Lady Terriers to inherit Walter Brown Arena
By Brian Fitzgerald
Women’s hockey at BU will be making one giant leap next year as the University elevates the sport to varsity status beginning with the 2005-2006 season.
Brian Durocher (SED’78) associate head coach of the men’s team, will be the women Terriers’ head coach. “I am really excited about this challenge,” says Durocher. “The women’s ice hockey program has had a long tradition as a club team at Boston University.”
A club team since 1973, the women’s hockey Terriers are no strangers to Division I competition, having played in the Beanpot Tournament for the past five years.
However, the team will have to hit the ice skating — hard — as a new member of the Hockey East Conference, which contains 2 of the nation’s top 10 teams: New Hampshire and Providence. Also, with second-ranked Harvard in the Beanpot every year, the Terriers will have their hands full, but Durocher says that BU won’t hold back on scholarships, and he expects the team to be competitive in three or four years.
“By the end of my fourth year, when I’ve got a cycle of my own kids that I’ve recruited, I’d like to think that we’ll be starting to make somewhat of an impact,” says the former Terrier goaltender. “At that point, I’ll have basically implemented our scholarship money. Boston University has stepped to the plate and given us the resources to have a good hockey team, so I’m confident we’ll have a very competitive team that will challenge in Hockey East and hopefully be on the national map.”
Six full scholarships are available for the first season. The program is expected to give the maximum 18 scholarships allowed under NCAA rules by its third season. The fact that women’s hockey transfers don’t have to sit out a season, unlike their male counterparts, could speed up the building process.
The women will play their home games at Walter Brown Arena. BU’s decision to move the team up to the varsity level was years in the making, Durocher says, but the planned January 2005 opening of the 6,300-seat Agganis Arena, where the men’s team will play, clinched the deal. The men have played at Walter Brown Arena since the 1971-72 season.
“The reason we didn’t have a women’s varsity team in the past is the complete lack of locker room space at Walter Brown Arena,” Durocher says. Housing two teams at the old arena would have been impossible, and the present locker room area couldn’t be expanded. According to Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97), executive director of athletics and coach of the men’s team, it’s possible that the women will draw enough fans to move some of the games — or the entire schedule — into Agganis Arena sometime in the future.
“Now we have a home for women’s hockey,” says Athletics Director Mike Lynch. “We have a great coach, Brian Durocher, and our goal is to build that team into a national contender, just like the University did with the men’s program.”
Recruiting for the team will not be a problem, says Durocher, who also served as recruiting coordinator for the men’s Terriers. “We’re already hearing from a number of players,” he says. “The first thing we have to do as a program is break the ice with a couple of top players and convince them that this isn’t going to be a 5- or 10-year building process. This is something that’s going to get done in three or four years.”
Durocher has experience coaching women’s hockey camps, including the country’s best 18- and 19-year-olds in Lake Placid, N.Y., prior to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. “I see a lot of parallels in both men’s and women’s hockey,” he says. “The women are sponges for knowledge and very eager to implement what they learn. So a pretty good player could be a great player by the time she leaves here, whereas that may not happen with the men as often. The men have a certain level of skill when they come here, because some of them have been playing for 16, 17 years. However, some of these women have been playing for only four or five years, so they have a greater window for improvement.”
Lynch says that BU becoming the nation’s 31st Division I women’s hockey program is a great boost to the sport, and that the women’s Beanpot Tournament will certainly rise in stature. “In the women’s hockey community,” he says, “there couldn’t be better news than that BU has a varsity team.”