After three years, the CHA tournament is moving from member schools’ facilities to the Tri-City Arena in Kearney, Neb. Christened “The Great Face-off on the Great Plains,” the 2003 CHA Tournament willl take place March 14-16, 2003, with Air Force serving as the host institution. Alabama-Huntsville hosted the tournament in 2000 and 2001, and Niagara hosted in 2002.
“One of the concerns [in moving the tournament] was a neutral site,” said CHA commissioner Bob Peters. “With the [automatic qualifier for the NCAA postseason tournament] in play, we wanted to have the tournament out of a member school if it would work.”
About Kearney, Peters said it has “all the earmarks of a tournament atmosphere. They have excellent marketing and operational staff. We examined this in depth and had two on-site visits. The incredible acceptance of hockey in Nebraska is just awesome.”
Peters said the athletics directors of the six schools made a consensus decision to move the tournament.
“Huntsville did a marvelous job getting us going,” Peters said. “To this day, we use the tournament manual that they came up with when they hosted the tournament. In fact, I’m holding it in my hand right now. They did a great job, as did Niagara. Niagara was interested in hosting again.”
The Tri-City area, consisting of Nebraska cities Kearney, Grand Island, and Hastings, was initially hooked on hockey two years ago when the USHL’s Tri-City Storm blew through the Midwestern plains and cultivated a fan base of over 4,500. The Storm home game attendance during the 2001-02 season ranked second in the USHL, with an average of 4,567. The team currently holds the longest running home sellout streak in the league at 65 consecutive games.
“We’re excited to have this unique opportunity to play host to an NCAA Division I college hockey tournament,” said Greg Shea, Vice President of Operations for Kearney Hockey, Inc. “[We] will put forth an aggressive campaign to stage a first class event for the athletes and coaches of the CHA.”
As with the 2002 version of the tournament, all six CHA member schools qualify for the tournament and are seeded according to their regular season record. Wayne State has captured the previous two tournaments.