During last year’s disappointing season, the longest road trip the men’s hockey team had to make was to ECAC rival Princeton — a long bus ride that the Bears make annually.
But next year, Bruno will get a little further from Providence: Brown, ECAC foe Colgate and two Hockey East teams — Northeastern and UMass Lowell — will take a cross-Atlantic trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland over Thanksgiving for the first-ever Festival of Ice Hockey tournament. The inaugural event will be announced by Lord Mayor Arder Carson of Belfast at the Frozen Four this weekend.
The opportunity “came across a bunch of different leagues, the Hockey East and the ECAC included,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94. “We expressed interest and were able to secure the spot.”
The tournament across the pond will offer a twist on Bruno’s typical Thanksgiving plans. Brown’s first game against Colgate will be a league game and the second will be a nonconference matchup. Colgate gave up its home game against the Bears to play at the neutral site, so the game will be important to Brown’s conference record.
“We are going over there to win,” said co-captain Mark Naclerio ’16. “We are going to treat it like a business trip but also enjoy the experience and have fun with it.”
“The hockey will be excellent,” Whittet said. “There’s a big following over there because they have a pro team. They said that they’re expecting about 10,000 fans a game. And the game against Colgate especially will be really, really important.”
Along with the Bears’ conference schedule, which some college hockey pundits deem the hardest in the country, potential matchups with perennial Hockey East powers will only add to the grueling season ahead of Brown.
“Being a part of big tournaments helps our program,” Naclerio said. “We like to play the best teams in the nation and prove we can compete.”
The Boston Mayor’s office has already raised over $200,000 to cover the cost of travel for all of the teams, the Belfast Live reported. On the other side, the Carson has promised to give over 12,000 tickets free of charge to “young people” across the city. The Odyssey Arena estimates the cost of staging the event to be about 227,000 euros.
“It’ll be a great experience,” Whittet said. “We get to travel overseas and hopefully have an impact on the people over there. Likewise, I think the cultural experience will be great for our program and our guys.”
“It’s definitely an honor that we will remember forever,” Naclerio said. “We are fortunate to be able to get the experience of playing overseas, and we are really excited for it.”