The following is an excerpt from Joe Bertagna's column in Stops and Starts:
For the third consecutive year, teams from men's Hockey East and ECAC Hockey participated in the Friendship Four Tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This year's event, which drew just over 18,000 fans in two days, had a little extra buzz in that the final matched No. 3 in the nation Clarkson vs. No. 9 Providence. The Golden Knights prevailed, 4-2, and organizers of the event were thrilled with its continued growth. The games remain the only actual NCAA games (i.e., nonexhibitions) to be played outside North America.
College hockey has the potential to offer so much to its athletes beyond practices and games. Special events in new areas, whether at home or abroad, can fulfill both the athletic and educational needs of our students. There is already talk of college hockey going to China in the not-so-distant future. And here at home, there have been some new additions to the scheduling landscape that bring college hockey to some nontraditional sites. Four Division I women's teams recently held a tournament in Washington, DC, and in early January, Las Vegas will be the site of a men's Division I tournament. It wasn't that long ago that the sight of "Arizona State vs. Northern Michigan, at Las Vegas," would have been a shock to the system. Not anymore.
Every two years, student-athletes from around the world come together to compete in the World University Games. Ice hockey has been a staple of the games for decades but prior to 2001, there had been a period where the United States had stopped sending a hockey team.
Enter Al Murdoch. The head coach of Iowa State's non-varsity team at the time, Murdoch suggested to USA Hockey officials that it should consider sending hockey players from the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA — not the AHCA) and that the representatives of nonvarsity hockey would represent the country well. Al got the ear of John Beadle and Art Berglund at USA Hockey and they said, "Yes!"
In the nine tournaments since Murdoch's proposal was accepted, ACHA players have indeed represented the United States very well, with 22 of them from Murdoch's Iowa State Cyclones. Now Iowa State's "Coach Emeritus," Murdoch is still the go-to guy for USA Hockey when it assembles its hockey team for these games.
In catching up with Murdoch recently, he observed that the ability of the U.S. squad to medal in these games remains challenging and one idea he has floated to USA Hockey staff is the possibility of sprinkling in a few NCAA hockey players. "If we were to have access to a goalie, two defensemen and perhaps three forwards from the NCAA, it could make a significant impact on our quest to bring back a medal," says Murdoch. "And we would consider this for both our men's and women's teams."
One obstacle that would need to be faced is the timing of the event. The 2019 World University Games are slated for March 2-12, 2019, in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, overlapping the playoff weeks of the NCAA schedule. Still, should this option become a reality, there could be NCAA athletes, particularly from the Division III ranks, that could be available, interested and of significant talent. More to come on this issue.
– Joe Bertagna
Joe's full column is available in each edition of Stops and Starts - The Official Publication of the American Hockey Coaches Association. Each AHCA Member has access to current and archived editions of Stops and Starts in our Member's Only Section and can read Joe's full column in each edition of Stops and Starts.