The St. Louis Blues have done their best to make the Heartland of Hockey more than just a slogan. They continue that mission by bringing a championship tournament to the area.
The St. Louis Blues and their partners have really done a great job to spread the sport all around the area and beyond. Whether it is having exhibition games in Kansas City or having street hockey tournaments or just getting out into the community, the Blues have made the Heartland of Hockey more than just a motto to put on a t-shirt.
St. Louis tried and came very close to hosting the World Junior Championships, which features the top amateur talent from around the globe. The only reason Buffalo was chosen instead was it was a location easier to get to for Canadian fans.
St. Louis has hosted a Frozen Four as well. The top talent in NCAA hockey, all in the Gateway City to crown a championship.
Now another collegiate championship will be crowned in the St. Louis area. The Blues and Maryville University, among many other partners, have combined to host the 2022 ACHA National Championships.
The ACHA stands for the American Collegiate Hockey Association and is the governing body for the top “non-varsity” college hockey in the United States. It is referred to as club hockey, but this is not the type of club sports many played in college, which might have been glorified intramurals.
The teams that qualify for the ACHA National Championships are some of the premier programs in the country. These teams might not be on the level of a Michigan, Maine or Minnesota-Duluth, but they put serious time, effort and money into their programs.
Maryville only joined the ACHA two seasons ago and came within a whisker of challenging for their conference championship, which coincidentally was held in the St. Louis area in March of 2020.
Maryville will help host the National Championships as well. While the Blues’ Centene Community Ice Center, the Blues practice facility, will serve as the primary host for the ten-day event, the Maryville University Hockey Center in Chesterfield will also host several games as well as serve as a practice facility for the teams.
The event will feature the championships for men’s Division 1, 2, 3 and women’s Division 1 and 2. According to the press release, it will feature more than 1500 players from at least 72 teams. That’s a lot of bodies that will be in town and want to soak up the atmosphere of the city between games. No doubt they will want to see a Blues game if possible too.
While the ACHA Championships might not have the luster of the Frozen Four, the fact it will be played in this area continues to show how much the sport has grown in St. Louis. Lindenwood has one of the premier ACHA programs in the country, Maryville is growing by leaps and bounds and plenty of the top teams are all within a three-hour drive of St. Louis.
“We are proud to bring another marquee collegiate hockey tournament to St. Louis,” said Blues President and CEO Chris Zimmerman. “This is the Heartland of Hockey and the Centene Community Ice Center is the hub of hockey development in the Midwest. Hosting the ACHA National Championship is a testament to the St. Louis community and the great strides we have made in growing our great sport throughout the region.”
The St. Louis Sports Commission played a large part in this event as well. They are the group that seeks out many of these types of events and assesses what kind of financial benefit the area can gain from it.
Patrick Quinn, chairman of the St. Louis Legacy Ice Foundation, which had the Centene Center built said they expect as much as a $3 million economic impact for hotels and businesses. Those are numbers that benefit a lot of people.
The only disappointing thing is that its so far away. However, it’s good to see this sport thriving so much in St. Louis, on all levels.