The Frozen Four in Pittsburgh? You betcha!
The NCAA Men's Division I Hockey championships, (better known in college hockey circles as the "Frozen Four"), was recently held in the hottest hockey town in North America: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Did he just say what I thought he said? Pittsburgh a Hockey Town?
Twenty years ago if you would have even suggested that Pittsburgh was a hockey town you would have been tossed out on your ear! But after you factor in the Mario Lemiuex and Sidney Crosby influences along with three Stanley Cups, suddenly, “It’s a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh” doesn’t sound so far-fetched!
Who would have dreamed that there would be more players on the US World Junior Team from Pittsburgh (4) than from the entire state of Minnesota (2)?
Well Pittsburgh rolled out the red carpet and put on a show for all of college hockey to see! Over 17,000 fans were at the Thursday semi-finals to watch No. 15 Yale upset No. 3 UMass-Lowell 3-2 in OT while No. 1 Quinnipiac beat No. 9 St. Cloud State 4-0. That Saturday a near sell-out crowd of 18,200 watched Yale become the lowest seed to ever win the NCAA Men’s Hockey title with a convincing 4-0 win over the consensus No. 1 ranked Bobcats of Quinnipiac.
OK, let me get this straight. No Minnesota, No Boston College, No Notre Dame, No Wisconsin, No North Dakota and you drew 18,000 people to a college hockey game in April in Pittsburgh? Yinz must have thrown back a few too many Iron City beers!
But that’s the beauty of college hockey. It’s different than the pro game. It has all the energy and speed and team work but it adds school passion and loyalty. So you never heard of Quinnipiac (think political polls), or St. Cloud State in Minnesota (Herb Brooks was their first Division I coach) or you never heard of UMass-Lowell’s Chad Ruhwedel (he signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres and was right back on the Consol Energy Center Ice Tuesday night helping the Sabres beat the Penguins!).
It doesn’t matter because their fans showed up along with their school bands, with their faces painted, screaming their school’s favorite insult cheers in unison at the opposing goalie (Hey goalie, What Goalie? You Suck!), all in good fun. One team’s fans sang out a chorus of “Harvard Rejects” to the Yale players (Yeah, well who had the last laugh there eh Bulldogs?).
For me it was especially gratifying to watch as the culmination of 40 years of Pittsburgh hockey evolved into the hockey crazed city we old guys always knew it could be. It was especially fitting that a “Yinzer”, Mt. Lebanon’s Jesse Root, would score Yale’s final goal in the 4-0 final.
With the success of this past season’s Three Rivers College Hockey Classic over the holidays that averaged 11,000 fans and the recent success of the Frozen Four, we are excited to be heading back to the Three Rivers Classic next December to take on Boston College, Robert Morris and Bowling Green. We will also be working with the Big Ten to discuss hosting the new Big Ten Hockey conference’s playoffs in future years at Consol Energy Center.
Penn State hockey is also negotiating with Wells Fargo Arena and the Philadelphia Flyers on a return engagement to play in Eastern PA as well. That was the site of last year’s 4-2 win over Vermont for the Nittany Lions in front of a sellout crowd of 19,590.
By the way, did I mention where next year’s NCAA Frozen Four was being held? At the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia!
It’s a great time to be a college hockey fan in the state of Pennsylvania!