UConn is on the radar
STORRS, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut and Hockey East are in serious talks that could lead to an invitation next month for the Huskies' men's team to join the region's top hockey conference.
The 10-member league, which is in the process of adding Notre Dame for 2013, has been looking for a 12th member to ease scheduling problems.
Commissioner Joe Bertagna told The Associated Press Tuesday that UConn has become the target of that search, and a decision could come during a meeting of member schools in June.
"Our attention is pretty focused on the University of Connecticut," Bertagna said. "There are other institutions that have had casual conversations. But I think it would be disingenuous to suggest that there is someone else, that our conversations are this far along."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy confirmed in March that he has been involved in the meetings with the conference along with officials from the XL Center, a likely venue for the games.
UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel said the two sides met again last week.
The move would involve a significant upgrade of the Connecticut's hockey program, which currently plays in the Atlantic Hockey Confe rence, does not offer scholarships and has a home rink that seats fewer than 2,000 fans on metal bleachers.
"The window is small," Manuel said. "It is a great opportunity should it be offered to us to move into the strongest hockey league in the country."
Manuel said the school would have to initially move games from the on-campus Freitas Ice Forum to the XL Center in Hartford, where UConn plays many of its home basketball games.
Chuck Steedman, the XL Center's general manager, said the arena would have very little trouble accommodating UConn hockey as an anchor tenant alongside The AHL's Connecticut Whale and UConn basketball.
"We think that if they elevate their program and play at the level of Hockey East ... they would be a great addition to the XL Center," he said.
A study commissioned by the school and released last month put the cost of upgrading the program at about $1.3 million just in scholarships, and almost $11 million to renovate the on-campus rink. It would also cost the program about $20,000 a game to play at the XL Center, according to the report by consultant Stafford Sports.
UConn would need to add 18 scholarships for the hockey team and spokesman Mike Enright said the school also would add scholarships to existing women's programs, likely rowing and tennis, to meet federal gender equity requirements. The UConn women's hockey program already plays in Hockey East.
Men's coach Bruce Marshal said he's excited about the possibility, and believes any logistical concerns can be overcome.
"Most of our programs on campus play in that type of a high-profile league, and we'd like to be on the same playing field as that," he said. "They probably were worried about logistics when football was being upgraded, too. We've got to find a way to make this happen. When the door opens, you sometimes have to go through the door."
A move also would give the state three high-profile college hockey programs. Quinnipiac and Yale currently play in the ECAC.
Hockey East was founded in 1983 and its members have won eight NCAA championships, including four in the past five years. Current members include current national champion Boston College, Boston University, Maine, UMass, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont.