When the NCAA brings a National championship event to town it tries to make a splash, and the Frozen Four is no exception.
“It’s cool event. I’ve been to five of them and it’s unlike any sporting event I’ve ever seen,” said Robert Morris University Associate Athletic Director Marty Galosi, whose school put in the bid to bring the event to CONSOL Energy Center.
The Frozen Four is hockey’s version of basketball’s Final Four, and just like that annual event, the athletic contests themselves are just the beginning of what fans travel hundreds of miles to see.
“There are a lot of free events that go along with this,” Galosi said. “This is a very neat event.”
The Frozen Fest has set up shop in the parking lot across the street from the CONSOL Energy Center and runs from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
NCAA Associate Director of Championships Kristen Fasbender said the family-friendly event is a great way to show off the four schools participating and what she called her corporate champions.
“There will be an opportunity for poster making, an opportunity for people to get something to eat, for people to watch some live music,” she said.
Pep bands, cheerleaders and mascots make appearances at the Frozen Fest, and when the players arrive on the team bus they literally roll out the red carpet for them.
Tickets to all three games are sold out, and online ticket resellers are asking anywhere from $20 to $200 for a seat at the semifinal games and more for the championship tilt Saturday. But for those who can’t get a ticket there is plenty of hockey action that can be taken in for free.
The teams that advance to the finals will practice for an hour each Friday at 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., and fans can watch for free. Those same players and the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (the equivalent of football’s Heisman Trophy) will sign autographs starting at 4:30 p.m.
That’s followed by the awarding of the Hockey Humanitarian Award, the announcement of the All-American Team and the awarding of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.
Fans can watch the awards ceremony for free and then hit the ice themselves.
“At 7:30 on Friday April 12 there is an open skate at the CONSOL Energy Center for up to 1,200 people,” Galosi said.
Four half-hour sessions for up to 300 people will be offered.
“There are free skate (rentals) complements of (hockey equipment maker) Bauer and an opportunity to skate on the same ice as (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin and all the Pens skate on,” Galosi said.
Galosi hopes the free events will be as well-attended as the games themselves, and he hopes hosting the Frozen Four will spark an appreciation for college hockey.
“We sold Pittsburgh hard as a hockey town — not a college hockey town, a pro hockey town," said Galosi, who points to Minneapolis, Boston and Detroit as towns where college hockey is part of any sports discussion. "We are trying to enable college hockey to build a foothold in southwestern PA. We know pro hockey is big here and we want college hockey to be big.”
Next year the Frozen Four moves on to another town not known for its college hockey: Philadelphia.