At a press conference before the beginning of the NHL Draft on Friday, the NHL, NHLPA and University of Illinois announced that the school would take part in a feasibility study to determine whether to form a Division I hockey program in Champaign. Illinois will be the first to take part in the program as the NHL's goal is to help add five teams to Division I competition in the future.
Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres and father of hockey at Penn State thanks to his large monetary gift in 2010, was also on hand at the press conference. Illinois, much like Penn State was, is known as a dominant stalwart in the club hockey scene, winning two club national championships (2005 and 2008) and appearing in nine ACHA Final Fours. Also, much like Penn State, a program at Illinois would need money for initial scholarships as well as a full-sized arena, as the University of Illinois Ice Arena currently holds only 2,000 fans.
With Notre Dame joining the Big Ten's hockey conference in 2017, the addition of an eighth team to the league would be advantageous, not only for the sake of balance, but for increased revenue and television presence. This will be a story to keep an eye on in the coming months and years.