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This Is Hockey Digest

Latest news, notes from NHL's Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs department

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to This Is Hockey digest. Hockey is more than a game. It doesn't just offer exercise and excitement, it teaches teamwork and perseverance, and builds character and humility. It celebrates diversity, promotes equality and helps connect families. In short, it is a community inspired by a sport.

These are our stories. This is Hockey.

 

 

June 2 

Capitals' Orpik trades hockey stick for paint roller in at Fort DuPont Ice Arena William Douglas 

WASHINGTON -- Brooks Orpik worked on a different type of blue line Saturday.

Instead of a hockey stick, the Washington Capitals defenseman had a roller in his hand and dutifully painted blue outlines in the parking lot of Washington's Fort Dupont Ice Arena as a member of a volunteer spring cleaning crew at the city's only indoor rink.

"It was really cool," Orpik said inside a hot rink that will have its ice back for the summer months in a few days. "There were 100 volunteers, which is amazing. It's obviously a big chunk of the day to give up, but there are a lot of people here with their kids and whatnot. It doesn't really feel like work when you're doing it for a project like this."

Orpik arrived at the spring cleaning clad in a black-and-gold Fort Dupont Ice Hockey club T-shirt, a nod to the rink's Hockey is for Everyone affiliated-program. It's the oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program in North America and was founded more than 40 years ago.

"Coming from Pittsburgh, I know after we won the [Stanley] Cup there in 2009, it really spurred a lot of the inner-city kids to take up hockey that wouldn't normally do it," Orpik said. "Hopefully, winning last year [in Washington] will get a lot more kids interested in hockey that probably weren't normally exposed to it. And having rinks like this is obviously crucial for that."

The nonprofit rink, which was built in 1976, is engaged in a fundraising effort for much-needed renovations. The Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena must raise $5 million for the renovations to bolster the District of Columbia government's commitment of $25 million for an expansion that would include a second ice sheet.

The NHL, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the Capitals, and Ted Leonsis, MSE's founder and chairman, each donated $100,000 with a goal of raising $500,000 toward the funds needed for the rink renovation. The Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation has also created a GoFundMe campaign to benefit the rink. 

"I know Ted Leonsis stepped up big; the NHL did as well," Orpik said. "It's an expensive sport to play in terms of ice time, facilities and equipment. But really, to grow the game, you've got to go into areas that can't normally afford it and obviously need help from people on the outside. In order to get the game to where people hope to get it, I think it's crucial for people to donate to programs like this."

Orpik said he first got involved with the Fort Dupont arena during the 2014-15 season when former Capitals forward Joel Ward invited him to join him on a visit to the rink in Washington's Southeast section.

"My first year here, Joel Ward brought me over here to do some on-ice stuff … it's just a lot of with the kids that we worked with," he said. "Anytime you can get over here, it's fun. And obviously in the offseason, we have a lot more down time and it's a lot easier for us."

The 38-year-old appeared in 53 games for Washington in 2018-19 and finished with nine points (two goals, seven assists). He scored two points (one goal, one assist) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Orpik can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. 

He said after the Capitals were eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference First Round that he would wait and decide whether he wants to play again next season. He declined to discuss his hockey future on Saturday. - William Douglas 

 

Feb. 22

Hyman embraces role of Maple Leafs' Hockey is for Everyone ambassador

TORONTO -- Zach Hyman did not have to think twice when the chance came to serve as the Toronto Maple Leafs' Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador.

"In society in general, there's been a big push for acceptance and I think for a lot of people it's just common sense," Hyman said. "I think it's catching up with everybody now and it's good that kids growing up nowadays are growing up with this (mindset) than maybe how things were in the past. It's definitely important for me to be an ambassador especially so young kids see (people like the Maple Leafs) getting behind this movement. It's a no-brainer for me."

The Maple Leafs will host their annual You Can Play Night on Monday against the Buffalo Sabres. The night will be dedicated to celebrating equality, respect, safety and inclusion for anyone who participates in sports, including LGBTQ participants. Members of the Toronto Gay Hockey association will be in attendance and public service announcements featuring Maple Leafs players will be aired in the arena and on social media channels, among other initiatives. 

After watching former Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers this past offseason, serve in the role as ambassador for the past several years, Hyman said it means a lot to him to help carry on the tradition.

