Penn State Hockey Rumors

When Inside College Hockey reported Sunday that Penn State is expected to announce the launch of men's and women's varsity programs in hockey as early as Friday, the rumors and reaction exploded like never before on what's been a hot button issue for years in Happy Valley.

Fortunately for the anxious fans across the country, though, it looks like they won't have to wait long for more news, as the Daily Collegian is reporting something big could go down today.

With rumors swirling about Penn State hockey preparing to announce its plans to start an NCAA Division I program, a source close to the Icers said Tuesday that more information regarding a potential announcement will be available Wednesday.

So stay tuned for that

Anyway, here's what the rumor mill has told us so far.

Onward State is reporting that, as our very own IcersGuy pointed out yesterday, the long rumored donor has finally worked his way out of the woodwork, and is ready to commit to helping Penn State build an ice arena. His name? Terry Pegula.

Pegula, a billionaire by way of Royal Dutch Shell buying out his company for $4.7 billion, was initially rumored to be the leading donor in the plans and according to an anonymous source close to Onward State, this still looks to be the case.  Apparently, the donation is very close to being signed, sealed and delivered.

The sum would be a sizeable one, if not the largest in that of the university’s history. The new arena, which would hopefully seat 6,000-8,000 people would cost around $80 million to build. The placement of the arena still seems to be a sticking point, with speculation dividing itself between near Medlar Field and behind Shields Building.

So let's take a look at that.

East_campus_map_medium

The obvious upside to building behind Shields is the proximity to the big student population at East Halls across the street. The problem, of course, is that behind Shields you currently have the ROTC drill field, the Astroturf Field which houses the field hockey team and the Indoor Tennis Center, which the men's and women's teams need in January, February and even March when Sarni is a frozen hell scape.

If an arena is built there, somebody is getting displaced, which mean's $$$ to relocate them somewhere else, which would obviously not please the university/athletic department.

Then there's the wide open spaces near Medlar. Obviously, they're far away from most of the on-campus students and even further for most off-campus. The upside is obvious, though, as the arena could spring up just about anywhere out there without getting in anyone's way.

Any discord behind the scenes has probably been sorted out, though, for rumors to progress this far.

Moving on, sources are giving sources some details on how some of the other dominoes will fall once the announcement is made.

USCHO says the goal is to start playing hockey in 2011-2012 aka next academic year. Call me skeptical, but seeing how the Millenium complex has taken seemingly forever to build, I find it hard to believe the ice arena would be ready in time. That's not to say the teams couldn't keep playing in Greenberg Ice Pavilion a la the basketball teams playing in Rec Hall in the early Big Ten years, but I'll believe that time line when I hear it from Tim Curley's mouth.

Then, of course, the inescapable conference talk. ICH said Penn State is likely looking at joining the CCHA, at least early on.

Last month, CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos told the Detroit News that the league was interested in adding Penn State as a 12th member. Because of its profile, location and success at the club-sport level, Penn State has long been identified as a potential candidate to add the sport at the varsity level.

"They are a very attractive choice—very attractive," Anastos said. "They’re in a different market than we’re in, more and more U.S. players are on college rosters, and there’s tremendous growth of the sport in Pennsylvania."

That said, talk of joining either the CCHA (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State) or WCHA (Minnesota, Wisconsin) pales in comparison to the prospects of a Big Ten hockey league, something it appears WCHA officials are already reacting to the possibility of according to USCHO.

Sources indicated that the hot topic of speculation at the WCHA meeting was that the 2014-15 season is a potential start date for the Big Ten in hockey.

Penn State and Big Ten Conference officials did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

2014-2015 seems awfully early for Penn State to be joining a league that would include teams that have won a combined four national championships since 2000. Starting a program is one thing. Surviving amongst established programs like that is quite another.

Over at Slow States, Kevin shares the skepticism.

I’m initially skeptical that the current Big Ten hockey programs will jump ship as soon as Penn State is ready to suit up. While I agree a Big Ten conference is certainly in our future—Illinois and Indiana have been rumored to be interested in the sport, as well—it seems risky for the current powers to leave perfectly competitive and stable leagues without knowing how long it will take Penn State to become a worth adversary.

I also wonder if Penn State is willing to take on playing five of the richest programs in the sport weekly right out of the gate when they could get their sea legs in a more diverse CCHA that they fit into nicely.

Regardless, MGoBlog expects Big Ten hockey to happen at some point in the not too distant future.

At this point I doubt anything other than Minnesota blanching can prevent the Big Ten Hockey Death Star from forming. Wisconsin ended the College Hockey Showcase because it explicitly wanted more games against Big Ten opponents; it seems like they'd be willing to jump. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State aren't attached to the CCHA closely enough for tradition to override dolla dolla bill ya'll. That would be a brutal six-team conference on paper but of late State and Minnesota have struggled to consistently make the NCAA tournament, and Michigan came within a whisker of whiffing for the first time in twenty years. Still, PSU hockey would be in for a rough ride to start.

Another interesting tidbit making it's way around is a tasty rumor about a possible coach.

Though I don't frequent Pittsburgh Penguin message boards enough to document the credibility of the folks who post on them, my heart almost stopped when I read this.

I heard the deal was done a few weeks ago. The guy that sold East Resources to Shell wrote a check for somewhere near $100M. 6,300 seat arena. The coach will be hired a year in advance of play starting. Mark Johnson is an early candidate. Indiana will also allegedly start a D1 program and the Big 10 will be a hockey conference with content for the Big 10 network.

Take that with the typical message board grain of salt, but if there's anything to that, it could be a huge coup for Penn State. For the un-puck savvy among us, Johnson was a member of the 1980 Olympics "Miracle On Ice" team and is currently coaching the women's program at Wisconsin, his alma mater. He's also the coach of the U.S. women's national team. In short, he's got a great profile that would give Penn State instant credibility with recruits on their new level.

Anyway, those are your rumors for now. Make of them what you will, but if any of them come to fruition, it looks like we've got some exciting new stuff to look forward to in the next few years.

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