UConn is and always will be a basketball school, but the rise of the hockey program has created a scheduling conflict that forces fans to decide where their Husky sports allegiance truly lies.
UConn basketball’s First Night, the annual kick-off event for basketball season, will take place on Friday, Oct. 16, the same night as UConn hockey’s home opener against Arizona State at the XL Center. Two years ago this would not have been a debate, but head coach Mike Cavanaugh has established an exciting foundation for the hockey program as they work toward becoming a Hockey East contender.
Aaron: Personally, I will be headed to First Night this year. It’s the first taste of the basketball season and it really sets the tone for the entire season. This could be a special year and I can’t wait to see the team in action, even if it’s just a glorified pickup game. As much as we all want the hockey program to take off, UConn is the self proclaimed Basketball Capitol of the World and it just wouldn’t feel right to miss out on the greatest celebration of our favorite team.
Matt: Despite the prominence of the basketball program, UConn hockey is quietly making a name for themselves. This year the Huskies will have their most talented team ever with 2013 Ottawa Senators' third round pick Miles Gendron, 2014 St. Louis Blues' second round pick Max Letunov and former U.S Junior National team member Tage Thompson all making their UConn debuts. Many reporters still have the huskies in the bottom third of their Hockey East poll, but UConn is a top sleeper pick to make some noise this season.
This isn't an ordinary game. Arizona State is in their first season of being a full-fledged Division I program. Don't you want to say you were there when UConn began their rise to the top of Hockey East? I'll certainly be there.
Aaron: There’s no questioning that it’s an exciting time to be a UConn hockey fan, but First Night has become much more than just a sporting event. First Night is a spectacle and a chance to honor the rich tradition of UConn basketball. There will be better hockey games against conference opponents, but there is only one First Night. It’s always great to hear coach Ollie and coach Auriemma fire up the fans and talk about their goals for the upcoming season and this year should be no different.
Matt: First Night is an incredible experience, there's no denying that. But for the UConn fans that want some game action, the XL center will be the place to be. It's true, UConn will face better opponents later in the season, but they'll also face them next year and the year after that. Conference games are great, but unique non-conference games are even better.
Even as a hoops fan, I’m much more excited for the matchups against teams like Georgetown and Ohio State than against Temple or Tulsa. First Night will be back next year. Who knows the next time the Sun Devils will be in Hartford? Plus, for any Shelton, Connecticut natives, Charlie Zuccarini will be making his return to the Nutmeg state with ASU.
Aaron: Considering the state of the hockey program only a few years back, this is a great problem to have for UConn. However, I can’t pass up the opportunity to see what UConn men’s and women’s basketball has in store for us this season. Regardless of where you’re going to be, Oct. 16 will be a great day for the Husky faithful.