As promised here come the Dakota schools…
Minot State University –Beavers – ASU - for the sake of argument here I’m going to be ignoring the unfortunate recent events which cause massive cuts throughout the North Dakota Public University system. Minot state University is the fourth largest institution in the state of North Dakota, however even with that distinction its student body still amounts to just under 4000, the bright side is that the Minot area has around 77,000 people living in it. And I’m not entirely sure that those figures include Minot Air Force Base. This, means that there is a large enough population there to be able to support a college hockey program. Masya Arena has a seating capacity of 1800 people, I’m not sure if there’s any room to possibly expand that level of seating, but this would be sufficient enough for the short term until a new arena could be built with larger seating capacity. One of the biggest issues Minot would face would be travel expenses. It should be noted that Minot state does have a very successful ACHA Division I program. So they have the framework with which to build a NCAA Division I squad, it all comes down to getting enough funds scholarships and running the program, while new arena would certainly be nice I don’t think it’s necessary right away.
North Dakota State University- Bison – PSU - This forum has had numerous postings on the potential of North Dakota State adding hockey. North Dakota State right now is so focused on their football program I doubt they would add hockey and less they were given the Penn State sized gift to create a hockey program. I think there is a bit of a chip on the shoulder mentality when it comes to the idea of hockey and NDSU. They play up the idea that NDSU is strictly a football school and there’s no interest in hockey. However, the Fargo-Moorhead area is a hockey town. I think it’s more a matter of just giving them the right incentive. So if somebody wanted to endow an NDSU hockey program, I have a feeling it would do just fine. I also don’t think there would be a problem with both Moorhead State and North Dakota State having Division I hockey programs. If you look at the numbers from other college hockey cities. Minnesota State University in recent years has been able to fill up their building at least 70% full on the majority of nights if not more with a similar population to Moorhead. To be fair, a good chunk of the reason some of those seats are empty is that it’s a U-shaped arena and no one wants to sit on either end of the U. Fargo is at least twice the size of Moorhead and would likely be able to support high turnout for Bison hockey. However, in the current climate, I can’t see North Dakota State University make an actual effort to try and actively get a Division I hockey program. Someone would have to give them a large financial gift to get them to create a hockey program, and I think this would also need to include a new arena. It should be noted that North Dakota state does have men’s and women’s ACHA Division I clubs. From what I understand the Bison men’s club is not particularly good however they do have a very successful women’s club which means if they got enough money they could start both men and women’s hockey programs.
The University of South Dakota – Coyotes – PSU - the University of South Dakota is located in Vermillion South Dakota. The town is pretty small of population of around 10,000, but the large student body of around 9000 helps to make up for that. While the idea of hockey working in Vermillion is by no means stretch, the town itself is similar in size to Bemidji, and student body is much larger Bemidji State, STU faces some challenges to adding Division I men’s hockey. The Coyotes have a club which currently plays in the ACHA. However, they play as a Division III club. Additionally Vermillion does not have any indoor ice, which means the team has to drive to the nearby town of Yankton for the nearest indoor ice. Additionally, this arena and Yankton is not capable of acting even as a temporary home for a Division I University of South Dakota hockey team, so right out the gate the school would need a new arena in Vermillion. Realistically even with the Division III club the University would be starting from scratch and creating a men’s hockey go hopefully the Division III club would help to gauge how interested students might be in seeing a men’s hockey program at the University of South Dakota. I’m going to call this one a long shot as there just doesn’t seem to be as significant a level of interest as at other schools.
South Dakota State University – jackrabbits – ASU - SDSU is not much better off than the University of South Dakota when it comes to creating a hockey program. They do have a facility and the club program. However, like the University of South Dakota, the club program competes at the Division III level. The major advantage that South Dakota State has is that there is an ice arena in the Brookings with seating capacity for 2000, which would make it bigger or on par with many of the smaller East Coast thus a serviceable arena for the program to at least get started in. Another advantage which the state has over University of South Dakota is that Brookings is double the size of around 23,000 people and a student body of 12,000 there would be more than enough people theoretically to come in support a Jackrabbits Division I hockey program. However much like some of the other programs I’ve talked about even though SDSU would have a serviceable arena to start with they would eventually need to move to a new facility with higher capacity especially if they had any designs on joining the NCHC, even the WCHA would likely push for the University to either create a new venue or to make significant renovations to the existing arena. However, the WCHA might be willing to overlook the seating capacity and more basic amenities in the beginning.
Northern State University – wolves – ASU – northern state is similar to Clarkston in the fact that creating a Division I college hockey program would be a long shot at the school. Unlike Crookson the Aberdeen area is a fair bit larger at around 26,000. However, the University has just under 4000 student meeting there would be a particularly large student body to support men’s Division I hockey program. Another factor that would go against northern state creating a D1 men’s hockey program is the lack of an existing club program. While it’s possible that such a program does exist and I’m just not finding it, I haven’t been able to find any website referencing and ACHA club program at Northern State. However, if Northern State University were to create a Division I men’s hockey program there is an arena in town with seating for just under 2000 which could serve as a serviceable home for the men’s hockey program until the facility could either be expanded to increase capacity or an entirely new facility could be built. In all likelihood, northern state would not be a viable candidate for adding a men’s hockey team however they do have some of the infrastructure necessary for doing it and stranger things have happened