Hockey leaders exploring possibility of men’s, women’s NCAA D-1 hockey at Oakland University

By @StefanKubus – 

DETROIT – In the near future, Oakland University may be getting its own NCAA Division-1 hockey programs.

Yes, programs – both men’s and women’s hockey.

In a press conference held Monday at Little Caesars Arena, the NHL, the NHLPA, the Detroit Red Wings, College Hockey, Inc. and the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association jointly announced that they are exploring bringing D1 hockey to OU.

“Oakland would be an exciting addition to the college hockey landscape,” said College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee. “The state of Michigan has proven to be a thriving environment for men’s college hockey, and there is a distinct need for a Division I women’s program in the state. We are confident that NCAA hockey would thrive at Oakland and look forward to the results of the feasibility study.”

This would include both men’s and women’s programs. On the men’s side, it would mark the eighth NCAA D-I program in the state – joining Michigan, Michigan State, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan.

“We are thrilled to be included in this feasibility study because we recognize the myriad benefits that will accrue to Oakland University, our student-athletes, our entire student population and our region, should we move forward as a NCAA Division I hockey team,” said Oakland University President Dr. Ora Pescovitz. “Strong athletic programs help keep students actively engaged in campus life, which in turn helps ensure that they will complete their studies and go on to find great victories in the game of life. We are grateful to all of the feasibility study partners for helping to provide our students every advantage possible.”

And on the women’s side, a program at OU would become the only NCAA D-1 offering in the state.

“Oakland University’s desire to add NCAA Division I hockey is very exciting for all of us in the Michigan hockey community,” said Kim Durka, executive vice president of MAHA. “It’s a reflection of just how important and successful the sport is in our state, from Hockeytown to Houghton. I know there is still work to be done and money to be raised, but hopefully sooner than later young hockey players throughout Michigan will have another NCAA team inspiring them.”

Currently, OU has men’s Division-I and Division-III programs in the ACHA.

“It is welcome news to hear that Oakland University is considering bringing NCAA Division I women’s hockey to Michigan,” said Jean Laxton, MAHA’s vice president of girls and women’s hockey. “Each year more than 30 young women from Michigan play Division I hockey, but none of them are able to do so here in Michigan. Finally having a home team to root for should make a significant impact on the growth of girls and women’s hockey in all of Michigan.”

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“This is exciting news for hockey players and fans in the Metro Detroit area,” said Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. “As someone who played and coached college hockey in Michigan I know all about the positive impact the sport has on the student-athletes, the communities they play in and the young fans who attend games. Personally, with my daughter playing youth hockey, I’m really excited about the potential of adding the first Division-I women’s program in the state. It’s an important step to continuing the growth of the college game.”

“Today’s exciting announcement in Detroit is part of the effort to maximize the number of families who have access to the game of hockey,” said Pat LaFontaine, NHL Vice President of Hockey Development & Community Affairs and a Michigan youth hockey product. “The Declaration of Principles highlights the greater value of participating in sports and this initiative is a piece in the bigger puzzle of maximizing access to our sport. Whether it’s at the men’s and women’s college level or the grass roots level, the sport of hockey offers values that last long after the game has ended.”

“We have witnessed first-hand what Penn State’s Division I hockey program has done for hockey in Pennsylvania and we see an opportunity to replicate that in other states, including Michigan which is already a strong hockey market,” said Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director and Red Wings alum. “The work we are doing with Oakland University is the second feasibility study being completed, joining the University of Illinois, and this funding is the direct result of the Industry Growth Fund, which the players and the league established in the current CBA.”