The four university hockey teams that will compete for the NCAA national hockey championship this weekend arrived in Tampa on Tuesday.
Boston College, Quinnipiac, Denver and North Dakota participated in practice sessions at the Amalie Arena on Wednesday, a day before the semi-finals take place.
It’s the second time the region has hosted the college hockey championships in the past five years.
“For our community to be the first-ever host in the Southeast in 2012 was truly monumental,” said Rob Higgans, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission on Wednesday.
“We’re fortunate to get it back here for this week. It’s the fastest it’s ever come back to a community in 20 years,” Higgans told the Hillsborough County Commission.
The hockey championship is the highest profile NCAA event to come to the Tampa/Hillsborough region in the past five years. In 2011, the Amalie Arena hosted the second round of NCAA basketball games (as it did in 2008 and 2003). Last year the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four was here, and next January the NCAA Championship football game will take place at Raymond James Stadium.
Those events are a testament to how the region is “setting the bar” when it comes to hosting major NCAA events, said Tom McGinnis, the chairman of the NCAA ice hockey committee.
Tourism officials estimate that about 15,000 hotel rooms are booked for this week in the Tampa Bay area, thanks to the games.
The two semi-final games are slated to take place at 5 p.m and 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night. But fans who don’t have tickets can still have fun in front of the Amalie Arena.
What is being called Frozen Fest will take place from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Amalie Arena West Plaza, featuring an interactive hockey fan-fest featuring games and live entertainment. That will also take place on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m.
At 4 p.m. Friday there will be team autograph sessions taking place at the Franklin Street Mall/Tampa Theatre area in downtown Tampa. Commemorative posters will be given to fans for signings by the two teams participating in the NCAA Final.
At 5 p.m. the Tampa Theatre will host the Hobey Award Ceremony.
On Saturday, fans can rent or bring their own skates and skate on the Amalie Arena ice from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Commissioner Ken Hagan, a noted sports nut, received a plaque from Higgans at the Hillsborough County Commission’s board meeting Wednesday for his work in helping bring the hockey championships to Tampa.