As a Philadelphia native and a veteran of two Frozen Fours, I can tell you without question that Philadelphia, my hometown, would be the perfect host city for the Frozen Four. The City of Philadelphia is an unbelievable hockey town and the fans are extremely knowledgeable about all levels of hockey, including college. Who can beat a great hockey town, awesome arena, vibrant downtown area and cheesesteaks? Besides, let’s not forget that Hobey Baker, one of the greatest collegiate hockey players of all time, was born right here in Philadelphia.
The Frozen Four would be the ultimate treat for the hockey fans in Philadelphia, and an even better spectacle for the student-athletes, coaches and fans who travel to the event every year. Philadelphia offers numerous opportunities for visitors to the city, including the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center, Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Science Center. These facilities will also make great locations for some of the NCAA-related events associated with the Frozen Four.
Currently, I am a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, and I have the pleasure of playing hockey in the Wachovia Center in front of dedicated and knowledgeable hockey fans. I know that Frozen Four fans will enjoy everything about the Wachovia Center. Its amenities, sight lines, and food are all first class. There are also over 20,000 parking spaces available for the events at the Wachovia Center.
What makes the Wachovia Center an ideal location for the NCAA Frozen Four is its proximity to the Philadelphia International Airport and Amtrak Train Station. The arena is only three miles from the airport and three miles from all of the Center City hotels. There is more than ample parking with 20,000 spaces available for events at the Wachovia Center. You can also take public transportation from anywhere in the region (including Amtrak) and be dropped off right at the Wachovia Center. As a player, I think the Wachovia Center has the best ice surface in the AHL and many of my counterparts on the Flyers believe it’s the best in the NHL.
Before my playing days with the Phantoms and Boston College, I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia playing youth hockey. The growth of the sport in this region has been incredible. There are now more than 50 hockey rinks located throughout the region. Even in my own backyard, there is now a Flyers Skate Zone where I often spend my free time instructing young hockey players. These young players constantly ask me about my collegiate experience and winning the National Championship. Many of them want to go on and play in college and would love to see the Frozen Four in their hometown, as many of the nation’s top schools and student-athletes are role models to the future players.
I know how committed our owners, Comcast-Spectacor, are to hockey in the region. All of our players host clinics and camps throughout the Philadelphia region. In fact, many of the senior management at Comcast-Spectacor play organized hockey on the Wachovia Center ice and these same individuals give back to the hockey community by coaching youth travel teams and hosting youth hockey players at games at Wachovia Center.
Knowing this region, I can tell you firsthand that this is a great town for fans of college hockey to spend a weekend. The City of Philadelphia has a great nightlife, too, with hundreds of outstanding restaurants. Many of these top-rated restaurants are located within a subway’s ride to the Wachovia Center or a quick cab ride to the venue.
There are numerous options for hockey fans to dine while in town and they are very close to the Wachovia Center. There is a new restaurant inside the Wachovia Center that will be open between sessions, as well as McFadden’s across the street at the Phillies’ ballpark (Citizen’s Bank Stadium), Chickie’s and Pete’s just up the street from the arena, and a slew of new places just two miles down the road — Longhorn Steak House, Famous Dave’s Barbecue, Champp’s, and others. I am sure the organizers of the event will work with the public transportation authority to create shuttles to these local eateries.
Of course, the legendary cheesesteak headquarters — Pat’s and Geno’s — are a mere two miles away from the Wachovia Center. I’m sure Frozen Four fans will want to get their taste of Philly between sessions or after the games. Pat’s or Geno’s is a must!
Also, many times throughout the year, I see outdoor block party events in the parking lot at the sports complex that allow fans to create a great atmosphere before and after the game. It reminds me of the great scene outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany that fans enjoyed at the Frozen Four in 2001. I know the organizers have visions of a similar atmosphere at the Wachovia Center and the adjacent facilities.
If all of that isn’t good enough, you are only about three miles from Center City in Philadelphia and its many options for entertainment. It’s easy to get back and forth to the arena between games. And don’t forget, while you’re here, make sure you get a soft pretzel to go with your beverage of choice.
I played four years at Boston College and the Frozen Four was always one of our team’s goals. We made it twice (2001 and 2004) and playing in those games created some of my greatest memories of college, especially in 2001. I know that the Frozen Four would take over the City of Philadelphia and fans would be part of a great celebration of hockey. So I say to the NCAA: bring the Frozen Four to Philly. Once you do it, you’ll want to keep coming back.