College Hockey:
Commentary: After new conference announcement, what comes next?

They are calling it the “super conference.”

Personally, I’ll hold judgment on just how super the new conference featuring North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Miami and Minnesota-Duluth will be. Notre Dame and another school — quite possibly Western Michigan — might also become members. So you won’t hear that term for the remainder of this column.

Alabama-Huntsville goalie Clarke Saunders traps the puck under his pads as UNO's Matt Ambroz (No. 27) and Rich Purslow (No. 9) close in. Saunders finished with 58 saves. Alabama-Huntsville beat UNO 2-1 in overtime Saturday night at Qwest Center Omaha. (Photo by Michelle Bishop) (Michelle Bishop)

In 2013, Nebraska-Omaha will be in its third conference in five seasons. Will Alabama-Huntsville have a home by that point? (photo: Michelle Bishop)

What I will say is that this new league, scheduled to be unveiled Wednesday at a news conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., has plenty of potential. Four of the six founding members have national titles. Miami came incredibly close in 2009 and Nebraska-Omaha is considered one of the upstart programs in the nation.

It will need to grow larger than six teams, though, if each hopes to continue to have success. The current NCAA tournament selection criteria will make it difficult for all six teams to remain powers on the national landscape. Every conference needs — and will always have — their haves and have-nots. The Big Ten faces the same scenario. There is absolutely no way that the six Big Ten teams and the six teams in this new conference will take up 12 of the 16 spots in the NCAA tournament field. It’s simply not possible mathematically.

All that said, it’s safe to say that both the Big Ten and this new conference should achieve some success. So the next question, and one that has been asked consistently for the last week, is what happens to the remaining teams.

The WCHA is left with Alaska-Anchorage, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech. Ironically, or maybe not so much, these five finished eighth through 12th in the WCHA standings last year.

The CCHA has a larger remainder with Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Alaska, Lake Superior State and Bowling Green. But Notre Dame can be written off — it’ll end up either in this new conference or in Hockey East, a desire that has been made public in recent months. Western Michigan seemingly has no desire to remain in the CCHA, so much so it launched a website (www.whywestern.com) to make a public pitch for why the Broncos are a good fit for college hockey’s newest conference. It’s hard to think that Western will be welcome among its CCHA brethren in the near future.

So with 10 teams combined between the CCHA and WCHA when all is said and done, it’s pretty obvious one of these conferences won’t be left standing when the dust settles. Or does it?

Personally, I feel that both conferences could survive. Obviously, both will need to grow to maintain their NCAA automatic qualifiers. But when you look at the remaining schools in Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey and ECAC Hockey (and independent Alabama-Huntsville), national realignment could make sense.

Many will remember the mid 1980s when Hockey East’s member schools broke off from the ECAC. That significantly shrunk the average conference size. Had the Ivy League broken off its six teams (which was rumored at the time), there would have been more leagues with seven or fewer members than there was with eight or more.

That is the direction college hockey should consider. Twelve-team conferences such as the WCHA, ECAC and Atlantic Hockey (even the 11-team CCHA) can be challenging. Teams are forced to either play unbalanced schedules or face league members just twice each season, making it difficult to establish league rivalries from which college hockey thrives.

A college hockey landscape of six- to eight-team conferences can be an excellent fit. Each league member can play three or four games against league members and still have plenty of bandwidth for non-league play.

And looking at college hockey as it sits right now, it’s entirely possible.

Solidifying the West

With both the WCHA and CCHA realistically at five teams right now, either could grow to six immediately by giving Alabama-Huntsville a home. There are also a number of teams that are decent geographic fits for the CCHA that are currently playing in Atlantic Hockey and are handcuffed by the league’s scholarship limitations.

Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, Niagara and Canisius have all, over time, expressed interest in offering the maximum of 18 scholarships rather than Atlantic Hockey’s cap of 12. Similarly, Air Force has proven its ability to successfully recruit as a military academy and geographically fits well into the WCHA.

Thus, the CCHA could grow to nine teams with the addition of Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, Niagara and Canisius. The WCHA could grow to seven by adding Alabama-Huntsville and Air Force. It’s been rumored that Northern Michigan might fit better in the WCHA, being close to Michigan Tech. That would provide a nice eight-eight balance, now, wouldn’t it?

What about the East?

