ASU hockey set to join National Collegiate Hockey Conference in 2024-25

The Arizona State hockey team is joining the National College Hockey Conference starting in the 2024-25 season. Five of the last seven national champions have been members of the NCHC, including Denver in 2022. (File photo by Travis Whittaker/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Mullet Arena became the new home for the Arizona State hockey team just last season. Now less than a year later, the program will join a conference for the first time in school history.

ASU is joining the National College Hockey Conference (NCHC) starting in the 2024-2025 season. The NCHC Board unanimously passed ASU’s admission into the conference with an 8-0 vote. The Sun Devils will pay a $500,000 entrance fee over three years to join the NCHC, which has produced five of the last seven national champions.

“Certainly you want elite competition, but you want to make sure a conference is academically strong and driven,” said Arizona State vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson. “But we also wanted to make sure that the competition level also played into their schedule. And so the geography, the proximity, along with those other things just made the most sense for us. And then very frankly, you want a conference that wants you equally as badly, and was very honest and transparent about it.”

ASU was a club team until 2014, when it jumped to Division I. Since its first season in 2015-16, the Sun Devils were an independent team playing a schedule consisting of teams from a variety of conferences. Competing as an independent team creates challenges, including scheduling and the inability to participate in certain tournaments.

ASU played as many as 39 non-conference games each season. Last season alone, the team traveled as far east as Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and as far west as Fairbanks, Alaska, to face competition.

In comparison, NCHC members played 24 conference games against each other last season. Well over half of the games for each team were played against a conference foe.

For ASU, by joining the conference, rounding out the schedule against non-conference foes will be easier, rivalries can be created and a berth to a national championship will be less challenging than the previous three years.

“This is all about our student-athletes and the experience that they now get,” ASU hockey coach Greg Powers said. “You’re always in the fight when you’re in a league and that’s what we’re most excited for. We’re most excited that our student-athletes are going to experience that. We would not be here if not for all the players that believe that this day could happen.”

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The ASU hockey program used a strong 2018-19 season – which featured games against three Big 10 programs – to qualify for its first national tournament. The Sun Devils eventually lost to 2023 National Champion Quinnipiac in the NCAA Regionals that season, but the appearance put the team on the map.

“This is a monumental day for our program and for the growth of college hockey, this is also just as monumental,” Powers said. “It’s the right time for Arizona State hockey to join a league and it seems like the right time for the NCHC to expand and include us in their league. We are so thrilled and honored to be a part of such a prestigious league.”

The increase in talent to Tempe is a combined effort from donors, ASU athletics administration and ASU President Michael Crow. With Crow’s support, Mullet Arena, a 5,000-seat arena that is now home to ASU hockey, was built in Tempe. It was a significant upgrade compared to Oceanside Arena, which held under a thousand fans.

Mullett Arena, unveiled in October of last year, also serves as the current home of the Arizona Coyotes. The arena, which cost $134 million to build, gave the program much-needed upgrades and was a partial reason in helping ASU get unanimous approval to join the NCHC.

“Arizona State has continually raised its standards and demonstrated by word and deed their commitment to the same type of high-quality college hockey with the opening of Mullet Arena last fall,” NCHC commissioner Heather Weems said. “Another box was ticked and the conversation between the NCHC and the issue became more serious as we jointly discussed membership opportunities.”

ASU’s first season was up and down at Mullett, finishing 18-21 on the year. The team’s success was highlighted by a program-best 14 home wins, including an overtime win over No. 2-ranked Minnesota on Nov. 26.

ASU played all but three teams in the NCHC last season, including No. 1 Denver, No. 5 Minnesota Duluth and No. 6 North Dakota. The Sun Devils went 1-4 in such games and two of the losses were by a single goal.

“On behalf of the entire NCHC Board, I am thrilled to welcome Arizona State University to the elite conference in college hockey,” said NCHC Chair of the Board and University of North Dakota president Andy Armacost. “ASU’s commitment to excellence on the ice, in the classroom, and in the lives of student-athletes reflects the ideals of the NCHC, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have them as our newest member.”

Daniel Pike dan-yul pike
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Daniel Pike expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, a minor in history and a certificate in sports ethics and diversity. Pike is the station manager for Blaze Radio and an intern for KTAR News in Phoenix.

Sean Lynch shawn lin-ch
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Sean Lynch expects to graduate in August 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Lynch interned with the Sun Devil Athletics Media Relations Department and has experience working numerous junior college national championships.