Playing on the Big Stage

A sellout crowd cheered Boston University and Cornell at MSG. (photo by Steve McLaughlin)

Matt Mangene relishes the thought of not only walking into Fenway Park on a winter day, but lacing up his skates to play in a college hockey game on a frozen rink inside one of baseball’s most hallowed cathedrals.

Mangene and his teammates at the University of Maine will get that chance Jan. 7, when the Black Bears face New Hampshire in “Frozen Fenway 2012,” a Hockey East doubleheader at Fenway Park that will also pit Massachusetts against Vermont.

College Hockey Games at NHL, MLB Venues

Nov. 26 - Cornell vs. Boston University, Madison Square Garden, New York City

Dec. 2-3 - Nebraska-Omaha vs. Alabama Huntsville, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.

Dec. 29-30 - Great Lakes Invitational (Michigan, Boston College, Michigan State, Michigan Tech), Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

Dec. 30 - Ohio State vs. Robert Morris, CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh

Jan. 4 - Penn State vs. Neumann, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

Jan. 7 - Frozen Fenway, Vermont vs. Massachusetts, 4 p.m., and New Hampshire vs. Maine, Fenway Park, Boston

Jan. 7 - Clarkson vs. North Dakota, MTS Centre, Winnipeg

Jan. 14 – Boston College vs. Northeastern, Fenway Park, Boston

Jan. 15 - Michigan vs. Ohio State, Progressive Field, Cleveland

Feb. 6/13 - Beanpot Tournament (Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern), TD Garden, Boston

March 15-17 - WCHA “Final Five,” Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.

March 16-17 - Hockey East semifinals and championship, TD Garden, Boston

March 17-18 - CCHA semifinals and championship, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

March 24-25 - NCAA West Regional, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.

April 5/7 - NCAA Frozen Four, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV Schedule

National Broadcasts

The Hockey News

View a .pdf of the college hockey insert in the Dec. 5, 2011, issue of The Hockey News.

“This is something that’s very surprising to happen, but it's great to get this opportunity,” said Mangene, a junior defenseman for the Black Bears. “We can't wait to get down to Boston and walk around and see the history that's inside of the park. And then we get to play outdoors.”

Mangene’s expectations for Frozen Fenway 2012 exhibit a factor that’s helping the growth of college hockey. Each season, the game is featured in bigger and more unique venues in front of larger crowds.

Big Rinks

This season, eight National Hockey League arenas and two Major League Baseball stadiums will host Division I college hockey games during the regular season, postseason and conference and national tournaments. Among those sites: Cleveland’s Progressive Field, Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center, Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena and St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

Tampa’s St. Pete Times Forum will host the 2012 Frozen Four in April and New York’s Madison Square Garden will host “Red Hot Hockey” on Nov. 26, the third matchup between Cornell and Boston University at the newly renovated facility.

“I know some of the Long Island kids at BU, and they can’t wait to play at the Garden,“ said Mangene, who grew up on Long Island. “They grew up going to Rangers games. Kids are going to the most famous arena in the world. They may have never thought they would have gotten to play in this kind of game in their lifetime.”

Exposure for college hockey continues, not just in major-league facilities but also on network television.

On Nov. 2, NBC Sports Group announced it will carry 16 live college hockey games and the Hockey East tournament this season, starting with Boston University at Notre Dame at 7 p.m. (EST), Dec. 31 on VERSUS. NBC Sports Group also announced it will carry all of Notre Dame’s home games on the NBC Sports Network, beginning with the 2013-2014 season when the Irish join Hockey East.

NBC/Versus will join CBS College Sports and ESPN as national television outlets that carry college hockey, in addition to numerous regional television outlets.

TV Exposure

“One thing that has exploded in college hockey is the television coverage," Dave Starman, a broadcaster with CBS College Sports, told College Hockey, Inc. earlier this year. "The networks that have been doing games such as CBS Sports Network, there are so many games that are on. There is so much exposure for players in these programs. I think when a young player makes a decision about where to play, you have to think about the fact that their games are not just being seen by the people in the building, they are being seen by people across North America because of the exposure college hockey gets on television.”

Paul Karpowich, a senior goalie at Clarkson, believes that televising college hockey games on national network television has the potential to create a larger audience.

“It’s going to be reaching a lot more homes, instead of it being on regional networks,” Karpowich said. “All of the local networks here cover us and the locals get them, but it seems like no one else gets them unless there’s an internet feed. It’s almost like football, how televised games draw in new fans. Hopefully college hockey will have that same effect.”

Karpowich and the Golden Knights will face North Dakota on Jan. 7 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, home of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.

Chance of a Lifetime

“I've never played in an NHL rink before, so getting an opportunity to play in one means a lot, especially being so close to home,” said Karpowich, who was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. “Coming from Canada, hockey is everything there, the biggest sport. Here, you’ve got football and baseball, but you see college hockey taking off and getting more fans. Playing at these venues and going to Winnipeg, it shows how the game has progressed and how it’s attracting a new type of fan.”

Mangene agrees, and believes the trend of college hockey games at major-league venues should continue. And, he said, one of college hockey’s fiercest rivalries could help the game’s visibility.

“If you've never known about Maine-UNH rivalry and you live in Boston, you buy a ticket, you come to the game and you get to see how inspiring and what a matchup it is,” Mangene said. “It could get better and better. I don’t see a downside. It brings a better crowd and brings better fans into it.”

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5, 2011, issue of The Hockey News.

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