Next week House of Sparky will begin our "#SunDevilMoments" tournament, with the 16 best moments from the athletic season. This week we will randomly introduce all 16 moments, then reveal our seedings and match-ups next week, where you, the reader, will vote on what was the ASU athletics Moment of the Year.
It wasn't long ago that ASU hockey was just another club sport. Competing in the relatively unknown American Collegiate Hockey Association, the Sun Devils failed to yield a strong team and thus, suffered the curse of irrelevance in the ASU athletic community.
That changed in 2010, when Greg Powers was hired as head coach of the team.
Powers, who played goalie on the club squad when he was a student at ASU, brought a new approach to the team and subsequently changed its culture. Rather than solely relying on players from the Southwest, Powers made recruiting trips to Canada, and pulled players down to Tempe from north of the border.
Fast forward a couple of years, and half of the team was composed of Canadian players that Powers convinced to not just play club hockey at ASU, but to pay dues for it. Some of them even gave up D1 opportunities to play for Powers in Tempe.
Under the direction of Powers and its infusion of NCAA-quality talent, the Sun Devils put together a historic 2013-14 season, going 34-2 and earning the top seed in the ACHA national championship tournament. Arizona State dismantled its opponents en route to a national championship, bringing unprecedented attention from the ASU community that the team hadn't previously enjoyed.
The momentum from their national title, something even ASU's NCAA-sanctioned teams haven't accomplished since the softball team's championship in 2011, brought the Sun Devil hockey team a large fanbase headed into the 2014-15 season.
House of Sparky editor emeritus Justin Emerson conducted an interview with ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, and posed the seemingly-naive question of whether the club team could make the jump to being NCAA-sponsored. Anderson was open to the idea, and shortly after Emerson's article went live he got a call from the father of a former ASU club hockey player, pledging to make the transition to NCAA a reality.
ASU didn't finish its final season in the ACHA at the top of the club team heap, getting knocked out in the postseason to bring its tenure in the league to end, but the Sun Devils now embark on a new journey.
Arizona State will play a hybrid schedule in 2015-16, filling its schedule with a mix of D1 and ACHA teams. By 2016 the Sun Devils will match up against solely D1 teams, and ASU will be a full-fledged NCAA hockey team complete with a to-be-determined conference membership in by the 2017 season.
The reason that it will take two years to join a conference is similar to why ASU's immersion into NCAA competition is unique. Sitting nearly 600 miles from the closest D1 school, ASU brings a big-school stick to a D1 hockey party dominated by small universities. The last school with an undergraduate enrollment under 20,000 to take home the NCAA hockey championship was Michigan State in 2007. Since then, the trophy has been hoisted by the likes of Yale, Providence and Minnesota-Duloth among others.
With a completely different climate than nearly every other D1 team, as well as having the big-school distinction that many top hockey teams don't, the Sun Devils enter the NCAA hockey scene with built-in recruiting advantages.
We saw this moment as the No. 7 moment of the ASU athletic season. It will be up the readers, beginning next week, to see how far this moment goes in our bracket.