"I saw JVR take on the role when I first came into the League and I thought it was great," Hyman said. "I saw it was important to be an ambassador and when he left there was an opportunity for me to step up. Hockey is for everyone, it does not matter what your sexual orientation is, what skin color you are, it does not matter, it's not restrictive, it's for everybody. That's important to me so it's great to be a part of the cause." 

 

Feb. 15

Ducks raise $250,000 on Dedication to Community Night 

The Anaheim Ducks raised $250,000 for 25 nonprofit organizations on a Dedication to Community Night during their game against the Boston Bruins at Honda Center on Friday.

The endeavor reflected the Ducks' charitable partnerships over their 25-year history in the NHL. The Anaheim Ducks Foundation distributed vouchers to fans in attendance who designated $25 in foundation funds to one of the nonprofit honorees. Vouchers were tallied throughout the game and nonprofits were granted a total donated by fans until the goal of $250,000 was reached.

The grant program will support some of the organizations that have played an integral role in the Ducks' community initiatives through the years.

"This special grant program allowed us to highlight the amazing charitable work that is being done every day, as well as celebrate the support of our fans," said Ducks director of community relations Wendy Arciero. "We are very proud to be associated with all of these terrific organizations."

Among the nonprofits that benefited from donations include the American Red Cross Orange County Chapter, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the United Heroes League.

 

Feb. 6

Cure Cancer Classic raises $45,000

The "Cure Cancer Classic" once again delivered for the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer initiative by raising $45,000 during its third annual rivalry game between the Commerce and Engineering Faculties at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada on Jan. 17. 

The game was organized by a group of Queen's commerce students to raise money for brain cancer research and honor The Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie, who died from brain cancer Oct. 17, 2017. Tragically Hip guitarist Paul Langlois and Tyler MacDonald, a 14-year-old survivor diagnosed with terminal and inoperable brain cancer at age 6, each dropped the ceremonial first puck.

It was the second of three Hockey Fights Cancer events with a third scheduled for March. An interfaculty tournament and awards banquet held in November raised $25,000 to bring their total to $70,000 so far this year. 

"I am so impressed by the commitment and dedication this year's Cure Cancer Classic committee has displayed," said Doug Kane, the Canadian Cancer Society's senior manager for the greater Kingston area. "We are very fortunate to have this group led by [co-chairmen] Matt Leger and Sean Fraser, and several other student groups at Queen's working with us to change cancer outcomes. Their passion is bigger than cancer."

For more than a century, the commerce and engineering faculties have had a rivalry at Queen's University all while supporting the cause. The Cure Cancer Classic is a student-run, non-profit organization at the Smith School of Business in Kingston that's raised more than $160,000 since the inaugural tournament 15 years ago.

"Over 4,200 passionate students attended to cheer for their respective faculty team," Kane said. "Although this rivalry extends back over 100 years, I am sure the energy and enthusiasm in 2019 was unsurpassed."

 

Predators hosting Pride Night

The Nashville Predators will hold Pride Night when they take on the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 6. Pride night is the first of many This Is Hockey events the Predators will hold this month. 

Here are all the details. 

 

Feb. 1 

Panthers hosting Pride Night against Predators 

The Florida Panthers will hold Pride Night on Friday when they Panthers host the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center at 7 p.m. ET. The fourth-annual pride event will welcome South Florida native Jazz Jennings for a ceremonial puck drop.

Star of "I Am Jazz" on TLC, Jennings is a LGBTQ+ activist, an American YouTuber, spokesmodel and television personality.

Select Panthers players will be using rainbow pride tape during warmups. All fans in attendance can stop by a resource fair at BB&T Center supporting LGBTQ+ organizations.

The South Florida Gay Men's Chorus will be singing the National Anthem and the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive Panthers Pride Night T-Shirt.

Click here for more details. 

Tweet from @FlaPanthers: Pride Night is almost here, and the first 10K fans at @thebbtcenter will get an exclusive Pride Shirt! Purchase tickets through this link to also get a meet-and-greet with @JazzJennings__ and an exclusive Pride Sweatband set �� https://t.co/AxFvwszNo1 pic.twitter.com/KK7TTEebSe

 

Jan. 24

Pure Hockey, Bauer team up to replace teen's equipment lost in California wildfire

Pure Hockey, the equipment provider that has 52 stores in the United States and supports the Learn to Play initiative developed by the NHL and NHL Players' Association, helped a young fan get back on his feet by donating a complete set of hockey equipment to replace what was lost in the California wildfire of 2018.

