Update #1 - 11/19 - 11:30am
I just got off the phone with the Buffalo Sabres' front office. I was told firmly that there is utterly no truth to the rumor that Pegula was considering any actions to lift UB hockey into the NCAA.
Update #2 - 11/20 - 12:00am
I had a chance to hear back from the managing editor of "Let's Play Hockey". In his words his source is "someone very well-connected" in college/club hockey who helped LPH break the ASU to D-I news.
Ok they are putting an NCAA hockey team in Arizona (insert cold day in hell joke here).
SB Nation's hockey hub, which I would very much like to be a member of, has the details.
Arizona State to Announce Plans to Move to Division I Hockey - SB Nation College Hockey
Arizona State will hold a press conference later today to announce their plans to transition their hockey program from a club team to full NCAA Division I status, according to a report from Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona. Details are still scant, but hopefully will be cleared up at the upcoming press conference later today. Among the big details, Arizona State will have to add another women's sports program to remain in compliance with Title IX, and would likely need to build a new facility for hockey.
What does this mean for UB?
Bull Run has been beating the drum about this for five years. UB as an NCAA Division One team is as close to a slam-dunk as you'll find in Buffalo sports. The school sits in the center of a recruiting hot bed, the region's population is always hockey hungry, and there are many good NCAA teams around us with which to establish meaningful emotional rivalries.
The area from Minnesota to Maine is to hockey what Texas to Florida is for football.
The snow belt is *THE* power area for hockey. Most prep athletes and their families in upstate New York will take a red goal siren over Friday night lights. Kids here can skate before they can walk and we embrace the winters that bring us pond hockey.
But where would they play?
There have recently been reports out of Amherst that they are looking at a major upgrade to the Northtown Center - a hockey venue which already has more seating than some NCAA Division One facilities. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been invested in improving the feature rink.
All of this sits a few hundred feet from campus, and it's already used by UB's ACHA team. Oh yea, they also just lost their biggest tenant when the Sabres moved out for the Harbor Center.
A renovation to make the area truly hockey ready would be pricey but not unrealistic for a motivated department and city.
Some time ago I had a chance to ask Danny White about hockey.
He told me within a month or so of moving to Buffalo his son decided he loved the sport so much that he wanted to be a hockey player when he grew up. This is a kid that hardly knew the sport existed when his father lived in Mississippi.
White's anecdote was a great story meant to communicate one thing. The UB Athletic Director understands that hockey is in Buffalo's DNA. He might not move on an NCAA team but it's not because he does not perceive there would be some interest.
UB's Athletic Director told me, bluntly but politely, that anything which removes resources from football or basketball is off the table. He would love to add hockey but he will not short change the flagship programs he wants to use to position UB as the Athletic Flagship of New York.
So done deal right?
Maybe not so much.
LPH sources: Sabres owner Terry Pegula looks to be involved with helping the University at Buffalo elevate its men's hockey club team to D-I— Let's Play Hockey (@LetsPlay_Hockey) November 18, 2014
Well this could get interesting.
For those of you who don't know, Terry Pegula is both loved and hated in college hockey circles for bringing Penn State into the NCAA. The shakeup caused by Penn State's arrival was far more violent than anything seen in football realignment, as it led to the formation of the Big 10 Hockey Conference and the dissolution of a number of longstanding midwest rivalries.
He also just bought the Buffalo Bills, keeping the NFL franchise in Buffalo. This is a guy who in his own words just 'taps a well' when he needs money and is not a spendthrift.
Bringing Buffalo in by fronting the money for hockey would be a game changer locally. I have reached out to UB, Pegula, and a few other sources to find if this smoke is born from fire or drugs. Stay tuned and I will let you know.