The University of Nebraska athletic department has submitted paperwork to put NU in the running to host NCAA hockey’s Frozen Four.
If NU’s bid is selected, the Division I men’s hockey championships would take place in Omaha at the CenturyLink Center sometime between 2019 and 2022.
Butch Hug, Nebraska’s associate athletic director for facilities and events, said NU also has submitted bids to host the NCAA Division I volleyball and wrestling championships during a four-season window between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years. NU’s bids also call for those championships to be in Omaha at the CenturyLink Center, where NU has already hosted NCAA championships in both sports.
Hug said the Huskers’ lack of a hockey program should not be a negative mark against NU’s bid proposal.
Hosting the top collegiate hockey event would be something new for NU, but the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs the CenturyLink Center, has had plenty of hockey experience with the UNO hockey program playing there from 2003-04 through 2014-15. The Mavs moved to Baxter Arena, their own on-campus arena, for the start of the 2015-16 season.
During the 12 seasons the Mavericks played at the CenturyLink Center, the Mavs’ home ice wasn’t eligible to host the Frozen Four.
Hug said now that UNO no longer is a tenant at the venue, there are no barriers to a hockey bid.
“Once they relocated to their own arena, the facility was available to be considered,” Hug said. “Now we can do it.”
The NCAA is expected to award bids for the events on April 18.
In recent years, the Frozen Four has been played in NHL venues. It was played on the home ice of the Boston Bruins in 2015, the year UNO made it. In 2016 it took place at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. This year’s Frozen Four is at the United Center in Chicago, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. In 2018, it’s scheduled for the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the Minnesota Wild play.
One stipulation for hosting the Frozen Four is that the arena seat at least 18,000 spectators for hockey. That’s one reason Nebraska is not proposing to host the event at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, which seats between 15,000 and 16,000 for basketball, and likely fewer for hockey because of the larger floor space required.
The same seating requirement held for wrestling when NU hosted that championship in 2010 at CenturyLink, Hug said.
Nebraska hosted the women’s volleyball final four in 2006, 2008 and 2015 at CenturyLink. The Huskers won the 2006 and 2015 titles in Omaha; Penn State swept Stanford for the 2008 title after edging Nebraska 3-2 in the semifinals. CenturyLink also has hosted three United States Olympic Swimming Trials and the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating national championships.
“Hockey would be a natural here because so many people are interested in the sport here in the Midwest,” Hug said. “We’re centrally located, and we have a facility that has a proven track record.”