If all of this happened in the West, the East would see a seven-team Atlantic Hockey, a 10-team Hockey East and a 12-team ECAC. I don’t see any Hockey East team leaving soon. This is a league that would rather buck the trend and build a larger league than a smaller one. There’s a part of me that thinks Atlantic Hockey would love to split into two six-team divisions, but that might not be realistic if teams are pilfered.

The ECAC, though, could easily break into Ivies and non-Ivies, creating its version of six-team conferences. Ivy League schools are hampered by restrictive start dates and schedule size. Grouping into a formal six-team Ivy League may have always seemed scary, but with the Big Ten and the new Western conference both targeting a similar size, at least they wouldn’t be alone.

What about the easy solution?

You might be wondering why I’ve left out the thought of the remaining WCHA and CCHA teams pulling together to create a 10-, 11- or 12-team conference. The main reason is that I see a number of challenges to such an arrangement.

First is geography. For the sake of this argument, I want to assume Notre Dame and Western Michigan will find a new home outside of the CCHA. The longest continental U.S. trip (leaving out the Alaska schools from this discussion) between remaining schools likely would be Bowling Green, Ohio, to Bemidji, Minn. — 15-plus hours by bus. That’s really not realistic for any school, thus forcing many of the CCHA schools to significantly increase their travel budgets.

The second factor is the number of teams competing for NCAA tournament bids. The conference, of course, would get an automatic qualifier but what school wouldn’t prefer to compete against five, six or seven teams for that qualifier rather than nine, 10 or 11?

Fears of contraction

The one downside to smaller leagues is the fear of contraction — losing teams and dropping below the NCAA mandate of six clubs. It happened to the CHA and thus it’s fresh in the minds of many schools and commissioners.

That is the main reason why I think Hockey East will sit on the sidelines as spectators in this game of musical chairs. The ECAC could take a similar stance and you couldn’t blame it.

Obviously, neither the Big Ten nor the new western conference fears this whatsoever. All of those programs are established. But smaller schools in smaller conferences would be put at extreme risk.

Oh, and that, too

One thing few have mentioned: All of these teams still have to play in their current conferences for two years. Think there will be some incredibly contentious moments between now and September 2013?

As they say, “Drop the puck!”

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  • Ring_of_Fire

    Nice article, Jim…one of the first that I’ve seen that, instead of focusing on motives and thinly veiled finger-pointing, has laid out multiple plausible scenarios for, “what happens next”.

    I’ll leave it to others to quibble incessantly about the relative merits of your proposed realigned divisions and simply say this:

    It is most definitely an interesting..and exciting…time to be a college hockey fan!

    • Joe C

      I want to echo Ring Of Fire’s comments and praise for Jim. Personally, I look forward to Jim’s running commentary of the Beanpot when I decide NOT to drive into DC to watch the game with other alumni. Two years ago, I had a good reason, with a blizzard, Last year, not so much but then again, it was good NOT to see BU flame out. As always, thanks Jim!

      I truly wonder what will happen with Notre Dame. Personally, I would love to see them play in Hockey East and bring UConn with them. I think Hockey East should move to lock up Connecticut’s TV market as well as have an entree to Chicago and New York, with all the alumni in the current and proposed HE. Let’s face it, Notre Dame and UConn are both succesful brands outside of hockey and Notre Dame is a draw within hockey. If Hockey East wants to grow, this is the only direction, as the rest of the New England AHA schools do not bring any luster. I do not see new  hockey program in the remaining schools in the Big East, which would have the TV markets and student bodies, wanting hockey at all, but maybe I cannot see far enough into the future.

      The other thing that I have not heard discussed much is the expansion plans of the Big 10 to more than the current six schools. While those that remain in CCHA and WCHA will probably find their way, although we hope all the programs survive, the real question is the Big 10 itself. I have trouble seeing any desire for Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa or Nebraska to start a program. I have heard only the vaguest rumblings about Illinois.

      It would be one thing for the Ivies to start their own league so they could have a truncated schedule with a small number of schools. It is another thing for the Big 10, driven by a need for cable tv programming, to remain at 6 schools.

      • Paula Weston

        The Big Ten has made it clear that it’s interested in current member schools only, not associate members or guest members — so that means there are no immediate plans to expand beyond the Big Ten’s original six unless another current Big Ten member adds D-I men’s ice hockey.  

        There are rumors surrounding a couple of Big Ten programs, but I think that’s wishful thinking at the moment.  It’s very difficult to raise the kind of money necessary to start a D-I hockey program.

