The NCAA will pick up almost where it left off when the 2021 Frozen Four, the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, comes to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh this week.
When Stanford defeated Wisconsin at PPG Paints to win the NCAA women’s volleyball championship on Dec. 21, 2019, it’s a good bet that no one there expected the college sports world to come to a halt just more than three months later.
“It is a big deal for Pittsburgh to move forward as host of one of the NCAA’s largest championships,” said Jennifer Hawkins, president of SportsPittsburgh, a division of tourism bureau VisitPittsburgh.
The Frozen Four, which will start with semifinal games on Thursday, was last held in Pittsburgh in 2013 when Yale defeated Quinnipiac for its first title. The championship will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday and air on ESPN.
With some COVID-19 restrictions lifted on April 4, area hockey fans may be able to attend what has become one of the NCAA’s premier events.
“Fans will be permitted, but as of today, we’re uncertain of the exact number,” Hawkins said. “Thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent revisions to the commonwealth’s COVID-19 mitigations, we are able to move forward with plans to safely host up to 25 percent of the building’s maximum occupancy allowed.”
Hawkins added that the first priorities for tickets are the teams and their staff, family, friends and supporters. Fans can stay up to date on ticket information at NCAA.com/FrozenFour.
Of course, there will be differences in the way the city hosts this championship. Athletes will be confined to their hotels a good bit of the time and will not have the opportunity to explore Pittsburgh. But they’ll still get a sense of the city’s culture.
“To ease the monotony of being in the hotel, when not on the ice, the local organizing committee is bringing the character of Pittsburgh to them,” Hawkins said. “From decorating the team rooms to represent Pittsburgh’s iconic attractions, to delivery suggestions for authentic Pittsburgh cuisine and legendary Pittsburgh films in the hotel viewing lineup, we’re committed to providing the teams and their supporters with iconic experiences.”
The past 12 months have been like no other for the sports, travel, and tourism worlds. It’s been an interesting challenge for SportsPittsburgh, which focuses on bringing sports tournaments and festivals to the region, a job the organization has done with notable success: in 2017, the NCAA awarded Pittsburgh 22 events to host between 2018-22.
“The only events canceled due to COVID-19 were the 2020 Division II men’s and women’s cross-country regional championships,” Hawkins said. “With one of the last NCAA championships to be held before the shutdown being the 2019 Division I women’s volleyball championship, it’s a full-circle moment to welcome the NCAA back so quickly but, certainly, under much different circumstances.”