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HBCU Makes History With New Ice Hockey Program

Tennessee State University (TSU) is one of the largest HBCU colleges in the U.S. and is widely known for its athletics. This includes sports such as basketball, football, tennis, and more. It has established the careers of many athletes such as Wilma Rudolph and Tiger Belle who both made track history. The university has also produced Super Bowl champion Ed Jones. TSU has established many sports for its athletes, however, they’re looking to make a huge change by becoming the first-ever historically black college to introduce ice hockey.

Earlier this year, Tennessee State collaborated with the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Hockey League Player’s Association, and one of the most well-known hockey teams in the United States: the Nashville Predators. Before this partnership occurred, the NHL, along with the players’ union, sponsored feasibility studies for U.S. colleges and universities interested in the addition of Division Ⅰ men’s and women’s programs since 2017. This idea for ice hockey came to fruition when Sean Henry, the president of the Nashville Predators, said there were discussions of helping raise $1 million in scholarship funds in a month. This turned into the idea of bringing up the subject of ice hockey in January 2020.

“The announcement gives him goosebumps thinking of how this could change hockey,” Henry states. Not only will this change the landscape of ice hockey, but also of HBCUs all around the U.S. For decades, HBCUs have mainly been recognized by their popular sports such as basketball and football. However, with the addition of ice hockey, it adds to the preexisting sports. The athletic director of TSU, Mikki Allen, expressed that the program will help diversify hockey and embrace inclusivity.

Tennessee State is following a trend of other HBCUs adding new sports to their programs that are different from their usual offerings. The Associated Press asked 46 Division Ⅰ and ⅠⅠ HBCU along with five conference offices about this trend. Out of all these schools, nearly half of them responded with some saying they had added at least 42 NCAA championships or emerging sports since 2020 alone. This evidence shows that HBCUs are gradually adding more sports to their programs as they progress. Glenda Glover, the president of TSU expressed this idea by stating that it is part of TSU’s commitment to provide new opportunities for those who have little to no access.

Currently, the plan for TSU is to have a men’s team playing at club level in 2024

and after that, a women’s team. This team will practice at one of the rinks operated by the Predators in Nashville. Once they have both teams at club level, the next step is to get Division Ⅰ men’s and women’s teams. These next steps will help build new opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds shortly. Former NHL player Anson Carter commented on these opportunities saying, “To have the ability to even open up the HBCU in the hockey space… it is a game changer for young kids playing hockey in the United States and Canada.”

TSU’s plans for ice hockey can change not only the landscape of ice hockey but

also the addition of new sports to HBCUs all across the U.S. and influence them to also create these new opportunities. “It is our hope that while TSU is the first HBCU to start an ice hockey program, we certainly won’t be the last,” says Glenda Glover. This is one of many opportunities that will impact the future of the sports industry.

[Source: Associated Press; Tennessee State University: Madison.com]

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