The Husky men’s ice hockey team will become a member of the Hockey East Association in 2014-15, joining the nation’s elite college hockey league which has produced the NCAA Division I champion in four of the past five years.
UConn plans to play its home Hockey East conference games at the XL Center in downtown Hartford, longtime off-campus home of both the Husky men’s and women’s basketball teams, and will continue to play non-conference games in Storrs at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
A “Welcome to Hockey East” celebration and press conference will be held on Friday, June 29, at noon in the atrium of the XL Center in Hartford. The event is free, open to the public, and will include an autograph session with Hartford Whaler Todd Krygier and members of the UConn men’s ice hockey team.
Connecticut’s membership in the men’s league will put the conference at 12 teams for the 2014-15 season, including: Boston College, Boston University, Maine, Merrimack, UMass-Lowell, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Notre Dame (beginning in 2013-14), Providence, and Vermont. The Huskies will continue to compete in the Atlantic Hockey Conference for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
UConn’s women’s ice hockey team has been a member of the women’s division of the conference since 2002.
“This is a historic day in the history of the University of Connecticut and its Division of Athletics,” said Warde Manuel, UConn’s director of athletics. “Hockey East is the premier men’s ice hockey conference in the country and we are proud to say that the Huskies are now part of it. I would like to thank Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna and the athletic directors at the institutions that comprise Hockey East for providing us this special opportunity. We are committed to developing a men’s ice hockey program that can and will perform successfully on the national level, and compete for Hockey East and NCAA championships. I would also like to recognize Commissioner Robert DeGregorio and our fellow Atlantic Hockey institutions for their support during this decision-making process.”
The Hockey East Association was founded in 1984, and league teams have won eight NCAA championships in the past 20 years. Hockey East teams have made 37 appearances in the Frozen Four, and 21 appearances in national championship games in the 28-year history of the league. Since 1999, Hockey East has won six NCAA Championships and has placed 20 teams in the Frozen Four, along with 53 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Thirty-two Hockey East alums have won the Stanley Cup with their respective NHL teams.
“This is one of the most historic and significant days in the history of our conference,” said Bertagna. “We have enjoyed a terrific relationship with the University of Connecticut for more than a decade through our involvement with its women’s hockey program. Today we start a new chapter in this relationship and we couldn’t be more pleased.
“Warde Manuel and his staff did a commendable job in preparing for this moment and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the role played by the state’s biggest hockey fan, Gov. Dan Malloy. Our directors have always said that we would welcome growth through any institution that brings value to our conference. No other school was better positioned to do this than the University of Connecticut.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, “The state of Connecticut is very excited that UConn is joining Hockey East and will be bringing the passion of college hockey to downtown Hartford. I have been a longtime fan of college hockey, and believe that this is an incredible opportunity for the University. It is also a great opportunity to bring more top-flight events to the XL Center and further enhance the quality of life in downtown Hartford.”
Chuck Steedman, senior vice president and general manager of AEG Management CT/XL Center, said, “We are thrilled with the University of Connecticut’s decision to join Hockey East. AEG is extremely excited about the opportunity to play host to UConn Hockey at the XL Center, and will support UConn’s program in a variety of areas.
“We commend the forward-thinking vision of both the University of Connecticut and Governor Malloy,” Steedman added, “as Hockey East represents a major win for the state of Connecticut and the capital region will see the direct impact of these games being played downtown.”
“I think it’s great for UConn, and as an alumnus I’m excited,” said Dave Ogrean ’74 (CLAS), executive director of USA Hockey. “I’m pleased to see a major university like Connecticut step up and make a statement about the value of hockey in the move up to the very highest level of competition in college hockey. When you see the move up they made in football 10 years ago, I expect they will be able to compete very successfully within Hockey East.”
Connecticut currently does not offer athletic scholarships in men’s ice hockey, but plans to elevate to the NCAA maximum of 18 scholarships as a participant in Hockey East. UConn will also add additional athletic scholarships to women’s sports, to ensure compliance with gender equity regulations.
UConn joins an elite group of seven other schools that compete on the national level as a member of the BCS Conference in football and play college basketball and college hockey in a national elite conference. Those other schools, with their future conference hockey affiliation, are: Boston College (Hockey East), Michigan (Big Ten), Michigan State (Big Ten), Minnesota (Big Ten), Notre Dame (Hockey East), Ohio State (Big Ten) and Wisconsin (Big Ten).
“It is a very exciting time to be part of the University of Connecticut, and the joining of Hockey East is a reflection of the continuing efforts to advance our great university,” said President Susan Herbst. “UConn is one of the top 20 public research institutions in the country, and our athletic prowess has been a terrific part of our overall success. I would like to thank Governor Malloy for his support of our membership in Hockey East. I am also extraordinarily grateful to the leadership of Hockey East, and to the university presidents of the league. We are honored to stand alongside such excellent institutions, and look forward to meeting them on the ice.”
UConn first fielded a varsity men’s hockey team in 1960-61, and elevated its program to Division I status in 1998-99 as a founding member of both the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and Atlantic Hockey in 2003-04.
“The entire UConn men’s ice hockey family is very excited about this announcement,” said UConn head coach Bruce Marshall ’85 (ED), a former men’s ice hockey student-athlete. He has been the head coach of the program since 1988, and is the winningest coach in program history as he enters his 25th season in 2012-13. “We are very grateful to the administration of the University and to the entire state for bringing Connecticut into Hockey East. From our current student-athletes to our dedicated hockey alumni base, there is great anticipation about this move. I believe that there is a strong appetite for this level of college hockey here in Connecticut, and that Husky fans will embrace our entry in Hockey East.”
The “Welcome To Hockey East” celebration and press conference in the atrium of the XL Center in Hartford will include Gov. Dannel Malloy, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, UConn President Susan Herbst, UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel, Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, XL Center senior vice president and general manager Chuck Steedman, former UConn All-American ice hockey player and Hartford Whaler Todd Krygier, and UConn head coach Bruce Marshall.
The event is free and open to the general public. Youth hockey groups are encouraged to attend and wear their team jerseys, and members of the public who work in downtown Hartford are invited to spend their lunch hour at the celebration. The UConn pep band and cheerleaders will be in attendance, in addition to the Husky mascot.
Krygier and current UConn ice hockey players will be available for autographs following the event.