Per John Buccigross of ESPN, the University of Illinois is ‘very close’ to announcing a Division 1 hockey team.
In June of 2017, the university initiated a feasability study commissioned by the NHL, the NHL Players Association, and College Hockey, Inc. The results of the study, released in March of 2018, were overwhelmingly optimistic.
The strong consensus of everyone involved in college hockey is that NCAA men’s hockey will flourish at the University of Illinois.– Mike Snee, executive director of College Hockey, Inc.
If Buccigross’s assertation is correct, those study results will finally come to fruition. And frankly, it’s about damn time. With the rise of the Blackhawks’ dynasty in the 2010s, Illinois has become a hotbed for youth hockey. The university has always touted an excellent club team, but players from the Chicagoland area often ventured to places such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, or schools on the east coast to compete at the highest level of collegiate hockey. Having a D1 team in-state will most certainly result in some of these players staying closer to home.
As for the logistics of implementing a D1 hockey team at Illinois, a new arena is required first and foremost. The current ice arena is used for the club hockey team, open skates, ice skating classes, and community activities. Its location in proximity to dorms, other university buildings, and fraternity houses simply does not allow for the necessary renovation and expansion. This was all considered in the feasibility study, which can be viewed here. Hopefully more details will come to light in the coming weeks.