CHICAGO – Terry Pegula proved that an NCAA hockey program can go from zero to No. 1 in a short amount of time. The NHL and it players’ association took notice.
They want to see if it can happen throughout the United States.
The league and its players have announced a project to support the growth of NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey programs. They’ll fund and promote feasibility studies, which will explore the potential of getting D-I college hockey programs throughout the country.
“I find it interesting that NCAA hockey growth can lead in two places: a hockey career or a career in business,” Pegula said Friday in United Center. “We in the NHL, we’re all proud to support NCAA hockey.”
Few have supported it like Pegula. He and his wife, Kim, donated more than $100 million to start hockey at Penn State. The Nittany Lions took the ice in 2013, and they were ranked first in the nation this season.
“It’s very important to point out that Terry was a groundbreaker here,” said Mathieu Schneider, the NHLPA’s special assistant to the executive director. “Maybe if not for the great success of his program, we wouldn’t be having this conversation here.”
The first feasibility study will be conducted for the University of Illinois. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one will eventually be done for the University at Buffalo.
As the number of schools increases, the sides will point back to Pegula as a catalyst for growth.
“He is the name that always pops up as an example, an illuminating, shining star on what can happen and what all of this potential means,” said Chicago Blackhawks President John McDonough.