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Minnesota State Moorhead announces plans to pursue Division I hockey programs

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sports Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

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.

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The school needs to raise at least $10 million in external funds and gain conference affiliation, likely 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.

A proposal presented to Minnesota State University Moorhead last month outlines launching Division I hockey with well-known coach Dean Blais leading the men's team.

"I would not be surprised if both of the presentations were exactly the same, exchanging the logos and names of the universities," Peters said.

MSUM is holding a news conference at 10 a.m. today in the Comstock Memorial Union to discuss its potential move to Division I hockey.

"At this point in time, we are exploring the opportunity," Peters said.

Peters said he received the proposal from Metro Sports Foundation President Todd Berning and Urban Plains Center General Manager Lance Johnson in early March.

The MSF owns and operates the UP Center, which would house the potential Division I program.

Peters said the proposal he received was dated March 7.

"It's a good starting point and a good reference point, and it's been prepared by people that are very, very experienced," Peters said. "We're taking a good look at it. It doesn't mean we have adopted it. It's a good starting point."

The 14-page plan NDSU received is titled, "North Dakota State University Men's and Women's Division I Hockey Plan." It's dated March 25.

On Page 10 of the plan, a section reads:

"Finally, Dean Blais, who will serve as the head coach of the men's team, was the head coach of the Sioux for 10 years."

Peters confirmed the MSUM plan contained the same statement.

Blais - who earlier this week did not rule out coaching a D-I team at MSUM - is currently head coach of the Fargo Force, which opens the United States Hockey League playoffs tonight in Omaha, Neb.

Attempts to reach Blais Thursday were unsuccessful. But MSF board member Al Hintz said Blais knew his name was in the proposals.

"(Blais) was aware of it," Hintz said. "He was aware of the discussions we had with the three colleges in town. It's very similar to two years ago when we met with him about being coach of the Fargo Force. ... Can we pull off getting Dean Blais as the head coach? We're confident we would have a good shot at it."

Hintz said plans presented to NDSU and MSUM "would be very similar."

"There would be different things that would tie with MSUM," Hintz said. "The basic plan for a Division I hockey program would be similar."

While Peters wouldn't say MSUM is ready to start a Division I hockey program just yet, he said the school is trying to take steps in that direction.

Fundraising is a critical component in moving forward. MSUM President Edna Szymanski said the school would not use state dollars to fund a hockey program.

"Any move forward with Division I hockey will take some external funding and, yes, we are trying to move forward to secure those types of dollars," Peters said.

The proposal given to NDSU lists the projected total expenses at nearly $1.8 million annually. That total includes $450,000 for coaching salaries.

"It's a good reference point to begin our exploration with," Peters said. "It's coming from people that are very professional and have done this before, so there's some solid information in it."

The proposal includes items such as market analysis, marketing and sales strategies, a detailed annual budget projection and a ticket sales plan.

Part of the plan is based on the program gaining membership into the prestigious Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

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