        • Joe C


          Thanks. I think we are in complete agreement about the Big 10. If you had to rank each of the Big 10 programs without D-I hockey in terms of starting a program with the Penn State model, what are your thoughts? Perhaps you could rank each school on a scale of Pipe Dream to within 5 years, given a rich donor coming out of the woodwork. I assume that only Northwestern has access to an AHL-level rink, but I am not sure.

      • http://profiles.google.com/ltpowers99 J. Isaac Powers

        UConn’s program is in sorry shape.  What would Hockey East want with that?

      • Alex

         UCONN does not offer scholarships so the school can avoid complying with Title IV

  • Mrh Aph

    If a 15 hour trip from Bemidji to Bowling Green is a deterrent then why the heck would the WCHA be interested in adding UAH?  I’m all for keeping them alive, but it doesn’t make any sense financially for ANY of the remaining WCHA teams.  I guess Air Force has an ounce more prestige than UAH, but still that is a flight for everyone as well. 

    Better recheck the crystal ball…

  • Guest

    Wow how could the NCAA seriously give a bid to one of these teams left in the “New” Atlantic Hockey Conference to the tournament. The conference was a joke before, after taking Air Force and RIT out of there what would it become?

    • http://profiles.google.com/ltpowers99 J. Isaac Powers

      Um, the same way they gave them an autobid before RIT and Air Force joined the conference?

  • Mid-AtlanticFan

    It’s small in the grand scheme of things, but I doubt schools like Robert Morris and Niagara would want to lose out on established rivalries within conference play. And the reason the Alaskan schools did well in the WCHA/CCHA was because of the revenue associated with those leagues. Putting them in conferences with lesser draws – especially Alaska in the proposed CCHA – will create travel problems and financial headaches.

    • http://profiles.google.com/ltpowers99 J. Isaac Powers

      Established rivalries?  You mean after a whole season of conference play?

    • guest

      Niagara-Canisius, RMU-Mercyherst, and Niagara-RMU are the only rivalries that those two have

  • Collegehockey guy

    Two years from now know one knows for certain who may be a power house team that isn’t now and vice versa. The one that really has me shaking my head is Western Michigan being even considered as part of the new “Super Conference”. Why? They just lost their coach and their past history is not near what I would consider “Super” by any stretch of the imagination when compared to other schools, especially Bowling Green. Western has never even won a CCHA title let alone a National one. Bowling Green has 7 CCHA titles and one National title. I’m  not saying I want BG to be in the Super Conference as they are a 39 year member of the CCHA and one of it’s founding members, but to have Western Michigan even in a discussion for a spot in the Super Conference is mind boggling.

    • WesternHeraldWIDRalum

      To answer CollegeHockey guy, the reason for Western is the fact that Western is different; and a sleeping giant who has finally awakened. Look at many of the CCHA/WCHA schools with small enrollments, small athletic budgets, small towns/media markets, lower in-state alumni/fan bases, no president & board committing larger budget dollars, no 5,000 arena plans or experience running full D1 athletic departments. None of these are issues at Western: There are 25,000 students on-campus, the athletic budget is growing, the Kalamazoo/Portage media market is nice and there are over 110,000 Western alumni in Michigan – with about half in the metro-Detroit media market, the arena is going to happen on land already purchased and Western’s D1 experience means it knows what its getting into with politics, tv contracts, etc. While the Spartans and Wolverines garner the lion’s share of attention in-state, Western’s share is clearly growing. Western also has some of the top athletic gpa’s you’ll find in the US.

      Plus, you also have to understand that the state of Michigan is a different animal when it comes to hockey. Twice I’ve been in outdoor college hockey crowds over 76,000. When the Wings raise the cup, we’ve turned-out as many as 1 million people. The youth leagues are stacked. The state is hockey crazy. Its not all about football, and its not all about one school’s football team like it is in Ohio for Ohio State. Western’s alumni base, and their families, are charged up beyond belief. How about Western fans outnumbering and completely drowning-out University of Michigan fans at Joe Louis a few months ago in the CCHA Championships? Talk to anybody, it happened. Did I mention Joe Louis is only 43 miles from Ann Arbor?

      Yeah, I’ll grant you that, for too long, we played the spoiler. I think Western is making it clear that we have all the intangibles, we are charged-up and we will not be going back to sleep any time soon. We’ll get our coach. The position (and pay) has been redefined. The new recruits look great.