Marcus Colenzo is a 13-year-old roller hockey player from Paradise, California, three hours from San Jose, site of 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. He and his family lost everything during California's deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record. Colenzo's family reached out to Bauer, the equipment provider, to see if there were a warranty to replace what was lost. Bauer contacted Pure Hockey to arrange a fitting at the San Jose store Jan. 19. 

Colenzo was not only given new equipment, he and his family were surprised with tickets to the 2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) and the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"Bauer stepped up to the plate," store manager Cole Nicholson said. "We helped them out with that. The fact that he's even playing hockey in that area, where it's not a huge population, I know they don't have any options for ice. It was great to see the excitement back on his face. He took it a little lightheartedly. He'd say things like, 'I used to have this but it got burnt up.'"

A total of 8,527 fires burned an area of 1,893,913 acres in California from mid-July to August 2018, the largest amount recorded in a fire season according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"Obviously, it was a traumatic event, but the kid is back up on his feet and ready to get back out there," Nicholson said. "When we gave him those tickets the expression on his face was complete shock. He was speechless."

Pure Hockey's goal is to support the NHL and NHLPA efforts to introduce more families and kids to hockey and have the right gear in the right place at the right time to provide an ideal fitting experience to those new to the game. The partnership was launched March 21, 2018.

"We've been slowly building that relationship," Nicholson said. "It's cool to see little events like this popping up here and there. And now to be a part of the All-Star Game, it's a great experience to be a part of.

"You talk about jobs with intrinsic awards, and teachers being right on up there, this has been a position for me that I have been incredibly grateful. To be able to help out a kid in this situation and to keep him playing hockey, the greatest sport in the world, especially at his age … to put that back on his plate is incredibly rewarding."
 

Jan. 9 

She's4Sports event held at Hockey Hall of Fame 

Six diverse trailblazers from across hockey gathered at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Wednesday in the fifth annual She's4Sports event.

The initiative, which puts a spotlight on diversity in hockey, featured Kim Davis, NHL executive vice president, social Impact, growth initiatives & legislative affairs; Angela James, who became one of the first women and the first of color to be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008; Sarah Nurse, Olympic silver medalist with Team Canada and a member of the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women's Hockey League; Jessica Platt, who plays for Toronto of the CWHL; Christine Simpson, Reporter, NHL on Sportsnet and Jennifer Chefero, assistant coach with the Scarborough Wexford Raiders of the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League.

She's4Sports is the brainchild of Founder Ainka Jess, who wants to give women a larger voice in sports through her digital and events-based platform.

"I don't think a hockey panel like this has ever been put together in North America," Jess said. "Changing the culture in hockey will take time but I am optimistic that through events like these and the work that the women on the panel are doing in hockey, the sport can become more inclusive and equitable for women and girls."

One theme of the panel was the many barriers, including discrimination and not making a living wage, that women hockey players face. Nurse says she won't let any of that stop her from playing.

"There have been times when I've been questioned for being a girl, when people would look at my parents in the stands and see that my dad's black and my mom's white and say, 'Why are you playing hockey? Why aren't you playing basketball?' I've had to look past that and keep pushing through," said Nurse, who's cousin Darnell is a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers, "and think people don't expect me to do this and they don't expect that I can do this so, let me prove them wrong."

Although the NHL is working on implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, racism is still an issue. This week, Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban was made aware of Ty Cornett, a 13-year-old boy who was the target of racial abuse during games and sent him an encouraging video. Davis says racism is something the NHL is taking very seriously.

"I had a conversation with [NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman] and the Deputy Commissioner [Bill Daly] this morning about an action that I'm suggesting we take alongside USA Hockey and Hockey Canada to state in unequivocal terms that this is unacceptable, this is not the culture, this is not the character of our sport, this is not what the Declaration of Principles stands for. It is a priority for me and a priority for the Commissioner."

James added, "All we can do is educate and keep doing these things. We're not going to be able to reach everyone...but hopefully we can put a stop to it."

Growing new audiences and looking at diversity across the league internally is something the NHL is investing in. "We are launching and starting that," Davis said. "It's going to be focused on three pillars: Market place (externally), talent and people and development (mentoring programs and employee networking groups), so we can begin to engage different audiences."

