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MSUM formally announces plans to pursue Division I men's and women's ice hockey; AD believes school can raise at least $10 million to make it happen

Minnesota State Moorhead Athletic Director Doug Peters said Friday that there's at least a 50 percent chance that the school will start Division I men's and women's hockey.

The school needs to raise at least $10 million in external funds and gain conference affiliation - specifically spots in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association - before the school would make the move.

Peters said he believes the school will be able to raise the needed funds.

"I believe that we have people interested that have the financial ability to fund this at the $10 million-dollar level," Peters said at a news conference today at MSUM.

Peters also said if the move is made that the Dragons would start men's and women's hockey programs.

"If we're going to look at adding Division I ice hockey, you've got to add men's and women's," Peters said. "There are just as many women out there skating around that are looking for the opportunity as men are."

The two teams would offer 18 full scholarships each at a total cost of around $500,000 per year.

MSUM President Edna Szymanski wants an iron-clad business plan in place before she'll approve any move.

"I know that this can be costly at times and I know that there can be pitfalls," Szymanski said. "And frankly, I want the support there before we go there."

Peters believes the timing is right for this move, with the WCHA considering expansion.

Bemidji State University, which earned a spot in this year's Frozen Four, has applied for membership. If ap-proved, the Beavers would be the 11th team in the conference. Fargo-Moorhead would be a great geographical fit for the WCHA, according to Peters.

"Is there a community in the country better suited to have a Division I ice hockey program?" Peters asked.

The home of the team would be the Urban Plains Center. UPC officials believe they could house the MSUM teams, high schools and the Fargo Force, the current primary tenants.

Peters also stressed the importance of a strong head coach to get the program off and running.

"We have to hire a Dean Blais-caliber coach," Peters said.

He also mentioned another local coach.

"I'll throw (Moorhead boys hockey coach) Dave Morinville out there," Peters said.

Blais is currently the head coach of the Force, a United States Hockey League franchise. Morinville is the long-time head coach at Moorhead.

There are currently 58 Division I men's hockey teams in the country.

Peters said if the school ultimately starts the teams, it will likely happen sometime this summer.

Szymanski and Peters have said all along that no state funding would be used to support the teams. That point was made again at today's news conference.

Peters also stressed that it's still very early in the process but said he believes Division I hockey can happen at MSUM.

"I believe that there is a good chance of this happening," Peters said. "And now, a lot of pieces have to fall into place, but I've seen stranger things happen."