The PPL Center in Allentown is probably the nicest mid-sized arena in the United States right now, and it’s obvious that owners would like the building filled as much as humanly possible.
To that end, there’s a report out of North Dakota today saying that the facility has put in a bid to host the regional round of the NCAA men’s hockey tournament. 2018 regional hosts have not been announced yet, so this could be for as soon as next year.
Here’s Brad Schlossman, who covers the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (definitely not Sioux) for the Grand Forks Herald:
One potential new NCAA regional destination: Allentown, Pa. Beautiful new 8,400-seat arena there. Word is they put in a bid.— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) April 11, 2017
Schlossman is as plugged in as anybody in college hockey circles, so there’s no reason to doubt his report here. And this is pretty exciting news.
The regional round of the 16-team NCAA men’s hockey tournament consists of the first two rounds. Four teams are placed into each of four regionals, the East, West, Northeast and Midwest. The winners of each regional head to the Frozen Four.
The NCAA has typically kept the regional host cities a pretty tight group. In the last 10 tournaments, only 17 cities have hosted the regionals in total -- with many, like Providence and Cincinnati, hosting multiple times.
Those cities are: Providence, Cincinnati, Worcester, Manchester, Albany, St. Paul, Fargo, South Bend, Bridgeport, Toledo, Manchester, Green Bay, St. Louis, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Colorado Springs, and Madison. Geographically, these are all pretty similar places: generally located in either the Upper Midwest, New England, or Upstate New York, with just a few exceptions.
No city in Pennsylvania has ever hosted the NCAA hockey regionals. Pittsburgh hosted the Frozen Four in 2013 and Philadelphia hosted in 2014, but other than that we’ve never had a chance to see much college postseason hockey in the state.
But with Penn State now a powerhouse in Big Ten hockey, Allentown could be a natural fit. The geography suits it well — it’s a new market that exposes college hockey to folks with a track record of supporting the game, but it’s also not too far away from college hockey’s East Coast heartland in New York State, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Allentown has supported the AHL’s Phantoms beyond anybody’s wildest expectations since the team moved into PPL Center for the 2014-15 season, and we have to imagine that people would turn out for three games over the course of two days to watch some national tournament college hockey.