She's4Sports is a Toronto-based digital and events platform that brings women together to have a larger voice in sports. The network represents a community of almost 3,000 and growing, passionate women and men who want to amplify and celebrate the contributions of women in sports.

 

Dec. 13

Outdoor rink, supported by IGF, opens in Winnipeg

A new state-of-the-art outdoor hockey rink funded in part by Investors Growth Fund, an initiative of the NHL and NHL Players' Association, opened at Camp Manitou in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

The opening supported the True North Youth Foundation's commitment to the continued growth of camp amenities and to developing and maintaining year-round programming. Its goal is to grow hockey by attracting new participants and providing new opportunities. The rink will facilitate those efforts with accessible ice time and new amenities.

Members of The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy representing Brooklands Elementary School were the first to skate on the ice.

"Collectively, we have something called the Industry Growth Fund and we allow teams to apply for seed capital in a variety of projects, generally focused on really trying to attract participation at the grassroots level," said Rob Knesaurek, vice president, industry growth initiatives for the NHL. "This was kind of an obvious for us. You see the kids out there today and attracting new audiences, which is part of our mandate. It just makes sense. The commitment from the [Jets] is reflective from the commitment from the NHLPA and the NHL.

"The commitment to the community from the Jets is, truly, second to none. Their outreach to a broader base of the community, to a variety of demographics, is truly second to none. This is just giving people in Winnipeg, who probably understand hockey and are immersed in it, an opportunity to get a chance to play it when they might not otherwise have access to play it."

The rink will primarily be used to accommodate practices for minor hockey teams from the academy, and for rental groups and schools that have booked other camp facilities. The systems used to build the rink and maintain the ice are similar to those used by the NHL to create outdoor rinks during the past decade, including the temporary rink built at Investor's Group Field in Winnipeg for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic. The boards and glass were once used by the Jets and Manitoba of the American Hockey League during games at Bell MTS Place.

"We supported, through the IGF, we helped the Jets with the artificial ice-making system, the roof, just basically being able to pull all of this together into the facility you see here today," said Rob Zepp, manager, special projects for the NHLPA. "We also supported the programming, not only here, but the programs they run in the community and throughout Manitoba."

The True North Youth Foundation is the charitable entity of True North Sports and Entertainment and the Jets that helps empower potential in youth by administering meaningful programs that enrich physical, social, mental and emotion aspects of a child's life.

"For us to have a facility with guaranteed ice for the kids is amazing, actually," said Dwayne Green, executive director of the True North Youth Foundation. "It just helps them to have something that makes them feel special and is their own."

 

Nov. 15

Pure Hockey perfect fit with NHL, NHLPA

The goal of Pure Hockey is simple: Support the NHL and NHL Players' Association in their efforts to introduce more families and kids to hockey.

The equipment provider that has 52 stores in the United States and supports the Learn to Play initiative developed by the NHL and NHLPA also has a clear commitment: Have the right gear in the right place at the right time to provide an ideal fitting experience to those new to the game.

The partnership between Pure Hockey, the NHL and NHLPA launched March 21 has been a great fit to date.

"From our perspective, I think we're really happy with how the program has gone so far," Pure Hockey co-director of marketing Matt Rosenthal said. "It's been great to work with the NHL and the NHLPA on a really important initiative like this and also to be able to help them out in areas of expertise for us, like equipment management and gear fitting. It's allowed us to showcase what we're really good at and also allowed the League and the [Players' Association] to focus on the other parts of the partnership that's more of their bread butter to make the overall experience of the program even better."

Pure Hockey also has a resource center with more than 100 articles broken up into four sections: Equipment and fitting, hockey rules and penalties, playing and training tips, and product demonstrations and review.

"All those articles are really good sources of information for fans and players," Rosenthal said. "It's been really helpful for people to learn more about all these different aspects of the game and have a place to go to answer their questions."

Among the topics geared toward new players and families are how to put on equipment, how to tape your stick, drills for beginners and what to eat before a game. 

"Hockey is not the easiest sport to play," Rosenthal said. "It can be a little bit overwhelming. We want to do everything we can to sort of break down those barriers and make it as easy as possible to introduce people to the sport. 

"We would never want someone to be sort of skittish going to the rink because they're not sure how to put on their gear. Anything we can do to help people feel more comfortable we want to do so we can help them have a really great experience with hockey and help them fall in love with it the same way that we do."

