Arizona State to host Desert Hockey Classic at PVEC
Tournament to be first NCAA Division I event in Prescott Valley
PRESCOTT VALLEY – Hockey is returning to northern Arizona, but this time, NCAA Division I collegiate athletes will lace up their skates and hit the ice in a four-team tournament this December.
Members of the Arizona State University athletic department officially announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the Sun Devil hockey team will host the second annual Desert Hockey Classic at the Prescott Valley Event Center.
“We’re incredibly excited to host our Desert Hockey Classic in Prescott Valley. … We were blown away by the passion, and the alumni group in this city missed the sport of ice hockey,” Arizona State head coach Greg Powers said. “This is a good hockey community. We’re absolutely thrilled that we can bring it back to this city.”
It is the first NCAA Division I hockey event in PVEC's history.
Arizona State, which enters its first full year of NCAA Division I hockey competition this coming 2016-2017 season, will welcome the University of Connecticut, Brown University, and perennial national title contender, St. Cloud State, to a four-team tournament.
“They welcomed it with open arms,” Powers said about gauging the visiting schools’ interest in coming to Prescott Valley. “We told them about the history of hockey in this city, and the support we think we can get, and they were all in immediately.”
The Desert Hockey Classic is scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday, Dec. 30 and 31.
Satish Athelli, manager of business development at PVEC, said the idea of hosting a hockey tournament with Arizona State began two years ago during a goodwill tour by ASU alumni in the area.
“Late that evening, Greg [Powers] texted me and said, ‘We need to bring a hockey game up here,’” Athelli recalled. “This came to fruition after a couple years of work. … There’s a love and a need for hockey here.”
Prescott Valley Vice Mayor Richard Anderson said at the press conference that the Desert Hockey Classic and Arizona State have the full support of the town.
“We look forward to seeing ASU hockey come up here. We’ve done ice hockey in the past, and we’ll certainly do our best to see that everyone comes out to enjoy hockey in the future,” Anderson said.
Mike Paredes, director of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation, said to have Arizona State choose Prescott Valley for the Desert Hockey Classic shows “we are ready for the big leagues.”
“We’re building this town for residents and visitors who seek a northern Arizona hotspot for dining, shopping, doing business, and now a sports venue that can hold high-caliber sports events like the NBA D-League, and now NCAA Division I hockey,” said Paredes, who is an ASU alumnus.
As for the tournament itself, Powers said fans will see “collegiate hockey at its highest level.”
“You’re going to see close to 20 players who will be drafted by the NHL,” Power said. “We want to expose the entire state to Division I college hockey. While we don’t have a permanent home on campus [in Tempe], this just made sense. This is a starved hockey community. This is a beautiful venue, it’s intimate.”
Powers added that Arizona State is more than willing to continue the relationship in the future with Prescott Valley.
“We’re open to coming up here and making this an annual thing. We’ll see how well it goes, but anticipate it will go well,” Powers said. “If we have success with this event, our student athletes have a great experience … we want to keep coming back.”
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter @SportsWriter52 or reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.