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Atlantic Youth Hockey League

 

AMHL Supports Rutgers Hockey in its NCAA Aspirations

Release Date : 05/30/2015

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers University Ice Hockey Assistant Coach Adriaan Klaassen has put together a committee representing a group of over 250 alumni, to explore bringing Division I college hockey to the eighth oldest college in the United States.

        Rutgers University Hockey has been a fixture at the New Brunswick campus since its inception in 1892. The program now participates in the competitive American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I and has been run by a combination of students and volunteers for its entire history.

           “We believe that the rapid growth in both hockey popularity and talent in New Jersey and the Atlantic District, combined with the current landscape of NCAA Division I hockey, form a perfect storm of opportunity at this time, to bring B1G Hockey to Rutgers,” Klaassen said.

            According to numbers released by the group, obtained from the United States High School Hockey online, the state of New Jersey is home to 127 varsity high school hockey teams along with 29 non-varsity programs; high schools in Southern New Jersey skate as club teams and not as varsity programs. The state is also home to 11 Tier I youth clubs (courtesy of the Atlantic Distric), 36 Tier II youth clubs (courtesy of the New Jersey Youth Hockey League), one Tier II junior team and several junior teams that are recognized as Tier III programs.

            “Rutgers would become New Jersey’s College Hockey Team,” Klaassen added. “We would be able to provide a local, big-time college program for the elite youth players in New Jersey to aspire to.”

            Rutgers would seek to tap into the player pool in the Atlantic District. The Atlantic District governs Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to numbers the group obtained, there are over 25,000 USA Hockey-registered players under the age of 19 in the Atlantic District. The district is currently without a Division I program that offers athletic scholarships. Princeton University is located in the district’s footprint but does not offer athletic scholarships.

            According to data published by collegehockeyinc.com, and compiled by Jashvina Shah, beat reporter for Princeton Hockey and Big Ten reporter for College Hockey News, into an infographic, “Division I College Hockey Breakdown”, New Jersey produced 52 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey players in 2014-15, ranking 6th nationally. Compared to only 19 players produced in 2003-04, the number of Division I players that call New Jersey home has risen 174% over the last eleven years.

            “We feel strongly that these kids should not have to leave ‘home’ to play college hockey,” Klaassen said. “In turn, by staying home, it would continue to grow the game locally.”

            The Big Ten Ice Hockey Conference, in just its second season, currently plays with only six teams (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin). Klaassen believes that with Rutgers already a part of the conference for other sports, Rutgers is a natural fit when the conference seeks to expand and that it can draw from the Big Ten’s large alumni base in the metropolitan area for its home games.

            “Five of the six teams in the conference were in the top-10 for average home attendance last season, and the sixth, Ohio State, was 15th,” he said. “We fully believe that the conference is ready to expand to and bringing these storied programs to town annually would be immensely popular and prosperous, especially with four NHL venues within an our of our New Brunswick campus.”

            With Rutgers President Dr. Robert Barchi set to announce the results of a facilities study and the future plans for Rutgers Athletics on June 18, Klaassen felt the time was right for this movement to gain traction.

            “We want this petition to prove the potential support in the area for a big-time NCAA hockey program,” Klaassen said. “We want to show that hockey should be a part of the future plans for Rutgers Athletics, especially if they are going to be building a new arena or renovating the current one, it should be a multi-use facility that includes a regulation sheet of ice.”

            As the petition continues to receive signatures, the group knows that without the proper funding their best-laid plans will never get off the ground.

            “The end game is going to be whether we can find enough funding to kick start the program,” Klaassen said. “Unless we are able to raise a very large amount of endowment funding on our own sooner, we expect this to be a 5-7 year plan.

            “The number of signatures does not guarantee anything, but the more support we can show we have the better, to prove this would be a successful venture like at Penn State.”

           The Atlantic Metropolitan Hockey League, the governing body of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League, pledges their full support to Coach Klaassen and his group in their efforts to bring a NCAA Division I hockey program to Rutgers University and we encourage our member clubs to do the same.

           “We fully support the movement to explore bringing a Division I hockey program to Rutgers,” said AMHL President Gene Palecco. “This would be a great opportunity for our member organizations and their players. We hope the group is successful in their efforts.”

           For more information on the group, and their efforts, please visit: https://www.change.org/p/rutgers-athletics-make-ncaa-ice-hockey-a-reality-at-rutgers-university#petition-letter

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