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Moorhead considers DI hockey

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By: Amy Dalrymple and Eric Peterson, INFORUM

Minnesota State Unviversity President Edna Szymanski said Monday that the university is thinking about starting a D-I hockey team. It would be the only D-I hockey team in Fargo-Moorhead.

Szymanski said no state money could be used to fund the proposal with the school and state facing a budget deficit.

“Not to explore it would be crazy,” Szymanski said. “This is a hockey community. It would help us increase our recognition in the region.”

MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said campus and community members began studying the idea after the Western Collegiate Hockey Association voted in January to lift a moratorium on adding teams.

“The time is right to take a look at it,” Peters said.

The WCHA is a 10-team league that includes the University of North Dakota and is widely regarded as one of the top ice hockey conferences in the country.

The WCHA deadline for accepting new applicants was March 31.

WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod told the Grand Forks Herald last week that Bemidji (Minn.) State was the only team to apply for membership during that period. A phone message left with McLeod was not returned.

Bemidji State, which plays in the Frozen Four on Thursday, is slated to make a presentation to WCHA officials April 27 during league meetings in Florida.

Peters said adding a hockey team is contingent on finding a league and funding the program without state money.

“We are looking at outside interests who are supportive of the idea of Division I hockey in Moorhead, Fargo,” Peters said.

He would not answer questions about a timeline, whether there would be a women’s team or if they’d play at the UP Center. Peters said he expects the school to make a formal announcement in the near future.

Metro Sports Foundation President Todd Berning said he talked with MSUM about the possibility of housing Dragons hockey.

“The answer is ‘Yeah,’ but we have to take a look at it,” Berning said. “We haven’t really gotten into any other details. We would have to look at how this would help us build another rink or two. That’s how it would have to work.”

The UP Center – which MSF owns and operates – houses the Fargo Force, a junior team in the United State Hockey League.

“We need to make it fit for the high schools, the youth groups and the junior team,” Berning said.

North Dakota State University athletic director Gene Taylor said people ask him regularly why the university doesn’t have a hockey program.

NDSU has studied the possibility, and the main obstacles were facilities and costs, Taylor said.

A budget for a competitive Division I hockey program would likely be about $1 million per season, he said.

“A lot of people feel a Division I hockey program here would be successful, but you just never know in the long run,” Taylor said.

Terry Kragero, a Moorhead hockey enthusiast, said he wishes Fargo-Moorhead would get a Division I hockey program, but he thinks it’d be tough to find private donations to fund it.

“Unless you had an Engelstad in your back pocket,” said Kragero, referring to UND benefactor Ralph Engelstad.

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Thats a good surprise. I hope they can get the support together to make it happen. This is good news.

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It's a good idea but NDSU is the one who should be looking at this not MSU. People in this region support one school with their money and attendance and it sure isn't the Dragons. If you need the $$$ to get this program off it's feet...look no further than the Bison boosters across the state and region.

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I've been reading some of the blogs on a UND site and some people think that this some strange agenda to get NDSU to push to get a hockey program. They say they have a good enough fan base in the Fargo area. Just have to wait and see what happens.

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By: Amy Dalrymple, INFORUM

The money and enthusiasm are there to support Division I hockey at Minnesota State University Moorhead, supporters and the university’s president said Tuesday.

Edna Szymanski said the people who asked MSUM to consider a hockey program can provide the financial backing.

“If they wrote a check today, it could be done,” she said. “We were ap-proached by people who could make it happen.”

Szymanski and athletic director Doug Peters have not named the people who approached MSUM.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association lifted its moratorium on adding teams on Jan. 15. The deadline to apply was March 31, but the only university that did so was Bemidji (Minn.) State University.

A hockey program could not be supported with state money, she said.

Several community members have been meeting with Peters and representatives from the Urban Plains Center to discuss the idea.

One of them, Fargo-Moorhead developer Jeff Schlossman, said the group is expanding and beginning to raise funds for a possible program.

Schlossman said he’s long supported bringing Division I hockey to Fargo-Moorhead.

“This is a great market, a great media market, a great sports market,” Schlossman said. “It has a lot of potential now that there’s an arena in town.”

Fargo Force General Manager and Coach Dean Blais estimates it would cost about $5 million to start a Division I program.

Chris Birmingham, a member of MSUM’s Alumni Foundation board, thinks people will be willing to provide financial support.

“In terms of our community, I think there’s a lot of support out there that would support hockey regardless of whether it’s MSUM, Concordia or NDSU,” he said.

Other smaller campuses in Minnesota such as Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato have been able to support hockey programs, Birmingham said.

UP Center representatives also are enthusiastic about bringing Division I hockey to Fargo-Moorhead and hosting the team, said Todd Berning, president of the Metro Sports Foundation, which owns and operates the center.

“It would take the facility to a whole new level,” Berning said.

A Division I team could be a catalyst to help the UP Center complete its long-term goal of adding four rinks, said Berning, who has helped facilitate meetings about an MSUM program.

NDSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor said Berning contacted him in late March about starting a Division I hockey program.

