Penn State hockey could soon see another Big Ten opponent in the conference.
Illinois announced Friday in a joint news conference that it will partner with the NHL and NHLPA to evaluate the possibility of adding hockey as a varsity men’s and women’s sport. (It’s now a club sport.)
The evaluation is part of a feasibility study funded by the NHL and NHLPA to support the growth of collegiate hockey. Illinois is one of as many as five institutions that will be part of the study; the others have not yet been publicly released.
Athletic director Josh Whitman said initial research revealed several factors suggesting that hockey could be popular on campus. He noted there remain unanswered questions including funding programs, facility needs and Title IX considerations.
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“The idea of varsity hockey at the University of Illinois has great appeal,” Whitman said at the news conference. “With hockey’s popularity in both Chicago and St. Louis, and rapidly growing youth participation across the state, we anticipate tremendous interest in the sport at our university.”
Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula took part in the announcement after he donated $102 million to build an arena and establish hockey programs at his alma mater of Penn State.