Communications Professional

Hockey Story

Hock­ey Story
by: Hen­ry Wyard
Newswrit­ing 2

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Connecticut’s Men’s Hock­ey team moved to the Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion for the 2014–2015 sea­son. This move from the Atlantic Hock­ey Con­fer­ence push­es UConn hock­ey into an unprece­dent­ed posi­tion of dom­i­nance, accord­ing to a state­ment made by then ath­let­ic direc­tor Warde Manuel. The Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion is the pre­mier con­fer­ence in Amer­i­ca, fea­tur­ing a nation­al best 8 NCAA cham­pi­onships in the past 20 years.

    The Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion hosts some of the lead­ing hock­ey pro­grams in the coun­try, high­light­ed by peren­ni­al pow­ers Boston Col­lege, Boston Uni­ver­si­ty, and Notre Dame, among oth­ers. UConn is the 12thth team to enter the Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion fol­low­ing the admit­tance of Notre Dame in 2011 and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont in 2005.

    Top lev­el hock­ey is a rel­a­tive­ly new con­cept at UConn, with the pro­gram only ele­vat­ing to Divi­sion 1 sta­tus pri­or to the start of the 1998–1999 sea­son when it first played its games in the Metro Atlantic Ath­let­ic Con­fer­ence.  It remained part of the Metro Atlantic Ath­let­ic Con­fer­ence up until join­ing the Atlantic Hock­ey Con­fer­ence in 2004, where it had remained until last sea­son, when at last UConn was admit­ted into the Hock­ey East Association. 

    Pri­or to the move to the Hock­ey East, UConn did not award any schol­ar­ships for poten­tial ath­letes to play for the uni­ver­si­ty. Fol­low­ing its admit­tance into the Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion, UConn will now be able to offer 18 full ath­let­ic schol­ar­ships, the max­i­mum num­ber allowed under cur­rent NCAA regulations. 

    With a greater empha­sis put on the future of hock­ey at UConn, the improve­ment of the cur­rent facil­i­ties for the team becomes a viable ques­tion. Pri­or to the 2014–2015 sea­son, the hock­ey team played all of its games at Mark Edward Fre­itas Ice Forum, an on-cam­pus facil­i­ty that has the capac­i­ty to seat around 2,000 peo­ple. With the school look­ing towards the future of UConn hock­ey, there are plans to com­ple­ment the com­mit­ment by upgrad­ing the cur­rent facilities.

    Though plans for improve­ment seem to be on the hori­zon, it is unclear to some UConn stu­dents and offi­cials exact­ly where and when these changes will be made. Senior Erik Boswell, a Mans­field Apart­ments res­i­dent, said that he was fair­ly cer­tain he knew where the new hock­ey facil­i­ties were going to be built.

    “I heard that in two years, they’re going to tear down the Mans­field Apart­ments and put up a new hock­ey rink,” Boswell said.

    The Mans­field Apart­ments are an under­grad­u­ate apart­ment option locat­ed on South Eagleville Road. Though the apart­ment com­plex is tech­ni­cal­ly off of the Storrs cam­pus, the land and apart­ments are owned by UConn and thus could be an option for the future loca­tion of new facilities.

    With the com­mit­ment towards the improved future of the hock­ey pro­gram at UConn, and the emer­gence of the new­ly-offered ath­let­ic schol­ar­ships, there will be a need to upgrade the facil­i­ties so that they keep pace with the antic­i­pat­ed growth of the fan base that is sure to come with the ris­ing suc­cess of the hock­ey team. Con­struct­ing a new hock­ey rink at the loca­tion of the cur­rent Mans­field Apart­ments would ensure that there are facil­i­ties that could sus­tain and com­ple­ment the growth of the program.

    Bri­an Gore, the Direc­tor of Project and Pro­gram Man­age­ment said that this belief is root­ed in some truth, but that it is unclear if this project will actu­al­ly be under­tak­en in the future.

    “[It is] cor­rect that the cur­rent Mas­ter Plan shows Hock­ey at the cur­rent loca­tion of the Mans­field Apart­ments by my under­stand­ing is that Hock­ey may remain at Fre­itas in an expand­ed facil­i­ty,” Gore said.

    The on-cam­pus facil­i­ty, Fre­itas Ice Forum, with a seat­ing capac­i­ty of 2,000, now hosts the hockey’s team non-con­fer­ence games. The hock­ey team cur­rent­ly plays its Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion games at the XL Cen­ter in Hart­ford, a change that came with the start of the 2014–2015 sea­son. While the facil­i­ties at the XL Cen­ter are cer­tain­ly ade­quate to sup­port a grow­ing hock­ey team, it is chal­leng­ing to devel­op a strong stu­dent fan base at UConn with the rink being a 30 to 40-minute dri­ve from the Storrs campus. 

    Besides the prob­lem of it being dif­fi­cult to cre­ate a strong stu­dent fan base with the major­i­ty of the impor­tant games being played at an off-cam­pus facil­i­ty, the facil­i­ty issue could also present a prob­lem when try­ing to attract poten­tial play­ers to the team.

    While the move to the Hock­ey East Asso­ci­a­tion means that UConn will begin to offer up to 18 ath­let­ic schol­ar­ships, it may be dif­fi­cult to lure top tal­ent to Storrs with­out pre­sent­ing state of the art facil­i­ties here on cam­pus. Again, this prob­lem has the pos­si­bil­i­ty of being resolved if it is indeed true that new facil­i­ties are to be con­struct­ed on the site of the Mans­field Apart­ments. How­ev­er, Direc­tor of Uni­ver­si­ty Plan­ning Bev­er­ly Wood said that this is not cur­rent­ly in the imme­di­ate plans for the university.

    “We have no imme­di­ate plans for con­struct­ing a new facil­i­ty any­where at the moment. The dis­cus­sions I have heard are cen­tered on a mod­est expan­sion of the Fre­itas rink. I don’t have the details, but I believe there are on-going dis­cus­sions with the Con­fer­ence offi­cials,” Wood said.

    As it stands, there are no plans in the fore­see­able future to under­go any con­struc­tion projects to cre­ate new facil­i­ties at UConn, despite what the Mas­ter Plan says. At the very least, this is like­ly to slow the rise of UConn hock­ey towards the lev­el of supe­ri­or­i­ty shared by some of the top uni­ver­si­ties in the Hock­ey East Association.

    With that being said, past hock­ey coach Bruce Mar­shall (1989–2013) said in a state­ment that he believes there is a strong appetite for this lev­el of col­lege play here in Con­necti­cut and that Husky fans will embrace the move.

Source List:

Erik Boswell: phone: 860–462-9361

Bev­er­ly Wood: phone: 860–486-4418

Bri­an Gore:  phone: 860–486-5759



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