In efforts to promote the Bemidji Regional Event Center, explain the men's hockey team's acceptance into the Western Collegiate Hockey League and to discuss the Bemidji State University hockey teams' recent success, a caravan of BSU hockey personnel visited Blackduck April 20 during the Lion's Club meeting.
The group, which included men's head hockey coach Tom Serratore, women's head hockey coach Steve Sertich, legendary men's hockey coach R.H. "Bob" Peters and executive director of university advancement Rob Bollinger visited Blackduck to get the community excited about the BREC, which will be opening in October.
"It is all about the sense of pride," Serratore said. "We're not just Bemidji's team, we're northern Minnesota's team. Blackduck is a part of our area, it is very important that we reach out to these communities and let them know that they're a big part of our program. We want as many people as we possibly can to get on board with what we're doing."
The idea of an establishment like the BREC stems back in Peters' days of coaching, but didn't come to be an official project until 2006 when a referendum passed by a mere 44 votes to go ahead with the construction of the facility which will open Oct. 15.
For hockey, the arena will seat 4,500 fans and there will be 25 suites.
"Our facility has the fourth largest number of suites in college hockey," Bollinger said.
The BREC will also have a club lounge and 240 club seats, which, according to Bollinger, is an unbelievable view.
In addition to the BREC on Bemidji's south shore, the city is also very close to announcing a hotel partner that will be attached to the center. The hotel, which will be a full service unit, will make the BREC the only college hockey arena in the country with an attached hotel.
"The uniqueness of this facility is kind of off the charts," Bollinger said. "It is pretty awesome."
All four men agreed that with this new facility, recruiting options will be greater for both the men's and women's hockey teams.
"If these student athletes choose not to come to BSU, it won't be because of our facilities," Sertich said.
As of press time, 65 percent of the season tickets have been sold. Although there will be a select number of single game tickets sold, Bollinger urged the public to get their season tickets as soon as possible.
"All the season tickets are good for both the women's and men's hockey games," Bollinger said. "It really is a great deal."
Information on tickets can be found at www.bsutickets.com.
In addition to having a new event center, the BSU men's hockey team will also find themselves in a new league -- the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"We're the Green Bay Packers of college hockey," Serratore said. "We're a small market, a remote area, we have a wonderful tradition of hockey and a great success at hockey. We're the same template as the Green Bay Packers and that is what we hang our hat on right now."
In 1999, BSU men's hockey went from Division 2 to Division 1 and it was a tough playing field. The Beavers established themselves as Division 1 by making it to the Frozen Four in 2009 and now they're making head way into the WCHA.
"The WCHA is an unbelievable league," Serratore said. "We've got some wonderful institutions that we'll be playing against."
Sertich, whose women's team has been in the WCHA for 11 years, has seen extreme success from his team this past year and is also excited about the advancement to the event center.
"Our goal tender, Zuzana Tomcikova, played in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for the Slovakian team," he said. "She made more saves than any goal tender in the games."
For the first time in history, the BSU women's team made it to the Final Four this previous season.
"We feel our program is going in the right direction," Sertich said.
In closing their presentation, Serratore summed it up best, "I can't guarantee wins, but I can guarantee entertaining hockey in a beautiful new facility."