Yesterday, Holy Cross unveiled their 2016-2017 hockey schedule, confirming what had long been rumored: the Crusaders will host a pair of early-season nonconference games at the DCU Center against Providence (October 15) and Boston College (October 22).
Since the news came out about Holy Cross’s intention to host a few games at the DCU Center, hockey pundits have theorized that the Crusaders’ goal is to use this as a trial balloon, testing their viability for a bid to land in Hockey East after Notre Dame leaves. Respected scribe Mike McMahon put it pretty plainly:
Holy Cross wants to join HEA as a 12th team. Needs to sell the league & DCU needs to be on board. Good first step. https://t.co/TJhoglrJl8— Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN) June 30, 2016
Per McMahon, Hockey East’s preference would be Quinnipiac, but QU may decide they’re happy to stay put where they are, given the success they are having in ECAC.
If Holy Cross has its eye on the vacancy in Hockey East, they will need to mimic UConn’s temporary-to-permanent home in the XL Center by making DCU Center their home for league games. HC’s current hockey arena seats just 1,400.
I’m not sure that I’m personally thrilled by this development. I am already not a huge fan of having UConn play in a repurposed AHL arena. Admittedly that experiment has been far more successful than I thought it would be, but it still can’t compare to going to games in a legitimate, on-campus, appropriately-sized hockey facility.
I doubt HC has the same cachet and drawing power in Worcester as UConn has in Hartford, but I guess these two games in the fall will be a good way of finding out.
Holy Cross has shown a willingness to pump some money in to their athletics facilities in recent years, and they may be looking at how Quinnipiac has built a more recognized brand through nationally elite hockey and see an opportunity to do the same. They also have some historical ties with both BC and BU, setting up the potential for some interest in the Crusaders as a conference rival early on.
While this will probably not be at the top of Joe Bertagna’s needs list, a concern surrounding Holy Cross’s potential bid for HEA membership is the state of their women’s program; they currently play in Division 3 ECAC-East and would need some major upgrades in funding and recruiting to be ready to compete for a full season at the D1 level.
That said, Hockey East has already begun preparing contingencies to roll with 11 teams in 2017-18, so HC could have two years to get its ducks in a row should there be mutual interest between the school and Hockey East.
Would you welcome this move?