URI: No interest in varsity hockey

May 21, 2013

The Atlantic Hockey blog mentions that the University of Rhode Island is being considered by league brass to replace the University of Connecticut, which is moving its Division 1 hockey team into the Hockey East.

The Atlantic Hockey Conference is known as a stepping stone conference for colleges moving up to Division 1. Quinnipiac, for example, started in Atlantic Hockey and is now a national power that plays in the ECAC conference along with such Ivy League schools as Brown and Yale, which won the national championship a few weeks back over Quinnipiac, Yale’s New Haven neighbor.

The problem is URI officials have no interest in upgrading the current program from club status to a varsity sport in either men’s or women’s hockey, says URI sports information director Mike Lepray. ``We’re not pursuing adding either men’s or women’s hockey to varsity status.’’

URI has a fine hockey rink, the Boss Arena, that could accommodate a hockey upgrade. But there would be a substantial financial commitment involved for URI, including hiring coaches and providing a dozen or more scholarships needed to put competitive varsity teams on ice.

URI is seen as a natural fit for varsity hockey someday. Rhode Island has a decent base of hockey fans and URI is the lone state university in New England without a varsity hockey program. The universities of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut all play Division 1 hockey and are in the Hockey East conference.