BY MARK HOUSER
When the nation's best college hockey teams come to town in April for the NCAA Men's Frozen Four, hosted by Robert Morris University, it will be the first time in 50 years that a national sports champion is crowned in Pittsburgh. Expect Marty Galosi to be right in the middle of it all with a big smile on his face.
"I'm not sure people ever thought of Robert Morris in that light. This is really symbolic of where the university and the athletic department are now," says Galosi, the university's senior associate athletic director. It was Galosi who, as chairman of the city's organizing committee, worked with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Consol Energy Center, and VisitPittsburgh to woo the NCAA men's hockey finals here.
Hosting the Frozen Four is a big step for a program that's not yet a decade old. But American college hockey is in an expansion phase, trying to stretch beyond its traditional base in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest. Last year's Frozen Four was in Tampa. Pennsylvania's total number of Division I teams just shot up 50 percent this year, as Penn State threw its helmet in the rink to join RMU and Erie's Mercyhurst. Organizers anticipate more than 13,000 visitors coming to town for the tournament, with an estimated economic impact to the region of $12 million, according to Galosi.
Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan says he expects the Frozen Four to help build an already burgeoning local hockey fan base, which in turn helps the Penguins. "Our business is NHL hockey, but we've always looked for ways to promote hockey in Pittsburgh at all levels. More and more kids in Pittsburgh are playing college hockey, and the Penguins have a lot of guys in management who came up through college hockey," McMillan says, starting with coach Dan Bylsma (Bowling Green) and manager Ray Shero (St. Lawrence). The Colonials have played showcase games against marquee opponents each winter on the Penguins NHL home ice, most memorably upsetting No. 1 Miami in 2010. This year the Colonials will face off in a four-team tournament against Miami, Ohio State, and the brand new Penn State squad in the Three Rivers Classic on December 28-29.
And what are the chances that the Colonials will play again at Consol this season? You know, in April?
Of the 58 teams in men's Division I hockey, 16 are invited to the NCAA playoffs. The Colonials need to capture the title in their conference, Atlantic Hockey, and earn an automatic bid to the field of 16. But, once there, the tournament is single elimination, so two more wins gets a team to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. And while we're getting our hopes up, just two more wins and…
Well, do you believe in miracles?
RMU is looking for 275 volunteers to help with the Frozen Four in April. Not all positions are rinkside — with more than 10,000 visitors, the city will need plenty of airport and hotel greeters, registration table aides, and runners and facilitators at the "Frozen Fest" fan experience. Alumni, here's a chance to help your city and alma mater look good, have fun meeting hockey nuts from around the country, and get some truly cool Frozen Four gear too. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can volunteer.
RMU's Marty Galosi Talks 2013 Frozen Four
Senior Associate Athletic Director Marty Galosi talks about RMU hosting the 2013 Frozen Four, the first major championship decided in Pittsburgh after more than 50 years.