The CenturyLink Center can hold up to 17,560 fans. Imagine if each and every one of those seats was covered in red, white and black colors, and engulfed with eager Maverick fans ready to unleash the furry.
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln athletic department put in a bid to host the NCAA Frozen Four in 2019 and 2022 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Why does this matter? The University of Nebraska at Omaha could potentially play its biggest game of its hockey program on home-ice.
UNO made its first Frozen Four in 2015, and have showed that their hockey program is headed into the right direction. The Mavs are in the toughest hockey conference in the country in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, but good competition only strengthens a team’s mental and physical capacity.
So, how is UNL relevant to this conversation?
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln would not be able to host the event at the Pinnacle Bank Arena due to only being able to hold a maximum of 16,000 seats. The Frozen Four requires at least 18,000 spectators to attend, which is why it has been held at professional hockey arenas, such as the home of the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks in the last three years.
Despite not having a hockey program, UNL would still be hosting a major college-sporting event, which never looks bad on a resume. Butch Hug, Nebraska’s associate athletic director for facilities and events, mentioned in the Omaha World-Herald that hosting the Frozen Four in Omaha would be a great turnout not just for UNO, but hockey fans in general.
“Hockey would be a natural here because so many people are interested in the sport here in the Midwest,” Hug said. “We’re centrally located, and we have a facility that has a proven track record.
The ‘Clink’ would be a great homecoming for the Mavericks, who have not played there since the 2014-15 season. After the Baxter Arena was finished, UNO moved west to Aksarben to skate in a venue dedicated for hockey.
In the 12 seasons UNO played at the CenturyLink Center, the Mavs were not able to host the Frozen Four. Now that they have their own arena, Hug mentioned there are no regulations against hosting the event at the CentruyLink Center.
“Once they relocated to their own arena, the facility was available to be considered,” Hug said. “Now we can do it.”
The NCAA is expected to announce the winner of the bid April 18.
There’s a reoccurring theme for Nebraska schools that host a major event in sports. When UNL hosted the women’s volleyball final four in 2006 and in 2015, Nebraska went on to win both titles in Omaha.
UNO could fall into this theme to win its first ever NCAA Division I title in not just hockey, but in any sport. Hosting the Frozen Four would immediately put UNO on the radar for other schools, coaches and players, but winning the whole shebang would elevate UNO’s ranking in sports as a legitimate Division I competitor that fans have been waiting for.