Ever since Arizona State announced that its successful ACHA club team would be making the leap to Division 1 hockey, coach Greg Powers has been fighting a war against his inbox. See, every time the Sun Devils bench boss finishes reading an email, five or six more pop up. Powers has received about 600 emails in the past day from potential recruits, family advisors (ie agents) and other ACHA coaches who want to know how his school did it.
“We expected it was going to be big news,” Powers said. “I’ve been pushing Arizona State as the most unique college hockey experience in the country for four years.”
Arizona State has national name recognition thanks to it affiliation in other sports with the Pac-12 conference, it’s a huge school (80,000 students) and it has that great Southwestern climate to boast. The Sun Devils also had a nice model in Penn State, a similar school (minus the weather) that went from the ACHA to Division 1 just a few years ago and is already thriving in the newly-formed Big Ten conference.
“Penn State is awesome,” Powers said. “Their blueprint for success has worked. It’s real, you can do it. We did it.”
In fact, when the Nittany Lions were in their transition season, they hosted Powers’ Arizona State team and the Sun Devils came away with a win. The victory put the school on the map and that’s when the rumblings began in the greater Phoenix area.
So if other club-level schools are calling Powers, we may not be done yet with college expansion in the near future. But which schools would bring the most buzz with them? Here’s a top 10 based on national prominence, geographical uniqueness (so if your state already has a team, too bad) and conference links, if any. As a bonus, I’ve included young local players from each area.