Now known as the Frozen Four, the national championship has been played in Providence seven times, including four times between 1978 and 1986. Only Colorado Springs (11) and Boston (9) have hosted more championship games than Providence, which has also been the site of many regionals.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any more national championships in Providence. In the early 2000s, the NCAA decided that only arenas with larger capacities than the building now called the Amica Mutual Pavilion (seating just over 11,000 for hockey) could host the Frozen Four. Sadly, the 2000 Frozen Four (North Dakota beat Boston College in the title game) was Providence’s last.

However, regionals have continued to be played in Providence. In fact, leading up to the 2024 Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., on April 11-13, the AMP will host a regional on March 29 and March 31, 2024.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

The Final Four (rebranded as the Frozen Four in 1999) was played in Providence for the first time in 1965. Brown University was the host as part of its 200th anniversary celebration and the games were played at four-year-old Meehan Auditorium on the East Side of Providence.

To get to the Final Four that year, Brown first beat Cornell, 4-3, on an overtime goal by Jack Norwell at Meehan in the ECAC quarterfinals. Moving on to the semifinals at the Boston Arena, the Bears, coached by RI Hockey Hall of Famer, Jim Fullerton, and led by another RI Hall of Famer, All-American Bob Gaudreau, scored two shorthanded goals in the first period and beat Boston University, 5-2.

Next up in the finals was Boston College. Brown split its two games against the Eagles earlier in the season, but BC prevailed in the championship game at the Boston Arena, exploding for four first-period goals on the way to a 6-2 win.

In that era, the two teams that played in the ECAC championship game – in this case, BC (23-6) and Brown (21-7) — moved on to the Final Four. From the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference, Michigan Tech (22-5-2) and North Dakota (27-4) headed to Rhode Island.

And so the stage was set for the 18th NCAA national championship.

To say it was a different era is an understatement.

A story in The Providence Journal-Bulletin during the week of the tournament would have you believe that the semifinal matchups were picked out of a felt hat by George Patrick Duffy, erstwhile Providence Reds radio play-by-play man, with Vic Stout, BU’s athletic director and chairman of the NCAA hockey committee, supervising at Brown’s Marvel Gym.

Yeah, right. Out of a felt hat.

Moving right along, it would be Boston College vs. North Dakota on Thursday, March 18, and Brown vs. Michigan Tech on Friday, March 19. The championship and the consolation game were slated for Saturday, March 20.

A ticket package for all four games could be purchased for $12.

Earlier in the week, three of the four teams were honored at a dinner sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence. Bad weather delayed North Dakota’s arrival so they couldn’t make the dinner.

According to the ProJo, all games were to be carried on WJAR radio with Duffy – who else? – on play-by-play.

Throughout the ‘50s and most of the ‘60s, teams from the West were the class of college hockey, with 10 national championships in a row.

When BC coach John “Snooks” Kelley was asked which Western team he’d rather play, he replied, “That’s like asking a football coach if he’d rather play Notre Dame or Texas.”

Graduates of Western schools — Canadians such as Red Berenson of Michigan with the Montreal Canadiens and Lou Angotti of Michigan Tech with the New York Rangers — were just starting to trickle into the NHL. Eastern schools tended to have many more Americans than Canadians on their rosters.

Sportswriter Bob Englert of the ProJo wrote that while some observers were of the opinion that the East was closing the gap, “Whether this is fact or fancy should be proved here this weekend.”

In the first semifinal, Boston College gave the East some hope by beating North Dakota, 4-3.

A sophomore center by the name of Jerry York led the way for the Eagles with two goals. York, of course, would go on to great things as a coach, winning an NCAA title at Bowling Green and four at BC.

“This is a team that keeps doing it – winning the big ones,” said Kelley, according to The Boston Globe. “The Beanpot, the ECAC and now this. We had more heart, more desire, more courage – and less ability.”

In the other semifinal game, Michigan Tech outclassed Brown and moved on to the championship game with a 4-0 victory before a sellout crowd at Meehan.

In front of another full house in the title game, the West once again proved its dominance.

Michigan Tech humbled BC, 8-2, as sophomore forwards Gary Milroy, Wayne Weller and Bob Wilson proved to be more than the Eagles could handle. It was the second national title in four years for Michigan Tech, coached by John MacInnes.

Former Hope High All-Stater Jim Mullen scored one of the BC goals.

Michigan Tech goalie Tony Esposito, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NHL, made the all-tournament team, as did BC great John Cunniff, who went on to be an NHL head coach with the Hartford Whalers and New Jersey Devils.

“I thought we had closed the gap, but after watching Michigan Tech, and what a team that was, I’m not so sure now,” said Brown coach Jim Fullerton, the NCAA’s “Hockey Coach of the Year”, whose team was blitzed by North Dakota, 9-5, in the third-place game.

“The West’s superior speed and experience is the big difference. The players make the right moves and make them at the right time.”

Results on the ice aside, when all was said and done the ProJo’s Englert declared the tournament a success.

“The whole thing was an excellent production and Rhode Islanders who in any way had anything to do with staging the event can be justly proud. The Westerners left town raving about the hospitality they had received in the nation’s smallest state,” he wrote.

The tournament didn’t return to Providence until 1978, when a first-round game between Providence College and Boston University was played at Schneider Arena (BU won, 5-3) and the Final Four was held at the Providence Civic Center. BU faced off with Boston College in the title game and the Terriers came away with a 5-3 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 11,038.

NCAA quarterfinals were played at Schneider Arena in 1981 and 1983.

The Civic Center also hosted the Final Four in 1980, 1982, 1986, 1995 and 2000.

There have been regionals in Providence in 1992, 2003, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

By Mark Divver