The Northeastern men’s and women’s hockey teams will represent the United States at the World University Games Dec. 11-21 in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Northeastern will become the first U.S. university to compete in ice hockey at the biennial event, which originally had been scheduled for last month. In previous years, U.S. hockey programs had been unable to commit to the World University Games because it conflicted with crucial stages of the NCAA season.
“This is a big deal,” says Jim Madigan, coach of the men’s team. “Our men and women are going to be wearing a USA jersey against other countries while competing for a gold medal.”
The International University Sports Federation (FISU) has been staging summer and winter versions of the World University Games since 1959. The most recent winter event, held in 2019 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, drew a record 58 countries to compete in 11 sports.
“It’s a credit to our women’s and men’s programs and how they are perceived,” says Jeff Konya, Northeastern’s athletic director. “It also speaks to the university and the Northeastern athletics brand that we would be invited to compete. It’s going to be fun to bring the Huntington Hounds to Lucerne, Switzerland, and create our own little Northeastern compound.”
The invitations serve as validation of the Huskies’ rising programs. Under Madigan, the men (currently ranked 18th nationally) have won the last three Beanpot championships, while Dave Flint has coached the women (13-1-1) to a No. 4 national ranking.
“Seven or eight years ago, we probably wouldn’t have been in the conversation,” notes Flint. “We’re excited and thankful to represent the USA, and we’re going to go out there and show the rest of the world what we’re capable of.”
After a year of COVID-19 restrictions, the tournament offers an unexpected adventure for the Huskies.
“All of the guys are really excited and very grateful for the opportunity,” says sophomore forward Aidan McDonough. “I have never represented my country before and I am looking forward to getting the chance to do so. We are all really excited and looking forward to the experience.”
“This aligns perfectly with Northeastern’s focus as a global institution,” Madigan says. “We’re bringing our student-athletes to a part of the world that they normally would not have been able to experience—to learn about different cultures while they’re competing. We’re going to be living in the student village and interacting with players from other countries.”
Because Northeastern will be representing the U.S., its tournament rosters will be limited to American players. That means Alina Mueller, the Swiss star of the women’s team, will not be able to play for the Huskies at the World University Games—even though the event will be less than 50 miles from her hometown of Winterthur, Switzerland.
Mueller and other international hockey players at Northeastern will be part of the traveling party and will participate in all social and cultural activities.
“When they announced we were going to Switzerland, Alina was crying,” Flint says. “At first I thought it was because she wouldn’t be able to play. But it turned out she was emotional because she gets to bring her team—a lot of her best friends—to her home country, to see her family and where she lives. It’s beyond hockey for her, and she is super excited for her teammates.”