Breslow Ice Arena Is Not a First Step for Husker Hockey in the Big Ten

Jonathan Daniel

On Friday, the NU Board of Regents will vote to approve the construction of the long-discussed Breslow Ice Arena near Haymarket Park and Pinnacle Bank Arena. It'll be a single sheet of ice, though a second sheet could be added at a later time.

Almost immediately, the speculation began that Nebraska was going to start a Division 1 hockey team, playing in the Big Ten Conference. The proposal makes it clear that this is not under consideration:

The construction of this facility does not contemplate Division I hockey and UNL has no plans for such program.

Of course, some people started to run with that anyway. This facility wouldn't be suitable for a division 1 B1G hockey program in it's proposed form.  The Breslow Center will only seat 750 fans, which is fine for intramurals and youth hockey.  Not for Big Ten hockey.

Could it be used as a practice facility, though? Yes.  Games could be played at the Pinnacle Bank Arena, which likely would seat over 13,000 for hockey.  While the facility is configured for an ice rink, the seating bowl is not optimized for hockey, so some lower bowl seats would have obstructed views of the surface.  Fitting hockey in around men's and women's basketball could be an issue; hockey series typically run as two games on the weekend, and that could be difficult to manage all three sports at the same facility.  Could the women's team return to the Devaney Center? Perhaps, but that might raise Title IX issues if the men play at the shiny new arena and the women do not.

Title IX would be an issue with scholarships; adding a men's sport would require adding women's scholarship opportunities.  A women's hockey program could address that, but would add even more stress to the scheduling arrangement at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Could an arena be added to the Breslow Center?  It's unclear whether the space would support that...and even more uncertain where the money for another arena would come from.  UNO is planning to build an $80 million arena for hockey; this will seat 7500 fans.  Typical Big Ten hockey arenas range in size from 5,782 (Penn State) and 6,500 (Michigan and Michigan State) seat ice rinks to multi-purpose arenas that seat over 14,000 at Wisconsin and Ohio State.

So at this time, hockey isn't coming anytime soon. But this morning on KLIN radio (1400 AM, Lincoln), NU regent Tim Claire seemed to open the door a crack for the future.

The issues still remain:

But this is the first time that any Nebraska official has said anything other than "No" regarding B1G Hockey in Lincoln.  Earlier this year, athletic director Shawn Eichorst made it clear it wasn't happening.  Is this a major revelation? Not really, but the door did crack open ever so slightly today.

Before Nebraska would consider starting a hockey program, the first hurdle would be to ensure that a Husker hockey program would attract new fans, and specifically not cannibalize Nebraska men's and women's basketball, nor Nebraska-Omaha hockey.

And no, that attitude won't help.  (I know Salt was joking...but the distinction might be lost on some.) Hockey is an expensive sport to play, and it'll have to be clear that it can be sustained in the athletic department. That's not entirely clear at this point, and until that can be shown, I don't see hockey coming to Lincoln.

But the door might be open, just a touch.  Not now...maybe in 10-15 years, perhaps.

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