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Tennessee State University Makes History as First HBCU to Introduce Ice Hockey


NASHVILLE - In a groundbreaking announcement, Tennessee State University (TSU) revealed plans to establish a men's club hockey team, making it the first historically Black college and university (HBCU) in the United States to offer the sport. The momentous decision was unveiled at Bridgestone Arena, accompanied by representatives from the NHL, NHL Players' Association, Nashville Predators, and College Hockey Inc., all key partners in this endeavor.

President Glenda Glover expressed TSU's commitment to providing students with new opportunities and broadening their interests in areas that were previously limited or inaccessible. She acknowledged the invaluable partnership with the Nashville Predators, which played a pivotal role in pursuing this historic undertaking. TSU also aspires to include NCAA Division I women's hockey in its sports programs.

With the intention of commencing play in the 2024-25 season, TSU aims to achieve NCAA Division I status, following in the footsteps of Arizona State University and Penn State University. The team will host home games at one of the Predators' Ford Ice Center facilities.

Predators CEO Sean Henry applauded TSU's vision, hailing President Glover and Athletic Director Mikki Allen as pioneers in their respective roles and architects of Nashville's flourishing hockey community.

The decision to offer club hockey at TSU followed a comprehensive feasibility study in 2021, funded by the NHL and NHLPA's Industry Growth Fund. Kevin Westgarth, NHL Vice President of Hockey Development & Strategic Collaboration, commended the addition of club hockey at a storied HBCU as a significant step toward advancing the sport and fostering a vibrant hockey community.

The TSU athletic department will oversee the team and is currently searching for a director of club hockey operations who will be responsible for fundraising, corporate partnerships, and student-athlete recruitment. The university aims to attract talented students and elite-level players from across the United States and Canada who seek an HBCU experience and aspire to be ambassadors for hockey both on and off the ice.

As one of over 100 federally designated HBCUs, TSU joins the ranks of esteemed institutions that were established before 1964 to provide education to Black Americans who faced discrimination at predominantly white institutions during the pre-civil rights era. TSU's athletic legacy includes the renowned Tiger Belles, a women's track and field team that produced 40 Olympians and accumulated a total of 23 medals, including 13 gold.

TSU's introduction of club hockey adds to the growing trend of HBCUs embracing "nontraditional sports." Fisk University introduced the first HBCU gymnastics team in 2022-23, while St. Augustine University launched the inaugural HBCU cycling team in 2020. Other HBCUs, such as Hampton University and Howard University, have also expanded their sports programs to include lacrosse, golf, swimming, and diving.

TSU's groundbreaking announcement was met with great enthusiasm from various minority-oriented hockey programs. Jason McCrimmon, the recipient of the Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award, hailed the move as a sign of the game's growth, while Rochelle Popyon, co-founder of the Black Hockey Mommies, expressed excitement and hopes that other HBCUs would follow suit.

Malik Garvin, executive director of Ice Hockey in Harlem, pledged to support TSU by sending aspiring players to the university. The establishment of a hockey program at TSU holds immense potential for scholarships and further representation for Black players.

TSU's bold leap into the world of ice hockey symbolizes progress and inclusivity within collegiate sports. By creating opportunities and breaking barriers, TSU is forging a new chapter in its storied athletic legacy.

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