NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State is conducting a study to test the feasibility of becoming the first historically black university to field varsity men’s and women’s ice hockey teams.
The university announced the study Friday with help from the NHL, the Nashville Predators and College Hockey Inc. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association has sponsored studies since 2017 helping U.S. colleges and universities work through all the details of establishing varsity hockey programs.
Kids at the Hockey Lab in Franklin says the sport is more than a hobby.
They tell us they wouldn't mind lacing up their skates in playing college hockey.
"I think it would definitely get some popularity because like with the predators seems like everyone kind of jumped on but would be great to get a D1 school," said Clayton Ellsworth.
Youth players say there's a lot of talent in Middle Tennessee.
"It would be great, there's a lot of talent here and I feel like it may open up a lot of rinks and might be more ice; I think they can probably do camps and they'll be a lot more opportunities," said Colin Sullivan.
Tennessee State University is looking to be the first.
First D-1 hockey school in Tennessee and first historical black college to have a hockey program.
"This could be groundbreaking for minority, you know athletes that have aspirations of playing Division One hockey," said Dr. Mikki Allen, TSU athletic director.
Dr. Allen says the feasibility study will help determine if the dream of building a hockey program can become a reality.
"To go through the process to find out what the funding model looks like, how will travel look look like, you know what, what will our financial aid need to be in terms of offering scholarships to both women and men student athletes," Allen said.
In a state with a high number of youth hockey programs, kids who are ready to one day make the pros say having a D-1 hockey school in their backyard would be incredible.
"A lot of the programs that are D-1 are up north and a lot of people are moving away and even around our age or younger and this would be a lot better," said Sullivan.
Results from the study are expected around October.
Right now the only D-1 collegiate hockey program in the South is in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Predators have helped build or plan the addition of four new facilities with seven sheets of ice in Middle Tennessee. Results from the study are expected late this year.