The Big Ten Hockey Conference needs an eighth team and there’s a chance they have one. According to a 247sports.com article, University of Illinois Athletic Director, Josh Whitman said that he hopes to green-light a program by the end of the calendar year. If the Illini added men’s hockey that would give the Big Ten the eight teams.
That would also put the UND to the Big Team to bed for good. Like I’ve said in the past, it’s not happening.
Here are a few comments that caught my attention.
Whitman said he is “increasingly confident” that Illinois has a feasible funding project and that he has received several “seven-figure” commitments for a downtown Champaign arena project that could cost $50-60 million. Whitman said a funding model includes private donations, corporate dollars, retail dollars, concession dollars and developer dollars.
I am all for growing the game of college hockey.
“I’m increasingly confident in what this could like and our chances of making this a reality,” Whitman said. “There does seem to be growing interest. Everywhere I go, I’m asked about it. It seems like a lot of the parties that need to be a part of this project are starting to line up. The opportunity exists for us to get this thing done.”
College hockey is expensive and most schools don’t just have 50-100 million lying around. It takes big donors like Terry Pegula and Ralph Engelstad. Also, having a viable arena option is another hurdle to over come.
Whitman said a program would likely take two to three years to start after greenlighting, but hockey would give Illinois another potential revenue-generating program in a conference that has been growingly successful in hockey.
I am sure that fans of the NCHC will find this comment entertaining.
“We can be great at hockey,” Whitman said. “The Big Ten has become a powerhouse at hockey. …The chance to fill that void. The chance to bring our fans together more frequently and to celebrate something to be behind is just a great opportunity for us. We’re excited and grateful for the traction that that project continues to gain.”