May 23, 2018
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Fan fervor boosts UMaine men’s hockey

By Gary Thorne, Special to the BDN

For all Black Bear hockey fans, don’t miss the video to be found at

It’s a great tribute to Alfond Arena, the fans and the team. It’s hard to believe that the Alfond is now cited as one of the great college “barns” (where did those decades go?), but it is done so with reverence.

As the video notes, the “barn” is about the fans and the players who love to play in front of them.

As Maine skates for a Hockey East title and an NCAA bid, the competition at the Division I level continues to grow, as does college hockey. The recruiting aspect of the game is ferocious as a result.

Ohio State is now a Division I hockey threat, and Penn State is ready to bring its program on board.

Those schools, like Notre Dame before them, may not have a college hockey history, but they have the names in college sports that generate interest from any player selecting a school to attend.

College hockey now has a full-time executive director in its College Hockey Inc. office, attorney Paul Kelly, who headed the NHL Players Association for a short time.

The corporation was formed by the NCAA Hockey Commissioners Association last year to educate fans about and promote Division I hockey.

This office will bring the national coordination needed to oversee its growth.

Kelly says there are four or five other schools looking to launch Division I programs and as the financial times grow better, they should come on board.

The move to promote the game in the south continues. Merrimack and Alabama-Huntsville played the first Division I games ever in Nashville this month. While the crowds were in the 1,600 range, that did not deter the NHL Nashville Predators team, a promoter of the event, from believing college hockey has a future there.

Nashville, with the Predators heavily involved, is bidding to host the Frozen Four in 2015 or ’16.

USA Hockey continues to upgrade its developmental programs that include a national junior team that plays college and other junior teams for a full regular season schedule and then represents the U.S. in international tournaments.

All of this means that recruiting, an always-tough job for all college sports, is becoming that much more difficult in hockey.

For Maine, the program that began in the late ’70s emerged just in time.

To have established a solid reputation as a program is essential in bringing the best of college hockey to Orono.

For the fans to have embraced the game and the team as they have since day one has created an atmosphere allowing the Bears to recruit with the best of them.

Enjoy. The Alfond is one of college sports’ great centers and receiving national recognition as such.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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