 

Oct. 25 

Abbey Tran remembered for love of hockey, community 

Abbey Tran's love of hockey and her community will be on display permanently at MasterCard Center in Toronto. 
 
Abbey, who died this year at the age of 9 from a rare blood disorder, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, had her No. 77 retired at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility on Oct. 13. Tran played for the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League. 


 
Abbey's grandmother Debbie Bland, a Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award finalist and cofounder of the league, along with Abbey's family, has launched a new foundation, Abbey's Goal. The foundation aims to carry on Abbey's legacy of kindness and equality. Abbey played and loved hockey and was very much a part of the hockey community. 
 
The Foundation has a fundraising goal of $5,000 for 2018 in support of Ronald McDonald House to mark Abbey's 10th birthday on November 28. 
 
The jersey retirement took place during the Etobicoke Pink the Rink tournament. At the tournament, the first Abbey Tran Sportsmanship Award was given out to 44 girls - one from each team in the 22 gold-medal games. 

 

Red Wings have guests at practice

The Detroit Red Wings launched their season-long Hockey Is For Everyone effort when they surprised the Ann Arbor Rockets Special Hockey Team with more than $12,000 in new equipment. 

The Rockets watched the Red Wings practice at Little Caesars Arena and was then escorted to a locker room. 

The Ann Arbor Rockets Special Hockey Team provides an accessible opportunity to those with a variety of physical, developmental and cognitive disabilities to participate in the great sport of hockey in a safe and encouraging environment. 

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: As a part of #HockeyisforEveryone we���ve teamed up with @WarriorHockey to invite members of the Ann Arbor Rockets ��� a special hockey team ��� to enjoy today���s practice! #LGRW pic.twitter.com/u9fs4AbxU3

 

 

Oct. 9 

Marshall, N.J. Dare Devils celebrate Frankenfest 

The New Jersey Dare Devils and the American Special Hockey Associated celebrated Frankenfest, their 10th annual Special Hockey Festival, on Oct. 6-7 at the Richard Codey Arena in West Orange, New Jersey. 

Over 250 players with special needs from a total of 22 organizations from eight states were represented. Over 500 family members and friends were also there. Former Devils player Grant Marshall attended the party and family skate on Saturday. 

 

Oct. 8 

The 2018 USA Hockey Warrior Classic was held at City National Arena in Las Vegas from Oct. 4-7, and it left quite an impression on Terry Fator. 

Fator, the famous impressionist, comedian and ventriloquist who performs at The Mirage on the Strip, was the presenting sponsor at the tournament, which brings Warrior Hockey teams from around the country together for a weekend of hockey and the opportunity to be crowned champion. 

USA Warrior Hockey is dedicated to the U.S. military veterans with a disability who play the game. 

"One of the things I love about this event is it takes people who might have been in a really dark place before and lifts them and elevates them and really makes them feel better about themselves," Fator said. "And I feel like that's one of the best things any of us can do -- lift spirits around us -- and that's what this event does."

The tournament, in its third year, had a record seven teams and 103 players, and went through round-robin play before teams were divided into two divisions for the playoffs. The Buffalo Sabres Warriors defeated Dallas Warriors Upper 9-3 in the Division A title game. 

For full tournament stats, go here.

"The veterans join these teams because they sort of feel like they're in a unit, because in the military, you have that cohesion," said Michael Vaccaro, a Warrior Hockey player and USA Hockey Warrior Hockey representative. "Everybody's got your back, you have to do a certain, specific mission or else the other guy could get hurt. So now, hockey, you play your position, and if you play it, your teammate's going to get the opportunity to score. And they sort of got that in the military."

Fator also meet members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey team, which was training in Las Vegas during the Warrior Classic. 

It was the first time a disabled hockey tournament, as well as the sled team's training camp, was ever held in Las Vegas.

Fator said the players told him how important the tournament is to them. 

"A lot of these players came to my show and after the event, I got to go and sit up and talk to them," he said. "They shared some of their stories with me and, in fact, one of them came up with a tear in his eye and said, 'This event saved my life. I was really in a downward spiral and when I started with this event it changed everything.' So we're making a big difference in people's lives and it feels just fantastic."

