USA Hockey's National Team Development Program will play in a new home in 2015-16.
After 18 years at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube in Michigan, the under-17 and under-18 teams will train and play games at the 3,504-seat Plymouth Compuware Arena, which has been renamed USA Hockey Arena.
The arena, which is 20.5 miles southwest of Ann Arbor, will provide increased space and an ability to host future camps, tournaments and other events. USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean envisions the new venue someday hosting the Under-17 men's Five Nations Tournament, the women's Four Nations Cup and the Under-18 women's World Championship.
"We've put in a temporary weight training facility inside an industrial tent in the parking lot behind the rink for weight training equipment so that the kids can still do their weight training next store to the rink," Ogrean said. "When it gets cooler we'll just heat it. The new construction for the NTDP offices and classrooms is ongoing and probably won't be completed until the end of winter.
"This will be a transition but I think it's very manageable and I think we've been communicating very well with people so everyone knows what's coming."
The NTDP is a two-year residency program for the top 16 and 17-year-old players in the United States. Ron DeGregorio, who will be inducted in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Dec. 17, played an integral role in the creation of the NTDP in 1996.
"It was a unique situation that came to us; the Ann Arbor facility was fantastic over the years and was able to give us what we needed but the opportunity in Plymouth with its location and the building provides so much," DeGregorio said. "We chose the location because it's central to hockey travel and other activities. It just fit very easily for a transition and we didn't have to disrupt a lot of the infrastructure that has been established."
USA Hockey finalized its move to Plymouth in March. While enrolled in the NTDP this season, players will stay with billet families and continue to attend Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. USA Hockey Arena was the original home to the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. The Whalers have since been renamed the Flint Firebirds and will play in the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center in Flint, Mich., beginning in 2015-16.
"We need to get our staff situated in Plymouth so that they can establish a relationship with the school systems that are a little closer and they'll have those dialogues and meet with superintendents," Ogrean said. "The school systems in Ann Arbor have been terrific and they've been unimaginably wonderful to work with and we've been very proud to have our kids there. The quality of the education in Northfield and Plymouth is excellent but we need to develop some relationships with those folks and see what we can do with them."
The NTDP under-18 team will make its home debut at USA Hockey Arena on Oct. 9 against the Chicago Steel in a United States Hockey League regular-season matchup. The under-17 team will make its home debut on Oct. 16 against the Madison Capitols.