At a closed press event last night, Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret announced that Michigan Tech would be forming a DI Women’s Hockey team to join the WCHA next season. “As the University looks to drive female enrollment,” Sanregret said, “it only makes sense that we would add a Division I sport for women. We already have the facilities and a strong local hockey culture.” Sanregret went on to say that the team plans to join the WCHA starting with the 2019-20 season, allowing a year to recruit players to the program, and hire a head coach and staff.
It came as a shock last season to the hockey world when University of North Dakota shut down their women’s program (alongside men,s and women’s swimming), with one recruit finding out at the conclusion of a campus tour. Katie Million, WCHA Vice President and Women’s Hockey Commissioner, expressed that the league had been looking to add another team to replace UND, returning the conference to eight teams. Huskies fans who were fans of the pre-Big Ten roster of WCHA teams will be pleased by the move. MTU will once again have regular play against teams like Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, and Wisconsin.
Michigan Tech currently has a female enrollment of only 25.4%—a statistic that school administrators have been trying to improve—and women currently only make up 27.9% of all student athletes. Adding a Division I sport would allow for additional scholarship money targeted specifically at women, with 18 full rides going to female student-athletes each season.
The university has had a women’s club team for some time, encouraging women to participate as players, coaches and stat keepers, regardless of skill level or prior experience. The club plays club teams from other schools in the UP and around the Midwest through a time period roughly equivalent to the NCAA Division I season. Interestingly, the club is largely self-funded, only receiving some money from USG (Undergraduate Student Government) to help defray the costs of ice rental.
While the Michigan State High School Athletic Association doesn’t offer girls hockey, there is an independent league of 18 Detroit metro teams. Before the announcement of Michigan Tech’s program, none of these girls could continue on to Division I play in the state of Michigan. The Keweenaw is also home to the Keweenaw Storm 19U team, who are set to play in the national Tier II 19U tournament this month in Marlborough, Mass.. Michigan Tech will be first school to provide an in-state option for these athletes to get a college education through their sport of choice.
April Fools! Seriously, though, this article may be fictional, but we really hope we can write it as real news some day. In the meantime, we’re working with the club presidents at Tech to support coverage of all club teams starting with next season. Also, if you want to support Michigan Tech athletics, click here. If you want to support Tech Hockey Guide, click here.
UPDATE 4/2: To clarify, our intent with this “article” was to get in the April 1st spirit by creating part satire/part editorial with the collective athletic administrations of Michigan’s public universities as the group being satirized. We did not and do not intend to portray women’s hockey as in any way inherently ridiculous or humorous, but rather to spark discussion of what we think is a self-evident need for a Division I women’s hockey program somewhere in the state. This “article” was written in consultation with a number of hockey-playing women, several of whom played in the Copper Country in some capacity or another. We already have content in the works for our offseason coverage that builds on the basic facts presented in this piece to build a case for a women’s program.
Cover photo credit Bob Gilreath