 
Tootoo marks anniversay of first NHL game 

Jordin Tootoo made his NHL debut 15 years ago. Tootoo, now 35, said it took him a while to appreciate the significance of that moment -- a 5-foot-9 forward from Rankin Inlet, an Inuit hamlet in Nunavut, Canada with a population of fewer than 3,000, making it to the NHL -- and the impact he could have as a role model.

"Still to this day, it was kind of an unbelievable experience and I'm hoping that I can pave the way for future indigenous, aboriginal kids coming up," he said.

Click here for full story. 

 

OCT. 6

 

Duggan inspires kids during Girls Hockey Weekend  

United States Women's National Team captain Meghan Duggan couldn't help but smile as she demonstrated different skating drills in front of dozens of girls during a clinch at Amalie Arena as part of the eighth annual IIHF Girls Hockey Weekend.

The Lightning were one of over 100 sites to host an event joining several other NHL clubs and USA Hockey associations.

Here is the full story. 

 

OCT. 3

 

NHL, NHLPA looking to grow NCAA Division I hockey

The NHL and NHL Players' Association remain committed to supporting the growth of NCAA Division I hockey.

Along with College Hockey Inc., the NHL presented the initiative to the United States Olympic Committee and representatives across all sports at the National Governing Body Best Practices Seminar in Louisville on Oct. 1-2. The hope is to expand the number of schools in the United States that offer Division I hockey for men and women.

The University of Illinois became the first school to conduct a feasibility study under the initiative funded by the NHL and NHLPA joint Industry Growth Fund. The flagship effort, announced at the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, has since generated plans for the university to build a three-sheet, multi-purpose facility.

"Sharing this with those involved in Olympic sports will shine a spotlight on the project and larger good work the NHL is doing to grow hockey," said Kevin Westgarth, vice president of business development, international affairs for the NHL.

The success of the Chicago Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, has helped Illinois experience an increase in hockey interest and participation. However, Illinois does not have an NCAA Division I men's or women's hockey program despite producing the most Division I players (85 men, 35 women) of any state without one.

But the USOC has eyes on this grassroots effort. University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman hopes to decide whether to launch a hockey program by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

Westgarth hopes the number of NCAA Division I men's hockey programs grows from 60 to at least 70. That includes Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan, which was the second school to conduct a feasibility study.

"The Blackhawks have been fantastic partners in helping drum up interest and support for Illinois hockey," Westgarth said. "[Illinois] is going to be a great template going forward. I'm still optimistic and hopeful that we can get this done. Because of the excitement and awareness around Illinois and with what the Blackhawks, the NHL and NHLPA brought to this, we've had lots of people reaching out about this project and finding out how they can take part."

Four years ago, College Hockey Inc. executive director Mike Snee put together a strategic plan with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and USA Hockey to try and grow the number of programs that offer Division I hockey. The NHL officially joined the initiative June 23, 2017.

"It's really trying to, essentially, grow college hockey and grow the profile of college hockey, but while doing that you're often building facilities or renovating facilities, and inspiring new kids and new families to take part in our game today," Westgarth said.

"It's encouraging to see that an organization like the USOC has taken note of what we're doing, applauding the effort to help grow college sports, especially one that I think has incredible potential and opportunity to grow in the U.S. It's an exciting time. It takes some time, but I think it is really the catalyst. We're building a playbook that can hopefully be repeated through support by committee and less traditional avenues to make this thing a reality."

 

NEWHA looks to be NCAA conference

The New England Women's Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) has announced its intent to be recognized as an NCAA women's ice hockey conference.

Representatives from the NHL, NEWHA, College Hockey, Inc., the Northeast-10 Conference and College Hockey America convened in July to discuss the growth of women's ice hockey during challenging times for the sport; the University of North Dakota cut its women's program March 29, 2017.

Franklin Pierce University, Post University, Sacred Heart University, Saint Anselm College and Saint Michael's College are members of NEWHA. LIU Brooklyn will join the league in 2019-20. Per current NCAA guidelines, the women's ice hockey National Collegiate Championship is a combined championship opportunity open to all Division I and Division II programs that sponsor the sport.

"The NHL is proud to aid and support the growth of women's college hockey, and we look forward to seeing the NEWHA flourish," Westgarth said. "These new opportunities will inspire the next generation to join the hockey family, and we expect to see this trend of growth continue for the women's game. The addition of women's ice hockey at LIU Brooklyn next season is just one example."

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