On Friday, Nov. 29, four of the country's best women's college hockey teams will travel to Nashville to compete in the inaugural Country Classic Weekend.
At just more than 600 miles away, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the closest of the four to Music City. The Harvard Crimson, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Wisconsin Badgers and Boston College Eagles may have a long journey ahead of them, but according to Sean O'Brien, director of hockey operations for Harvard men's and women's hockey, the decision to host a neutral-site tournament in Nashville was a no-brainer.
"Nashville is a great city, a great area, where it's become very popular in the hockey world over the last couple years," O'Brien said. "There's the success of the Preds at the NHL level, but that's trickled down. I mean, the youth programs on the boys side are strong, the girls programs are increasing and I just think nationally, Nashville - the whole area - is becoming known as a hockey area."
Nashville's infectious hockey culture provides major upside for the four programs involved, but perhaps none greater than the development of Ford Ice Center Bellevue.
The ribbons were cut on Nashville's newest ice venue in early October. Now, roughly a month after the state-of-the-art facility's grand opening, young hockey players will have the opportunity to watch programs with a combined total of 38 Frozen Four appearances and 12 NCAA Championships compete on the same sheets of ice upon which they play.
"The thought process was simple: Let's build a youth event around it as well, so you know, at the same time youth teams are playing, they're also attending the game," O'Brien said. "It's going to create this terrific atmosphere at the new facility in Bellevue."
Ford Ice Center Bellevue will host four games in the two-day span:
|Date ||Time ||Teams |
|Friday 11/29 ||1:00PM ||Boston College vs Minnesota |
|Friday 11/29 ||4:30PM ||Harvard vs Wisconsin |
|Saturday 11/30 ||1:00PM ||Boston College vs Wisconsin |
|Saturday 11/30 ||4:30PM ||Harvard vs Minnesota |
"The National Girls Hockey League is actually hosting the youth event," O'Brien said. "I'm involved in that with that league… the Junior Preds girls program is a member of that league as well. I think you're seeing not just Nashville, but across the country, the growth of women's hockey at all age levels."
For $50, fans can purchase a full weekend pass to attend all four games. Single-game passes are also available for $15. Click here for more information.
"These four programs consistently, year-in and year-out, are in the top of the top of the NCAA, so you're going to see the best of the best," O'Brien said. "I just think it's going to be something that they haven't seen before. And once people leave, they're going to be that much more interested in women's college hockey."