Arizona's NHL team is welcoming Arizona's first-year NCAA Division 1 program by partnering and agreeing to host its first party.
As part of that agreement between Arizona State and the Arizona Coyotes announced Wednesday, the Sun Devils will play four games this season at 17,125 seat Gila River Arena where the Coyotes play.
Those games are Arizona State's opener against Arizona (ACHA) on October 3, the inaugural Desert Hockey Classic January 8 and 10th with ASU, Connecticut, Michigan Tech and Yale, along with an exhibition game against the United States U-18 team on Sunday February 28th.
(Sadly the Sun Devils and Coyotes miss out on hosting potential 2016 #1 overall pick Auston Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Arizona, by a year. Matthews played for the U-18 team last year.)
"We are proud to be hosting a couple of ASU's marquee matchups and a first of its kind NCAA D-1 hockey tournament in the Southwestern United States,"Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said in a statement released alongside the announcement. "Gila River Arena is one of the best hockey venues in the entire NHL and we are excited to have the Sun Devils play in our home. The Sun Devils will have an enormous positive impact on the growth of hockey in Arizona. We look forward to a long and great partnership with ASU."
Glendale, home to Gila River Arena, is 25-30 miles west of Tempe where ASU's home rink Oceanside Ice Arena resides. Both sides said that they will work on transporting students to the games.
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In November 2014 the Sun Devils announced plans to be the first team in the Southwestern United States to move to Division 1.
The team will be playing a 36 game hybrid schedule in 2015-16 split between NCAA, ACHA and exhibition games as part of a planned three year transition into joining an NCAA conference. 21 of the 23 games against NCAA Division 1 opponents are on the road. Only the Desert City Classic features D1 schools playing a road game in Arizona.
The setup is similar to how Penn State, the last school which added Division 1 men's hockey, operated in its inaugural year. PSU played as an independent in 2012 with many of its D1 games on the road or spread across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
One benefit to ASU's agreement with the Coyotes is television. Sun Devils Athletic Director Ray Anderson mentioned Gila River Arena being more TV-ready than Oceanside. Arizona State is a member of the Pac 12 Conference for other sports and games could be broadcast on the Pac 12 Network. While Oceanside is being renovated, it was built for youth hockey and seats under 2,000 fans.