona State University, will be the first NCAA DI hockey games in the state of Arizona since 1985. Arizona State recently began their first season as a Division I NCAA hockey program. This weekend is the first time an NCAA hockey tournament has ever been played in Arizona. The Sun Devils will host Yale, Connecticut and Michigan Tech in a two-day tournament at Gila River Arena, the current home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
This will be the first time that Arizona State will host Division I teams and along with that, this will also be the first time the other three teams have ever met in Arizona. Yale will be the only ranked team heading into the weekend, as they sit in the 12th position in the UCHO.com Rankings.
This will be the second time Arizona State plays in Gila River Arena. After the Sun Devil’s inclusion into Division I, it has gotten people thinking, will other Pac-12 teams follow suit?
Arizona State Hosts the Desert Hockey Classic: Who’s next for the NCAA?
In an article talking about the Sun Devil’s partnership with the Arizona Coyotes, ASU’s Vice President for University Athletics talked about other teams in the Pac-12 conference following in the Sun Devils’ footsteps.
“Our thinking is that over time, we’re going to shame some of the other Pac-12 schools into adding hockey,” Ray Anderson said. “I can’t name the institutions or athletic directors but I have already had two tell me that, given what we’ve done, they’ve already had donors approach them to say ‘how do we get involved in hockey?’
Could we see the Sun Devils join another conference next season once they begin to play more NCAA games? Odds are, it is going to be a while before another Pac-12 school gets a team. There are a few universities that could be the next teams to join the NCAA hockey ranks.
With the Big Ten already having its own hockey conference, it would be easier for school to start an NCAA team. Most, if not all teams already have an ACHA club team. Several rumors have said that the next team in the Big Ten to get a Division I hockey team could be Illinois. They already have a rink on campus for their ACHA teams and they are fairly close to Chicago, home of the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks.
Other school that could potentially get teams could be Nebraska, who just built a $179 million Pinnacle Bank Arena for their basketball team. The arena was rumored to be able to support ice but nothing has come of those rumors recently. Another team that could make the jump is the University of Maryland. They are so close to the Washington Capitals; they could potentially make a deal similar to the one that ASU has made with the Coyotes.
The potential for a Pac-12 hockey conference is obviously there as well with Arizona State starting their program, but it wouldn’t be for many years. Arizona State and Penn State, who also recently got a Division I team of their own, have paved the way for many teams to attempt to bring their club teams up to the NCAA ranks. Who wouldn’t love to see UCLA, USC, or even Oregon with NCAA hockey teams? It is a possibility but a small one at that, it remains to be seen what other teams do after seeing the success off the Sun Devils and Nittany Lions.
As for now, hockey and university sports fans can enjoy the Desert Hockey Classic at Gila River Arena.
Main Photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics via http://www.thesundevils.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=30300&ATCLID=210615492