Looking Back: Oakland’s first hockey study

It was announced on Oct. 1f that the NHL had selected Oakland University to be a part of a feasibility study that could possibly bring NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey teams to campus. The study has been underway for a few weeks now, and the first draft of the results are expected to become available next month. So far, much of the campus community has shown excitement regarding the possibility. 

However, this is not the first time that Oakland has been selected for a study of this magnitude.

In February of 1996, Auburn Hills conducted a feasibility study run by The University of Michigan Sports Facilities Research Laboratory to see if “it’s the right move for the university and the city,” to build an ice arena on Oakland’s campus.

When the idea was presented in ’96, the university wanted to see the results of the study before even thinking of building an arena. Oakland was a Division II school at the time, but any hockey teams brought to campus would be NCAA Division I. There were a lot of things to consider when it came to the fact that the hockey team would be Division I but the other varsity sports that were offered at the university would stay Division II.

“Don’t confuse looking through the crack with rushing through the door,” said Jack Mehl, the Athletic Director of Oakland in ’96.

The old study also echoed the message of the current study in which, just because Oakland is looking into hockey does not necessarily mean that the campus would be getting hockey in the end.

Unlike the idea of the study now, the plan back in ’96 was to build a city-funded ice arena. The original study also had the idea of bringing Division I hockey to the university, but also to build an ice arena for the local public.

The current study is funded by the NHL, but the NHL would not pay for the arena. Oakland is looking at all of the options to see how this project would be funded if the university was not to receive a donor. Administrators are laying out all the cards and exploring every option before the final decision is made.

If Oakland was to decide to bring Division I hockey to campus, the arena would not only be for hockey but for recreational and public use.

As we all know, the arena did not happen in ’96. But, since the 2017 study is higher profile and almost 20 years have passed, hockey teams may not be out of the question for Oakland. Unlike the study in ’96, this study is to see how the campus environment would be improved and if it could sustain Division I men’s and women’s hockey as opposed to seeing how a community center would fit in on campus.