By Nick Guerriero
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is set to make history by becoming the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to offer men’s ice hockey at the collegiate level. TSU will make this groundbreaking announcement at Bridgestone Arena prior to the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. The addition of ice hockey highlights the University’s dedication to fostering diversity, inclusion, and expanding athletic opportunities for students.
“Bringing ice hockey to Tennessee State University is a part of our continued commitment to provide our students with new opportunities and to broaden new interests in areas where they have traditionally had limited or no access,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.
“We appreciate our ongoing partnership with the Nashville Predators which has played a pivotal role in our decision to pursue this historic undertaking, of starting an ice hockey program at TSU, and the first for an HBCU. TSU has a tremendous legacy in athletics. Adding ice hockey to our programs will start a new chapter and build upon that legacy.”
TSU Hockey will commence its inaugural season in 2024, signaling a new era for the university. The team will begin as a club-level program but aspires to achieve NCAA Division I status for both men’s and women’s sides in the near future. While no specific timeline exists for achieving varsity NCAA status, TSU is committed to building a solid foundation for long-term success.
“Today is a historic day as Tennessee State University, a prestigious HBCU, collaborates with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Nashville Predators in an unprecedented partnership,” stated Dr. Mikki Allen, TSU Director of Athletics.
“TSU had been a great partner of the Predators for some time, and we are excited to help them work toward the goal of becoming the first HBCU to field a NCAA Division I college hockey team. President Glover and Dr. Allen are visionaries in their respective positions and should be lauded for continuing to build Nashville into the ultimate hockey town.”
The club hockey program will receive comprehensive oversight under the guidance of the Department of Athletics, ensuring a well-structured and successful implementation. TSU is currently in the process of hiring a Director of Club Hockey Operations, who will be responsible for fundraising, seeking corporate partnerships, recruiting student-athletes, and managing day-to-day operations. In the interim, Assistant AD Nick Guerriero will handle all inquiries related to TSU Hockey.
“I am thrilled to embark on this exciting journey with Dr. Allen to promote diversity and excellence in collegiate hockey,” said Guerriero. “We will strive to elevate the program to new heights, establishing a legacy that will inspire future generations. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the development of the program on and off the ice, and I eagerly anticipate the challenges and successes that await us.”
The foray into collegiate ice hockey represents a significant milestone for Tennessee State University and the broader HBCU community. By breaking barriers and creating fresh opportunities, TSU Hockey aims to establish a lasting legacy of inclusion, excellence, and athletic accomplishment.
“Together, we celebrate the power of collaboration as we dismantle barriers, diversify the game, and propel hockey into a new era of inclusivity,” Allen remarked. “This partnership serves as a catalyst, driving change and ensuring that the game we love embraces the beauty of diversity. With Tennessee State University, the NHL, and the Nashville Predators working hand in hand, we have the potential to reshape the future of hockey and inspire generations to come. Together, we will forge a path towards a more inclusive and united hockey community.”
To support this initiative, the NHL, NHL Players Association, Nashville Predators, and College Hockey Inc. will play integral roles in the lead-up to the announcement. College Hockey Inc. conducted a feasibility study in 2021, emphasizing the significance of introducing ice hockey at an HBCU to promote diversity and inclusion in sports.
“Introducing hockey at the collegiate level is always exciting but Club Hockey at Tennessee State University is truly special,” said Kevin Westgarth, VP Hockey Development & Strategic Collaboration. “Welcoming Club hockey at a storied HBCU is a meaningful step in the right direction for the sport and will undoubtedly contribute to the vibrant hockey community and inspire future generations of players.”
The Nashville Predators organization has maintained a strong relationship with TSU and began the partnership by joining the University in its February 2020 ‘One Million in One Month’ fundraising campaign as a major contributor. The Nashville-based NHL team has continued to donate to the TSU’s scholarship programs and provide internship and job opportunities through the TSU Career Development Center.
Furthermore, during Black History Month in February 2022, the NHL hosted the Black Hockey History Tour at Hale Stadium, a pivotal step in bringing the sport of hockey to the TSU campus.