The Worcester Telegram and Gazette’s Bill Ballou and Jennifer Toland say “multiple sources” have reported that Holy Cross has been approached by Hockey East about joining the league as its twelfth member for the 2017-18 season. Notre Dame is leaving the conference after this year, creating the vacancy.
As we discussed on BCI earlier this summer, a move to Hockey East for Holy Cross - long considered one of the strongest possible candidates to fill the vacancy - would require the Crusaders to move their home games to the DCU Center, as their on-campus facility is too small to host league games.
The T&G reports that this is indeed the concept being discussed by Holy Cross, which has caused consternation among officials of the Worcester Railers, the new ECHL team slated to start play at the DCU Center following the departure of the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. There’s doubts as to whether the market could viably support two hockey teams.
While I’ll have to defer to someone who lives in Worcester on whether Holy Cross has the kind of drawing power necessary to make Hockey East at the DCU Center viable, it does feel like it could be a bit of a stretch. The DCU seats 14,800 people. A pretty good crowd for a Hockey East game at most venues is 4,000-5,000. It’s hard to imagine Holy Cross doing much better than that, and it wouldn’t really be the best backdrop or atmosphere week in and week out for college hockey.
I had these same kinds of concerns about UConn at the XL Center, and to some extent, I still do; there could be a point where the novelty factor of UConn hockey wears off. However, the Huskies have drawn well enough at the XL Center to make it viable in at least the medium-term; however, most seem to agree they should be pursuing a purpose-built on-campus hockey facility.
The other move Holy Cross would have to make to upgrade from Atlantic Hockey to Hockey East would be to elevate its women’s program to a fully D1 team with a full complement of scholarships. There are fewer hurdles to this happening, as the team could continue to play in its smaller on-campus venue, as the UConn women do.
From a BC perspective, it would certainly be welcome to have a regional rival that the school has some history against, and that would play in a venue and a location accessible to BC fans.
From a league perspective, I don’t think anyone would be expecting Holy Cross to instantly move up and climb up the ranks of title contenders; like UConn, there would certainly be an adjustment period necessary. But with the likes of BC, BU and Providence in the league, it may not be necessary to reel in a team that could immediately contend for national hardware.
Since Notre Dame’s announced departure, all signs have pointed to Holy Cross as the next HEA member, despite initial suggestions that maybe Quinnipiac would be the right choice. But there have been pretty much no rumblings about QU since April. It’s looking like Holy Cross will probably be the choice. Will it work out?