“At the time of the meeting, I said I didn’t think now was the time and they needed a fairly quick turnaround because of the WCHA,” Taylor said.

Concordia College, which has Division III hockey, also was approached, said Athletic Director Larry Papenfuss.

Peters has not commented on whether MSUM is also looking at women’s hockey, but Szymanski said the university would comply with Title IX requirements.

Taylor said when NDSU looked at adding hockey, officials determined the university would have to add women’s hockey to be compliant with Title IX, making hockey more expensive to sustain.

“Women’s hockey does not draw the fan base that men’s do,” Taylor said. “A lot of men’s programs, the money they generate goes to pay for the women’s.”

Admissions Director Gina Monson said she’s excited MSUM is exploring hockey because it would help recruit students who want to play and who want to support a hockey team.

“Minnesota is such a hockey state, so I think it would be positive,” Monson said.

Gino Gasparini, United States Hockey League executive vice president and a former head University of North Dakota hockey coach, said financial backing is key.

“The trick in the whole business is sustaining it and making it a viable program revenue wise,” Gasparini said.

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Yeah, I agree with Zepman. NDSU should be considered over MSU if any school in that areas does. Moorhead State should not be even considered for a D-1 hockey program or admittance into the WCHA. Who would be next? Fergus Falls Community College?

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Does Concordia in Moorhead still have hockey??? I used to go to some of their games when my buddy played for them. The crowds were always good.

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As much as I'd like to see this happen even if they get a D1 program going say next year. The WCHA is not going to just let them in any time soon if at all.

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MSUM hockey plan includes Blais: Metro Sports Foundation proposal outlines potential Division I hockey team

A proposal presented to Minnesota State University Moorhead last month outlines launching Division I hockey with well-known coach Dean Blais leading the men’s team.

By: Eric Peterson, INFORUM

The Forum obtained a similar proposal through an open records request to North Dakota State.

MSUM is responding to a similar request from The Forum, but had not provided documents as of Thursday.

“I would not be surprised if both of the presentations were exactly the same, exchanging the logos and names of the universities,” MSUM Athletic Director Doug Peters said.

MSUM is holding a news conference at 10 a.m. today in the Comstock Memorial Union to discuss its potential move to Division I hockey.

“At this point in time, we are exploring the opportunity,” Peters said.

Peters said he received the proposal from Metro Sports Foundation President Todd Berning and Urban Plains Center General Manager Lance Johnson in early March.

The MSF owns and operates the UP Center, which would house the potential Division I program.

Peters said the proposal he received was dated March 7.

“It’s a good starting point and a good reference point, and it’s been prepared by people that are very, very experienced,” Peters said. “We’re taking a good look at it. It doesn’t mean we have adopted it. It’s a good starting point.”

The 14-page plan NDSU received is titled, “North Dakota State University Men’s and Women’s Division I Hockey Plan.” It’s dated March 25.

On Page 10 of the plan, a section reads:

“Finally, Dean Blais, who will serve as the head coach of the men’s team, was the head coach of the Sioux for 10 years.”

Peters confirmed the MSUM plan contained the same statement.

Blais – who earlier this week did not rule out coaching a D-I team at MSUM – is currently head coach of the Fargo Force, which opens the United States Hockey League playoffs tonight in Omaha, Neb.

Attempts to reach Blais Thursday were unsuccessful. But MSF board member Al Hintz said Blais knew his name was in the proposals.

“(Blais) was aware of it,” Hintz said. “He was aware of the discussions we had with the three colleges in town. It’s very similar to two years ago when we met with him about being coach of the Fargo Force. … Can we pull off getting Dean Blais as the head coach? We’re confident we would have a good shot at it.”

Hintz said plans presented to NDSU and MSUM “would be very similar.”

“There would be different things that would tie with MSUM,” Hintz said. “The basic plan for a Division I hockey program would be similar.”

While Peters wouldn’t say MSUM is ready to start a Division I hockey program just yet, he said the school is trying to take steps in that direction.

Fundraising is a critical component in moving forward. MSUM President Edna Szymanski said the school would not use state dollars to fund a hockey program.

“Any move forward with Division I hockey will take some external funding and, yes, we are trying to move forward to secure those types of dollars,” Peters said.

The proposal given to NDSU lists the projected total expenses at nearly $1.8 million annually. That total includes $450,000 for coaching salaries.

“It’s a good reference point to begin our exploration with,” Peters said. “It’s coming from people that are very professional and have done this before, so there’s some solid information in it.”

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The proposal given to NDSU lists the projected total expenses at nearly $1.8 million annually. That total includes $450,000 for coaching salaries.

Paltry scam only outclassed by the foolishness that is DI college basketball.

25 player scholarships at ± $21,000 (non-res)/year = $525,000

$525,000 + $450,000 + $825,000 = $1.8 million

Let's have a breakdown on that $825,000. Someone is getting a big taste.

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It would be great if NDSU or MSU-M could move up to D1. Then at leat I wouldn't have to head up to Sioux territory in GF to watch the Gophs. A D1 team would be great for the FM area.

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