      One last thing, our fans get under people’s skin. Teams get ticked-off when they play us and it makes for great rivalries. But its hockey-specific – not classless, Stanford Band stuff. I think Notre Dame knows this. I’d estimate a grand total of one game in Kalamazoo with each team in a new conference to get new rivalries up and running!

      • guest

        I agree with almost all of your points, but the fact remains, WMU’s hockey program DID take a hit with Blashill leaving, and has only provided one year in the past thirty where they made a splash either in the CCHA or in the national tourney. All of the other facts add up though, so here is to hoping the trend on admin support and success continues. (I’ll remind you that Ferris went through the same spurt during the Kunitz days, then faded.)

        Lawson is an intimidating place to play and I enjoy the enthusiasm (as I do at Yost) but I wouldn’t describe the behavior as the modicum of class- whether hockey specific or not. Winning and supporting that type of environment certainly makes a good excuse for behaving poorly- and it extended downtown. I wouldn’t relish in it. Miami fans quickly cornered that market too (as well as mimicking chants) and its low hanging fruit.

        • WesternHeraldWIDRalum

          Touché, guest. My point was that our fans don’t get into any of that anti Catholic b.s. when we play Notre Dame.

          While I would be hard-pressed to find visiting ice that is both intimidating and classy, I would prefer more noise and less blue language on home ice. Fans can get so fired-up when playing (and beating MSU, Michigan, Notre Dame,etc.), that they forget that alumni and local parents with kids are an important part of our the fan base. I’ve heard chants that would make sailors blush at nearly every away stadium and arena I’ve visited. Still, when the Lawson Lunatics chant “Tiger Blood” to answer Michigan’s unoriginal and typically arrogant “We are smarter” chants, people of all ages are laughing it up in Kalamazoo.

          • AJ

            I have to admit- I was born in Kalamazoo, learned to skate at Lawson, and have been following the Broncos my entire life.  When we learned that WMU had been invited to the super conference, my father and I couldn’t do anything except look at each other and say “What? Are you kidding me?”.  Western may have had it’s lucky wins on U of M, ND, and now to a lesser extent MSU, but they still have a lot to prove that can’t be affirmed in one season.

          • cis

            I’m not sure why you would call any of those wins WMU had last year “lucky”.  Really, Michigan was lucky to beat them the last regular season game they played.  And if you watched the CCHA tourney game against UM, there was no doubt Western dominated (I believe the score was 5-2 Broncos).

            Blashill recruited some very good young players who will still be there without him.

          • guest

            While I think that if they end up joining the “Super-conference” WMU won’t see the hockey renaissance that WesternHerald is predicting, I do have to agree with him about the WMU fans.  I drove up to a game in Lawson from school in South Bend and despite wearing my ND jersey (and witnessing an ND 3rd period comeback win on WMU senior night) the fans weren’t bad at all.  I also went to the CCHA championship at the Joe and WMU definitely had the best fanbase there, I wish I could’ve gotten more of my classmates to come up…

            GO IRISH

      • Snipercohan23

        Good Luck to the new Hockey West Conference and to Western Michigan if they go over to it!   I remember when BC played Minnesota Duluth in the 80′s with a star named Brett Hull.  The lowest attended game that year for BC almost empty while BC drubbed them like 7-0 or something like that.  It is more important for Western Michigan to play big name schools than it is for the big name schools to play Western Michigan.  That is when fans go to a basketball game when the Broncos come to town. 

        • Bulldog Fan in Circle Pines

          I went back and checked the UMD media guide and your facts aren’t even close.  Brett Hull played at UMD from 84-86 during that time UMD played 1 series @ BC and it was a split  BC won 4-2 and UMD won 8-4.  7-0 really? Don’t just make things up. 

      • Paula Weston

        I find it very interesting that Western Michigan is casting itself as this potential hockey superpower — interesting, too, that you’ve called them a “sleeping giant who has finally awakened.”  You could be correct.  It would be nice for WMU to emerge as some sort of hockey powerhouse.  That would make the college hockey landscape more interesting, although it will likely do nothing for the CCHA, WMU’s long-time home, as the school has made it quite clear that it feels it would be well rid of the Central Collegiate Hockey Associate.

        Regardless of WMU’s spin, there are a couple of things to consider.  Last season was the first winning season for the Broncos since 2001-02, and that was mostly because of a coach who is no longer with the program.

