By Ben Goldberger —
In August 2018, Barstool Sports rated the University of Louisville number two on a list of colleges that should have a Division I hockey team. The Cards are three-time champions of the Tri-State Collegiate Hockey League, a Division II sub-league of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
There are a few obstacles before U of L could add hockey to their 21 Division I sports teams, one being that it is virtually impossible to become a D1 program without having facilities on campus. Louisville head coach Brian Graham sat down for a meeting with U of L officials about the possibility of building a hockey rink on campus after Barstool released the article.
According to the Courier-Journal, this started the process. They were able to interview Graham after the meeting.
“It was a feeling-out, very preliminary,” Graham told the Courier-Journal. “We are hoping we have more conversations. They need more details from us and we need more details from them.”
One possible solution for the lack of proper facilities would be adding a sheet of ice to the KFC Yum! Center. Many professional stadiums host both basketball and hockey teams during the same season, proving that this is extremely attainable. Some universities also do this, such as the University of Connecticut. Their basketball games are hosted at the XL Center in downtown Hartford, which also hosts the men’s hockey team and a minor league hockey team. If a smaller, older arena can repeatedly switch between a basketball floor and an ice sheet, we can definitely do this in the relatively new Yum! Center.
This solution is also extremely cost-effective. The University of Connecticut announced last year they were building a brand new ice arena on campus, and it will cost them $45 million dollars. Instead of building a new arena on campus, U of L could just build a sheet of ice that stays under the basketball floor until needed for a hockey game, saving the university millions of dollars.
Not only would this be cheaper than building an entirely new facility from scratch, having a state of the art facility such as the Yum! Center would make the NCAA more likely to grant the team Division 1 status. Students will also be more eager to go to the games when they are held in that large of a venue, rather than a small rink 20 minutes away from campus. These would both lead to a larger student turnout, leading to larger revenue for the university.
On top of creating a home for the current men’s team, it opens up the possibility of having a women’s hockey team as well. This would attract even more prospective students to the university, expanding the diversity of the student population.
The expansion of the Yum! Center to include a sheet of ice would also attract a professional franchise to the city. There have been multiple minor league teams that have had 3-4 year stunts here in the Ville, but none have been here to stay. From 1990-1998, the city hosted two East Coast Hockey League teams: The Louisville Ice Hawks (90-94) and The Louisville River Frogs (94-98). Even though both teams moved to other franchises, they both had a large impact on the people of Louisville.
“I wasn’t the greatest hockey fan. But I will always remember the River Frogs,” Louisville Business First journalist Rick Redding wrote when the team had announced that they were changing locations. This team created a strong, diverse fan base that united the whole city.
With state of the art facilities already mostly built and a team that has shown success and extreme potential for even more, Cardinal Hockey is ready to take the ice as a Division 1 team.
Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal