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Heath Hotzler, Published April 08 2009

MSUM coaches back adding hockey

After struggling to compete at the Division II level in many sports for years, Minnesota State University Moorhead raised a few eyebrows with news Monday that it’s contemplating adding Division I hockey to the mix.

It may look like an odd decision to those on the outside.

But people in the Dragons athletic department are cheering the move for the potential benefits a Division I men’s hockey team could provide.

“The biggest thing is that it could create an atmosphere that is good for all of us (in the athletic department),” said MSUM women’s basketball coach Karla Nelson, who has led the Dragons to the Division II regional tournament three of the last five years. “I’ve grown up here. I went to UND. I understand what hockey means to this area. It’s a niche that I’m sure people in this area have been craving for a long time.”

Longtime MSUM sports information director Larry Scott said the Fargo-Moorhead community would support Division I hockey.

That support could trickle down to other programs, Scott said.

“I think there is a certain amount of energy it created,” Scott said of the news of a potential Division I Dragon men’s hockey team. “There is a buzz in the community. I find that exciting. I have heard more people talk about the Dragons in the last day or so about this than I’ve heard in a long time.”

Scott said the benefits of adding Division I hockey would outweigh any negatives.

“I think it could help,” he said. “I don’t think it would diminish any of the programs we have here. It hasn’t in St. Cloud or North Dakota or some of those other programs.”

Football coach Damon Tomeo also supports taking a look at Division I hockey.

“I think a revenue-generating Division I hockey program would be supportive of the entire department financially,” Tomeo said. “… Everything is possible to us. You just don’t know how things are going to shake out.”

Nelson’s only issue with talk of hockey at MSUM has been the negativity of some media outlets and Internet message boards.

“What cracks me up is that here we are, and we struggle, struggle, struggle,” Nelson said. “People bash us because we struggle. … We’re trying to do something different and we get bashed for that.

“If you love hockey, get on board with it. If you don’t, keep doing what you are doing.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com