Atlantic Hockey is expected to announce Tuesday that Air Force will join the conference for the 2006-07 season. A press conference with both AHA and Air Force athletic department officials has been scheduled at the Air Force campus at 2 p.m. MT to make what the league calls “a major announcement.” Sources at Atlantic Hockey and the CHA confirmed to USCHO.com last week that the announcement was imminent.
Air Force became a charter member of the CHA in 1999, along with Army, Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State, Findlay and Niagara. Army left for Atlantic Hockey’s predecessor, the MAAC, in 2000, while Findlay folded its program at the end of the 2003-04 season.
Wayne State joined the conference in the league’s second season of existence, while Robert Morris replaced Findlay this year. Atlantic Hockey will temporarily drop to eight teams as Quinnipiac moves to the ECACHL next season.
The loss of Air Force will reduce the membership of the CHA to five teams, unless a replacement for the Falcons is found. Navy and Lindenwood University, an NAIA school, have been mentioned as possible new Division I programs. A minimum of six teams is required for an NCAA automatic bid.
AHA commissioner Bob DeGregorio and former Canisius athletic director Tim Dillon visited the Air Force campus near Colorado Springs, Colo., in January. DeGregorio made a return visit just last week, as well.
In December 2004, the league announced that RIT will join the conference for the 2006-07 season.
It is expected that the addition of Air Force would divide the conference into two five-team divisions, with each team playing other teams in its division four times and teams in the other division twice each season. In February, league sources said that Air Force would be accepted to the league on a probationary schedule that would force it to play an imbalanced number of home and road games.
Details of any concessions made by Air Force to meet AHA member demands have not been released by the league.