Today's Chicago Tribune has an article on the possibility of starting up a men's hockey team at the University of Illinois.
The opening sentence really says it all:
A study on the feasibility of using an NCAA men’s ice hockey team at the University of Illinois reached a clear conclusion: Go for it.
“The strong consensus of everyone involved in college hockey is that NCAA men’s hockey will flourish at the University of Illinois,” Mike Snee, executive director of College Hockey Inc., said in a statement the university released. “From the number of native Illinois players currently playing college hockey to the continued growth of youth hockey players in the state, there are many reasons to be confident that the Fighting Illini could quickly become a top national program and sustain it every year.”
Personally, I doubt how quickly Illinois could become a "top national program." Having said that, I like the idea of adding an 8th team to the Big 10. And I am pretty irritated at the NCAA tournament always being out East, except for the rare occasions it is in Minnnesota or Colorado. Michigan has been shafted, period. But man, having the NCAA tourney choose sites in the Big 10 footprint at Big 10 rinks (YOST!) would be awesome. Or, having the tourney use the home ice of the Red Wings or the Blackhawks would also be great. You can fill the stands in Detroit or Chicago, especially if Michigan, ND, MSU, Wisconsin, OSU and eventually Illinois are playing.
I was curious about one stat in the article: it claimed that Illinois had the 6th largest size youth hockey leagues, comparing states. In googling this, Illinois came in 8th, not 6th. But Michigan was a solid 2nd, and the quote was very positive:
As far as top level NHL players go, Michigan may rank as the best state in the country. Along with the great traditions at Michigan State and the University of Michigan, the Detroit Red Wings are quite possibly the most popular hockey team in America.
EDIT: Of course, Minnesota is number 1 in terms of youth hockey participation. It almost goes without saying. And I suppose if you included Canada, they would have far, far greater youth participation in hockey than all states.