        In the ten seasons previous to last year, WMU went 143-197-43 (.430 win%).  I understand what you’re saying about resources, recruits, and the university’s renewed commitment to hockey, but let’s not ignore the facts of recent history, either.

        I do hope you’re correct about Bronco hockey.  It will be interesting to see where they end up — and where they go, so to speak.

        • Suture

          Paula, how on earth do you TRULY know the biggest reason WMU won this year was due to the coach?  Is he a great coach?  I don’t know, sounds like he is talented….don’t have any experience with his coaching so just going by what I read.  But, for  a writer employed by USCHO to say any team won in a given year mostly due to coaching is ludicrous.  There are any number of variables that go into a winning season.  That is like saying Michigan made it to the championship game strictly because they have a good coach. I watched UM challenge (and beat) North Dakota like no other team did last year. Was coaching part of it?  I am sure it played a role.  To say Michigan beat ND “mostly” because of their coach (or lost to UMD for that matter) is asinine.  Your commentary kind of surprised me…..right after I stuck up for you the other day….:(

          • Cam

            Coaching is hugely important in college hockey.  I can’t believe anyone who knows college hockey and has followed the ebbs and flows of consistently good teams and teams who notch it up (or down) a level would think otherwise.

            A good coach can make a tremendous turnaround in a team in a season or two. Look at Nebraska Omaha.  Look at the success Gadowsky and Lucia had at every program they were with (OK, Luch has had some down years at MN, but follow his career and look at those teams a few years before and after he coached there).

            The loss of a good coach, or even the transition from one good coach to another with a different coaching style or different systems can have a very significant negative effect on the W-L balance.

            I am also just flabergasted that WMU is even considered as a team in that new conference. They have done nothing that is more than mid-low level CCHA for many years.  Yes, they’ve had a great season recently, but each year the major conferences have a team or two that rises from mid-low in the pack to the upper third or so.  Big deal.  Let’s see it consistently.

            (By the way, I could say the same about Nebraska Omaha, although I think they do show steady improvement over several years, but like Bemidji, I wouldn’t be surprised if they settle into “top 20″ in the US kind of quality).

        • ForeverFaithful


          You say that the reason for Western’s success this past season was a coach who is no longer with the team.  This is a valid point.  But the coach the previous ten years or so was also the biggest reason for the team’s poor performance. 

          One of athletic director Kathy Beauregard’s biggest mistakes, in my opinion, was not replacing the previous coach (Jim Culhane, a quality individual, but probably not the best leader) sooner. 

          Prior to Culhane, Western field many very successful teams under Bill Wilkinson.  I believe with a quality coach running the show, the Broncos will be consistently good again.

      • MSU Grad 97

        Bigger enrollments, fan bases, and in-state alumni really don’t work for the WCHA arguments.  Look at MSU and SCSU, for example.  Both have bigger enrollments than UMD and UND, most of their alumni live within 2 hours of their campuses, and there are over 3 million people within 2 hours of their locations. Both MSU and SCSU have off-campus programs in the Twin Cities as well, although I know that does not necessarily create a fan base, it still puts their name out there much more prevalent than either UMD or UND.  The Mankato metro area is a little under 100,000, just like Grand Forks.  However, the whole state of North Dakota is under 650,000, where Mankato is less than an hour from Shakopee, the start of the Twin Cities MSA.  St. Cloud has around 180,000 in it, and is a little under an hour (with good traffic) from the western edges of the Twin Cities MSA.  Duluth has around 280,000, but it is a bit too far for the TC media market.  

        What the UMD and UND teams had going for them were tradition and money.  However, they are out much money and exposure after U of M TC leaves due to not being on Fox Sports Net after 2012-13.  This is why whatever teams are in the WCHA need find a way to get on the FSN network in order to keep their exposure up.  UMD and UND have basically put hockey ahead of all sports by a large margin, which could hurt them quite a bit.  UMD, MSU, and SCSU have had a lot of success recently in national tournaments in other sports besides hockey, and this does equate to money coming in.  UND currently has fewer people attend basketball games than the NSIC teams, and their football attendance has not moved up from their days in the NCC with all the other teams included.  This is after UND has decided to go D-I in all sports, and this will cause a strain on their budget after a while since they are ending up losing money.  The UND team made a college post-season basketball game, and they still only had 1,500 people at their games.  MSU was over 2,000 a game in their final four D-II run.

