The Frozen Four will return to Buffalo in 2019, and the NCAA basketball tournament is coming back in 2022.
The NCAA announced Tuesday that Buffalo is one of four cities selected to host Division I college hockey’s championship event in upcoming years.
Buffalo joins Detroit (2020), Pittsburgh (2021) and Boston (2022) as Frozen Four sites, the NCAA revealed. Buffalo was host for the event once before, in 2003.
Meanwhile, Buffalo will be a first- and second-round site for the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament at the KeyBank Center for a seventh time since 2000. Buffalo won that bid, which will send eight of the top 68 teams in March Madness to town for games March 17 and 19 in 2022. Just like last month's NCAA event at KeyBank Center, the games are set for Thursday and Saturday.
“This is a very important day for Buffalo sports,” said Russ Brandon, managing partner and president of Pegula Sports and Entertainment. “It has been our mission, under the direction of Terry and Kim Pegula, to continually advance Buffalo’s standing as a destination for major sporting events that have a tremendous effect on our community. The Frozen Four, coming on the heels of the NHL Draft, NHL Combine and World Juniors, is another premier event that will showcase our city as the leading hockey market it has become."
The latest Frozen Four was held in Chicago April 6-8, and the title was won by the University of Denver. Next year’s Frozen Four will be held in St. Paul, Minn.
Buffalo is even better suited to host the event than it was 14 years ago, due to the opening of the HarborCenter rink next to KeyBank Center in 2014, in addition to the hotel development downtown that has taken place in recent years. Canisius and Niagara serve as host teams for the event.
The Frozen Four schedule will include the two national semifinal games on Thursday evening April 11, 2019. The title game will be Saturday, April 13. The four teams conduct open practices on Wednesday of tournament week. On Friday night the NCAA holds its hockey awards presentations. The winner of the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the nation’s top player, is handed out. All-America teams and other top award winners for the season are announced. The event also includes a free fan festival, usually held near the arena.
In the 2003 Frozen Four, Minnesota defeated New Hampshire for the championship. Michigan and Cornell were the other participants. Future Buffalo Sabre forward Thomas Vanek earned MVP honors for Minnesota.
Buffalo was among the 10 finalists the last time Frozen Fours were awarded by the NCAA, but Boston, Tampa, Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., were selected as host sites for 2015-18.
Buffalo has built a successful relationship with the NCAA. The 2022 tournament will be the seventh hosting opportunity in a 23-year period for Buffalo.
This winter, Buffalo will host the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship for the second time since 2010. Meanwhile, HarborCenter has hosted the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association final four the past two years.
Meanwhile, Western New York also won the right to host an NCAA cross country event. The NCAA Division I regional cross country championship for men and women will be held at Audubon Golf Course in Amherst on Nov. 9, 2018, and Nov. 15, 2019.