As we continue our discussion about the future of Syracuse athletics, we now take a look at a sport that many Syracuse Orange fan's are yearning to add: Men's Ice Hockey. It seems as though a good number of people think Syracuse should be looking to add a team, so let's take a closer look at that option today...but before we do, we want to be clear that this discussion is not a short-term view of Syracuse sports.
This is meant to be a look down the road to see what might be available to SU should revenues continue to increase. We are certainly not advocating the "cut and add" approach that has popped up far too frequently at other colleges. Adding sports should be done once Syracuse has addressed issues with the current teams, and then, these potential sports would be in addition to existing teams, not replacing them. We are also not looking at Title IX implications in each article because women's sports will be addressed separately.
Now that we've got that out of the way, there are certainly some arguments for Syracuse adding a men's hockey team. There are opportunities for instant rivalries with neighboring schools like Cornell, Colgate, and RIT. You can also expand rivalries from other sports with Boston College to the ice, which means more #OrangeEagle points and that's never a bad thing. Syracuse also has a strong club hockey program, which finished their 2015-15 season with a top 20 ranking in the ACHA D1 level.
Syracuse's geographic location would be another argument for adding the program. The proximity to New England and Canada would allow the Orange to pitch recruits on another opportunity to play close to home. The Syracuse area has produced NHL talent-caliber players like Jeremy Morin of the Columbus Bluejackets, Alex Tuch- 1st round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2014, Boo Nieves- 2nd round pick of the New York Rangers in 2012, as well as former NHL players Tim Connolly and Rob Schrempf.
All that being said, there are some serious challenges to Syracuse making the jump from club team to Division 1. Two of the most recent D1 hockey additions- Penn State Nittany Lions and Arizona State Sun Devils University have received massive donations to kick start their programs. Penn State received a total of $102 million from the Pegula family to build an arena and elevate their program. Arizona State is elevating their program in 2017 thanks to a $32 million donation. Unless Syracuse gets a donation in that neighborhood with specific instructions that is used for men's hockey, we probably won't see the Orange team elevated.
Adding to the costs in elevating the club program is the facilities issue. Tennity was never designed to be used as an Athletics facility and the Syracuse women's team has been trying to deal with the limitations since their start. It would take a pretty extensive overhaul to make the facility into a viable D1 arena. Playing home games at the War Memorial isn't a practical idea. The Syracuse Crunch schedule would be in direct conflict with the Friday/Saturday schedule that college teams play, so unless Syracuse wanted to play a lot of afternoon games, they would have a hard time sharing that space. We also would have to assume that playing off-campus, even on the Connective Corridor, would hurt attendance.
The final challenge would be finding a conference home. Unless the ACC can convince other schools to elevate their teams from club status (Clemson,Duke, Florida St, Louisville, Virginia Tech, UNC, Georgia Tech, NC State, and Wake Forest all participate in the ACHA), SU would need to try and gain entry into either Hockey East or the ECAC, but there isn't room at this time, and the last thing a new program would need would be to end up in a league that doesn't fit.
Final verdict- as much as many of us would love to see a Division 1 Men's Ice Hockey team at Syracuse, that looks like an unlikely option. I'd put hockey above baseball, but behind wrestling (and probably other sports such as golf and fencing) when it comes to possible additions. Until that time, get out to Tennity and support the Orange women and the Men's ACHA team.