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Fifth Avenue Freeze Out

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No matter the outcome of the NHL lockout, there will be hockey in Pittsburgh. Although the outlook for the professional hockey league is dismal, college hockey players from all over the country will take the ice at the Consol Energy Center this spring for the NCAA Frozen Four, the Division I men’s hockey championship, to be hosted by Robert Morris University.

The annual event functions much like the NCAA basketball tournament that culminates with the Final Four, but on a much smaller scale seeing as there are only 60 teams in men’s Division I hockey.

A total of 16 teams are selected for tournament play. Less than half are granted entry by automatic bid, while another grouping of at large teams are chosen based on their merits. The teams are divided into four-team regions, four regions in all. A team must win two games in their region in order to advance. The teams that do so represent the Frozen Four. The semifinals will take place on April 11 and the championship game will be held on April 13.

Robert Morris University was selected to host the tournament through an extensive bid process.

“We submitted what we thought was a competitive bid to the NCAA in February of 2010,” said Marty Galosi, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs of Robert Morris University. “Ironically enough, it went out the weekend of the big blizzard in Pittsburgh that winter. But the bid made it through and the NCAA selected it in the summer of 2010.”

A number of factors play into what constitutes a good bid, but the city, the arena and the support of the community played much to the advantage of RMU.

“Our bid discussed a lot of what Pittsburgh has to offer,” said Galosi. “Once we signed off on all the necessary paperwork, we put together a lot of facts about the city. We played up the facility that we have here in the Consol Energy Center. The bid focused a lot on the arena. We have a beautiful venue and that played very well in our favor. We received great support from the city as well. Everyone was on board with what we wanted to accomplish.”

Among the university’s most loyal supporters in their pursuit of hosting the event and now major partners are Visit Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Consol Energy Center itself. Robert Morris also received encouraging letters of support from various groups and organizations including RMU Island Sports Center, the Allegheny County governor’s office and the city of Pittsburgh’s mayor’s office.

Although the event does not take place until April 2013, there is currently much preparation that needs to be done in order to ensure a successful Frozen Four.

“From media and publicity, to the multiple receptions that will be held, to the hospitality aspect, to game management, facility preparedness and medical accommodations, there are a lot of to-do lists,” said Galosi. “We first and foremost want to make certain that the student athletes will have the best possible experience, while at the same time, display the city and what it has to offer.”

The Frozen Four is just as much about the fans of college hockey as it is the student athletes and the city. Every year, Turner Sports sponsors Frozen Fest, a fan experience in conjunction with the Frozen Four. This festival occurs during the two days leading into the semifinals and the national championship. This year it is set to take place at the site where the Mellon Arena once stood. Frozen Fest includes interactive games, appearances by hockey personalities, live entertainment and an atmosphere that celebrates the sport of hockey and those who are devoted to the game.

“There’s even a red carpet arrival for the student athletes leading to the arena,” said Galosi. “It’s completely genuine. The hockey fan base isn’t there just to be seen. They are there in support of the game and the student athletes. It’s a very dedicated fan base for a smaller scale college sport.”

The interest and excitement that surround hockey in Pittsburgh are enough to attract a great crowd, and the Frozen Four is already a spectacular event on its own merit. Hosting Photo by Tony DeFaziothis tournament holds a special meaning, not just for the city, but for Robert Morris University as well.

“This is a totally new adventure for RMU, and we’re excited,” said Galosi. “To take on a national championship event is a very big deal for us.”

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