College Hockey America will operate for the 2008-2009 season, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.
Even interim commissioner Ed McLaughlin doesn’t have all the answers. He has ideas and questions, but nothing concrete.
“We’re at the mercy of the NCAA,” said McLaughlin.
After Wayne State eliminated their program at the conclusion of this past season, that left the CHA with just four member teams in Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State, Niagara and Robert Morris. The automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament may not be automatic for the 2009 CHA Tournament champion and that is one of many situations McLaughlin thinks will ultimately hurt the CHA in the short-term.
“I think it would be hard to tell a recruit that they may never have the opportunity to play in the (NCAA) tournament,” said McLaughlin, also Niagara’s director of athletics. “But I know that we can’t exist past this season as a four-team league. We can’t go forward as we are.”
The CHA has long been looked upon as a “pseudo league” in the realm of college hockey circles since its inception in 1999. Teams have come and gone and in the past five years, Air Force (left for Atlantic Hockey) and Findlay (folded) have joined WSU in exiting the conference. The only new school to join was Robert Morris prior to the 2004-2005 season.
Heck, even Myles Brand is aware of the CHA’s recipe for potential disaster. McLaughlin attended the Division I Commissioner’s Meeting earlier this summer in Indianapolis and the topic of the CHA came up.
“Dr. Brand had a lot of insight into not only the CHA, but college hockey in general,” said McLaughlin, named the interim commissioner June 30 when Bob Peters retired. “He’s extremely intelligent and knows all of our issues.”
One of those issues — winning hockey games.
Though the CHA has a sub-.500 record against nonconference opponents all-time, member schools have put up decent showings at the NCAA Tournament, if just one win has come of it since Niagara’s epic upset of New Hampshire in 2000. The NCAA stage is when the league gets its biggest exposure and one way the league can show it still has validity.
“Just win,” said McLaughlin when asked how to make nonconference teams not take CHA teams for granted. “I’m not being glib here, but we need to win more games as a conference and win in the tournament. We can beat each other up during the regular season, but the NCAA is when it matters most.
“Maybe in 2007 if Huntsville beats Notre Dame and Niagara beats Michigan in March (2008), it puts us in a bigger spotlight. The league needs to win when it counts.”
But with those lack of wins comes the question as to whether or not the CHA should exist. McLaughlin didn’t hold back, but does have hope for the future.
“There is uncertainty when it comes to the CHA and its future,” McLaughlin said. “In the past 20 years, college hockey has lost 10 teams (see list below). That’s one team gone every two years. That’s not good when you consider we only have 58 teams to begin with. A lot of factors figure into what will happen to the CHA. If having a four-team CHA is not viable, then we need to find homes for everybody. It’s easy to say that Bemidji goes to the WCHA, Huntsville to the CCHA and Niagara and Robert Morris play out east.
“I’d be upset if the CHA didn’t exist, but for the good of the game, I would hope our four teams would be able to keep playing. Some place.”
Defunct D-I Men’s Programs Since 1988
Kent State (1986-1994)
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (1947-2003)
St. Bonaventure (1987-1993)
U.S. International (1979-1988)
Wayne State (1999-2008)
CHA Summer News & Notes
Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder signed a contract extension, but years and terms were not disclosed by the university…Former NU forward Tim Madsen (2004-2008) was named an assistant coach with the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League. Concussions kept him sidelined the bulk of the past two seasons…RMU redshirt freshman defenseman Rafael Rodriguez played on the U.S. National InLine Team that took fourth place at the International Ice Hockey Federation InLine World Championship in Slovakia on June 28…Alabama-Huntsville will play Tennessee’s club team in an exhibition game Oct. 24 in Huntsville. Both were former members of the old Southern Collegiate Hockey Association…It’s not official yet, but word is that Bemidji State will host the CHA Tournament next March…Three now ex-WSU players (senior defenseman Matt Krug, sophomore forward Chris Kushneriuk and sophomore defenseman Brock Meadows) officially signed with Robert Morris…Nearly 200 alumni and friends of the Bemidji State program participated in the 2008 Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament July 25 at the Bemidji Town and Country Club…Bemidji State sophomore forward and 2008 CHA Rookie of the Year Matt Read participated in the Boston Bruins development camp last month, Krug was invited to the prospect camp of the Washington Capitals, NU senior goalie Juliano Pagliero went to the Ottawa Senators’ camp and 2008 Niagara grad Scott Langdon wound up at Toronto Maple Leafs camp…Beavers senior forward Travis Winter was named captain for next season.
Warriors Moving On For ’08-09
Many players from last season’s Wayne State squad have made plans to transfer for the 2008-09 season and will not have to sit a year.
Ryan Adams, D, Bemidji State University (CHA)
Brett Bothwell, G, Union College (ECAC)
Jeff Caister, D, St. Lawrence University (ECAC)
Kyle Funkenhauser, G, Oswego State (SUNYAC)
Jordan Inglis, F, University of British Columbia (Canada West)
Jared Katz, F, Western Michigan University (CCHA)
Matt Krug, D, Robert Morris University (CHA)
Chris Kushneriuk, F, Robert Morris University (CHA)
Brock Meadows, D, Robert Morris University (CHA)
Derek Punches, F, Cornell University (ECAC)
Kyle Richardson, F, Wentworth College (ECAC Northeast)
Eric Roman, D, Adrian College (MCHA)
Tyler Ruel, F, University of British Columbia (Canada West)