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Inside the Frozen Four

by Hannah Maier / Washington Capitals
The 2009 Men's Frozen Four is coming to Washington D.C. April 9-11 at the Verizon Center, marking the first time that a NCAA national championship will be awarded in the city. The tournament is the third largest NCAA championship event -- just behind men's basketball and men's lacrosse.

The main group responsible for bringing this prestigious event to the District of Colombia is the Greater Washington Sports Alliance (GWSA), a non-profit organization that serves as the regional sports commission for the Washington area.

Robert Sweeney, president of the GWSA, states, "We really try to connect the professional franchises, the business community, and the non-profit sectors together ... to support major sporting events, and to attract major sporting events."

In addition to the GWSA, the Washington Capitals also played a pivotal role in winning the bid. As Sweeney iterates, "If you are a professional hockey fan, then more than likely you are a college hockey fan. You're a hockey fan through and through."

Not to mention, the Capitals' vice president and general manager George McPhee played at Bowling Green State University (CCHA) from 1978-82. The four-year letterman was a recipient of the 1982 Hobey Baker Memorial Award -- college hockey's highest individual honor.

So, after much planning and preparation, the GWSA and the Capitals -- along with the Verizon Center, Destination D.C., and the United States Naval Academy -- went to Indianapolis to appear in front of the Frozen Four selection committee and bid on the tournament.

However, many doubted that D.C. would actually receive the opportunity to host the event. Don Fishman, assistant general manager and director of legal affairs for the Caps, described D.C. as an "underdog" in the bid for the Frozen Four, due to the fact that many people unfortunately view the area as a "non-traditional hockey market."

But Fishman points out that youth hockey in the greater D.C. area is on the rise, and that many of the children involved in these programs have the potential to play in college.

Peter Robinson, the Caps' amateur hockey and fan development coordinator, adds that there are over 25 ice rinks within an hour of the nation's capital, and that, "Each rink has multiple club teams playing out of it, so it’s a large, well-established youth market."

In spite of the worries, Washington came out on top.

There were 14 city bids submitted for the 2009-2011 tournaments, and D.C. was selected as one of the six finalists. From there, the field was narrowed once again, and Washington was chosen as one of four host cities (the other winners were Detroit, Mich., 2010; St. Paul, Minn., 2011; and Tampa, Fla., 2012).

Aside from the countless hours spent preparing material to impress the selection committee, Sweeney largely credits the city of Washington itself for the fortunate outcome. He says the monuments, museums, and other "national treasures" in the city appealed to the committee as free and fun activities that visitors could enjoy on the off-days of the tournament.

Soon after D.C. was announced as the 2009 host city, planning for the actual event began to commence. Although the tournament isn't until April, Sweeney says they are already making sure "the fan experience is front and center."

The groups involved in the event preparation (the same organizations that were responsible for winning the bid) are currently deciding on the non-hockey activities that will take place. Sweeney says, "It's not settled, but we've been talking about having a roller hockey competition over by the Verizon Center on the street."

There is also talk of a special tribute to Black Ice by George and Darril Fosty, a book that highlights African-American participation in hockey. This topic is especially pertinent in D.C., due to the fact that, "The Capitals have had more African-American players than any other franchise. They've had eight," notes Sweeney.

He also adds that Kettler Capitals Iceplex will play a role in the event, "There is a whole slew of activities that we are planning to have at Kettler ... everything from family fun activities to on-ice youth participation.

"We want to show the world that Kettler exists, use the facility to showcase the sport of hockey to the NCAA, and to prove that we can host this event in a great kind of way."

photo courtesy of the University of Michigan/Ryan McKee
It is also important to note that even those without tickets can participate in the non-hockey activities at Kettler and the Verizon Center, such as “Friday Night at the Frozen Four,” college hockey’s all-star skills competition.

Speaking of tickets, many may be wondering how to purchase them. Well unfortunately, due to the popularity of this NCAA national championship, Frozen Four tickets are already sold out.

However, there is one last gleam of hope out there. Jim Van Stone, the Caps' vice president of ticket sales, states, "Through the support of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance and the local organizing committee, we have been able to secure tickets for a special season ticket holder lottery, giving those applicable the opportunity to purchase tickets to this incredible event."

Van Stone goes on to say, "We expect to announce details of the lottery in the fall. Fans that renewed their Caps season tickets by our March 21st deadline will be automatically entered."

So, although tickets to the event are limited, non-ticket holders can still enjoy the off-ice activities that surround this event. That means everyone in the area has the opportunity to be a part of one of the most exciting and renowned events in college sports and celebrate the fact that a NCAA national championship will finally be held in the nation's capital.

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