Frozen Four teams arrive in Tampa

- Ice hokey teams vying for the NCAA Championship title - the Frozen Four - have arrived in Tampa.

Teams from Quinnipiac, Boston, Denver and North Dakota landed at the Tampa International Jet Center Tuesday.

With the day's warm temperatures, it seemed a bit strange to talk about anything frozen in Tampa. Though it feels a lot like vacation, players tell us this is a business trip.

One by one, the teams' planes rolled up. When the doors opened, steel drummers played, Gasparilla pirates tossed beads and the Frozen Four athletes got a red carpet welcome.

"It was awesome, kind of unexpected," said Peter McMullen, a Boston College player.

While youth hockey players held their sticks high, the college teams were handed oranges and ice water to help them acclimate to the Florida heat.

"It's really warm," McMullen said. "It's been snowing the past few days in Boston and it's really a treat to step out of the plane."

"We had snow on the ground back at our school so this is a big change for us," said Quinnipiac player Devon Toews,

Quinnipiac, Boston, Denver and North Dakota came to Tampa for the ice, not the sunshine.

"I was on the committee in 2012 when it was here and I voted to get it back here to Tampa," said Quinnipiac University Head Coach Rand Pecknold.

It's a lot of work to get an event like the Frozen Four at Amalie Arena. It takes bid packages, paperwork, hotel and transportation planning. However, the work is paying off, building Tampa's reputation as a sports destination.

Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada named just a few events Tampa has hosted, and will be hosting in the future.

"The NCAA Final Four, the Women's Final Four, we have... this year. We have the College Football National Championship Game coming in 2017, [and] then the Women's Final Four is coming back," Corrada explained.

While it's too soon to estimate how many fans will crowd into Tampa for the Frozen Four, or what type of economic impact they'll leave, early signs are positive.

"We have four great teams with great fans," Corrada said. "They wanted all of their ticket allotments which usually is a good predictor that they are going to bring a lot of fans to their destination."

Half of the Tampa Waterside Marriott is hosting Frozen Four fans, VIPs, media and NCAA officials, while Visit Tampa Bay reps are in the lobby to help send them on their way. Those staying for the week's full events bring an early win to local hotels.

"This time of year, we are almost always busy. What you'll find is guests may come in for two to three nights," said Director of Sales and Marketing Chris Adkins. "When they come down for something like this, they might stay for a full week."

While the warm welcome put players in a vacation mindset, they're focused on that NCAA trophy and finding room for it on the plane ride home.

"We are here to win just like every other team," Toews said. "We are not here for vacation or nice weather, even though it's a nice addition. We are here to win this thing."

The first game of semi-finals - Quinnipiac against Boston - gets underway Thursday at 5 p.m., followed at 8:30 by North Dakota against Denver.

In the meantime, the teams are practicing Wednesday at the arena from 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. That is open to the public.

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