Tennessee State Hockey Team’s First Player Eager to Make History on the Ice

Tennessee State University’s (TSU) newly established men’s ice hockey team has welcomed its first player, Xavier Abel. A forward from Drury University, Abel, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound Chicago native, made history as the only Black player on Drury’s inaugural hockey team during the 2022-23 season. Notably, he scored the first goal in the program’s history on September 23, 2022, against Saint Louis. In 34 games at Drury, Abel recorded 12 goals, six assists, and 24 penalty minutes.

Abel decided to transfer to TSU, a historically Black college and university (HBCU), becoming the first player to join the roster. TSU, located in Nashville, had announced in June 2023 that it would be the first HBCU to offer ice hockey. Abel, who attended TSU’s men’s basketball game against Tennessee Tech, expressed his excitement about attending an HBCU, citing the enduring community and culture that attracted him.

The TSU ice hockey team is set to begin as a club team in the 2024-25 season, with aspirations of achieving NCAA Division I status by 2026-27. This would make it the seventh NCAA Division I men’s sport offered by TSU, joining the ranks of football, basketball, cross country, golf, tennis, and track and field.

Abel, described as a “gritty” player, sees his role as a power forward who excels in aggressive play, strong forechecking, and crashing the net. He is eager to contribute to evolving the reputation of ice hockey, which has historically been a predominantly Caucasian sport. The goal is to make a lasting impact on the sport, especially considering the underrepresentation of Black players.

As an upstart program, TSU’s ice hockey team aims to build a well-rounded roster with a mix of gritty players, skill players, playmakers, and defensive specialists. Abel has already reached out to his network of friends and players in Toronto, where he played for four years, encouraging them to join TSU’s program.

Looking ahead, the Tigers are likely to join College Hockey South (Division II), part of AAU Hockey, and play in the North Division, which includes teams like Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, Clemson, Alabama-Huntsville, and Ole Miss. The South Division comprises Florida, Tampa, Florida Atlantic, Central Florida, Embry-Riddle, Lynn, South Florida, and Georgia Tech.

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