It's in ink.
After days, weeks and years of rumor and speculation, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics announced Friday that the school will launch men's and women's varsity ice hockey programs beginning in 2012-2013 upon an $88 million donation from Penn State alumnus and energy industry mogul Terry Pegula toward a state-of-the-art on-campus ice facility.
Penn State will begin play at the NCAA Division I level as an independent in 2012-2013 at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion, and play there through 2013-2014. The Nittany Lions are scheduled to move into their new facility in 2014-2015, and will likely join a conference at that time.
Athletic director Tim Curley said Penn State will work with it's Big Ten collegues as well as the college hockey community to find a league arrangement that would be best for the sport, and remained open to the possibility of forming a Big Ten hockey conference with the league's five other hockey members, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The yet-to-be-named ice facility will be constructed across University Drive from the Bryce Jordan Center in the area of Shields Building and the Indoor Tennis Center. Curley said target capacity for the venue is between 5,000-6,000 but the university has yet to hire an architect, so specifics are not known at this time. The facility will boast two ice sheets, and will house the hockey programs in addition to figure skating, youth programs, premiere ice shows and NHL and AHL exhibition games.
Pegula's donation is the largest in the history of the university. In his comments, Pegula said the project has been in the works since 2006, coming to fruition Friday as the papers were signed to make the launch official.
The men's hockey program will have 18 scholarships while the women's program has 20. No coaching decisions have been made for either program, and the university will likely move on that once an architect for the new building has been named.
Curley said he anticipates the hockey program will be a revenue producer for the athletic department. The additions will bring the number of varsity programs at Penn State to 31, and Curley noted that a hockey program will help the support of the department significantly.
Pegula spent Thursday in Pittsburgh at a charity golf tournament and met with members of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, including owner Mario Lemieux and team captain Sidney Crosby, who he said were excited to hear the news."[Crosby] said 'Mr. Pegula, this is a great thing you're doing for hockey,' and I thought that was pretty cool," Pegula said. "So I'm going to guess that some day in these hills of Pennsylvania, maybe we find a Pennsylvania Crosby, and maybe he learns to skate at our facility and plays his youth hockey here and maybe he plays Division I hockey at Penn State."
The news of Penn State hockey is rippling through the hockey world, as those at the highest level of the sport are weighing in.
- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman-"The National Hockey League would like to congratulate Penn State University on its entry into NCAA hockey's Division I. Given the tradition of academic and intercollegiate excellence that long has been synonymous with Penn State, I am sure the Nittany Lions will supply their fellow students and fans with winters full of thrills while providing college hockey's traditional powers with stiff competition."
- Mike "Doc" Emerick, NHL on NBC/Versus-"Legendary coaches have always shared a respect and interest in the game of hockey. Perhaps because of the shared aspects of speed and contact involved...or the curiosity of how hockey players could play at such an intense level MORE than once a week. It was Notre Dame's Knute Rockne who was there on St. Joseph's Lake in South Bend to help bandage the cut of a Michigan State player whose leg was sliced by an Irish' skate blade. Bo Schembechler was a frequent visitor to Michigan's Yost Arena to watch some of his select players who represented the Wolverine's on both the gridiron and on the ice. I can only envision Joe Paterno finding some common ground between his iconic program and its fledgling cousin in Happy Valley. I congratulate those at Penn State who have taken the leap of faith to bring this great game and all that comes with it to the next level. I look forward to seeing it grow the sport in a state that has quickly become the hockey hotbed of America."
- Barry Melrose, ESPN-Pennsylvania is probably the hottest hockey market in the country right now...if you take into account the recent success of the Penguins and Flyers, add the Hershey Bears and their consecutive Calder Cups, the great fan bases in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Erie...interest in the game is at an all-time high. For Penn State to bring in a Division I program now, and to be able to provide opportunities for the sport to grow even more in Pennsylvania, I think is fantastic!"
- Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins GM-"Adding another Division I hockey program in our state is a great step for hockey in Pennsylvania, so we salute the Nittany Lions for this achievement. Pennsylvania amateur hockey is producing more and more Division I players and pro prospects, and this will give more of them an opportunity to stay 'home' in Pennsylvania, get a great education, and play a high level of hockey."
- Mike Eruzione, 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team-"Anytime a university with the name recognition of Penn State decides to make a leap like this, it is tremendous on two fronts. One, for what they stand for and two, it gives kids another opportunity to play at the Division I level. I think its great for hockey."
- Joe Paterno, football coach-"I've always believed that hockey could be a major sport here and Penn State and I'm glad we're getting behind it."
- Jim Delaney, Big Ten Commissioner-"With the addition of Penn State, the Big Ten Conference will have six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey programs, leading to the presumption that there will be a Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship at some point in the future. We plan to have many conversations both internally with out chancellors, presidents, administrators, and coaches and externally with the hockey community as a whole as we endeavor to balance all of the uniques interests of play. Out expectation is that a conference championship would not take place before the 2014-2015 academic year and out goal, like others, is to support, promote, and continuously strengthen the sport of hockey both locally and nationally. Whatever we do, we will communicate to all the interested parties in a respectful and responsible way. We congratulate Penn State and wish them the best of luck as they embark upon this worthwhile endeavor."