    • cis

      As a WMU alum – I have gone from super-energized this spring to very disappointed in the last 2 weeks.  I do think if Blashill hadn’t bolted we’d be in to the new conference already.  Without a superstar coach, the new league will have to take Western’s word it is still 100% committed to elite hockey status.

      The good news is the program is still primed for that.  Beyond points already made, let’s remember there is already money raised, approved and allocated for a new coach that will pay whoever it is a top-10 salary nationally.  I’m hoping that means a star assistant from an elite program can be plucked ASAP.

  • Brian

    Great points about the new leagues…..They will beat each other up in conference play, and each year one or two of the teams will miss out in the NCAA’s, because they didn’t have any bottom-feeders to feast on.  I suspect though the bottom feeders will be UNO, UMD, Ohio State, Penn State, Minnesota….the top and bottom could evolve in those respective leagues.

    • Guest

      I think the bottom feeder will be north dakota

      • nogofer

        Yeah, OK, whatever…  Are you even paying attentionm?

      • Kwd_13

        Uh, what??  This new league is essentially the WCHA without the bottom feeders.  Don’t see how that really changes anything for these 6 teams with respect to in-conference play….

      • Suture

        Yea, I agree Mr. Guest. North Dakota has a pretty horrible program. I mean, they hardly ever win, have a horrible arena, no fan support, never make it to the FF, never play any “truly” tough teams out of conference like  BC, BU and Notre Dame, never recruit very good players and, lastly, they have absolutely no history whatsoever.  Also, North Dakota had nothing to do with getting into this new conference….they were just lucky Miami asked them to join.  Yep, those darn Sioux’s…..they’re bottom feeders alright.  “Yep, you got that right”—straight out of FARGO. 

    • godogs

      You honestly think MN will be bottom feeder in the Big Ten?? I am as anti-gopher as they come, but get a clue…they will be top 2 or 3 every year.

      • Suture

        Dogs, I agree with your sentiments.  But, you have to admit it is funny as hellp when you hear someone dump on the Go-Fers….lol…I am going to laugh about this one all night…lol.  This is just too funny Rambo, I have never heard someone “honestly” say MN was going to be a bottom feeder…and say it in an honest manner.  From a Sioux fan…yes, you hear this daily.  But, from a “non-Gopher-bashing fan”…lol…this is just too funny.!!  Rambo, I love you man!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Johndhjr john holt

    LEts face first and most obviously.  No team or Conference has to play any Big Team.  Nor are they required to schedule games with them, or invite them to tournaments.  Just as the Big Ten said they will do what is best for College Hockey and the Big Ten.  So to can the rest of College Hockey do what is best for College Hockey.  That being Isolate the Big Ten.  In so doing the Big Ten will implode, from this none play embargo.  yes come NCAA time teams will have to face the one Big ten to rise from the muck, but in time recruits will divert from the isolated conference wanting exposure and a great experience.  So this now what the new Super Conference, WCHA, CCHA, Atlantic, ECAC and Hockey East all must band together and just say not playing the Big Ten is best for College Hockey.  Let Mi and MSU play each other 8 times a year.  Lets see how much draw that has.  Only threw unity can College Hockey do what is best for College Hockey.

    • Joe C

      ECAC, AHA and Hockey East will all support the Big 10 and the new Western conference, just like what happened when Hockey East was formed. I am positive the two new leagues will support each other with non-conference games. I even suspect that much of CCHA and WCHA will support the two new conferences with non-conference games, but I can see friction here if there is no home-away reciprocity.

      Even so, the overall hockey athletic director and coaching community is much different that fan community. They compete with each other, but they also support each other and know that the more successful programs there are in Division I, the more interest in the sport there is. This will be necessary to compete with the QMJHL, OHL and WHL going forward.

    • Blackbear94

      Who’s to say there won’t be other BigTen schools that add mens ice hockey to their athletic programs.  These schools are deeply committed to athletics financially speaking and I think they add a few more teams once the league is up and running.

  • Joe C

    I wonder what truly happens if the Ivies make their own league. One would think that if AHA is poached for schools by CCHA and the non-Ivies in ECAC have a smaller conference, they might merge AHA and ECAC. I can see Niagara, Cansius, RIT, AIC, Sacred Heart, Bentley, Holy Cross and Army joining with Union, RPI, Clarkson, St Lawrence and Quinnipiac in a New York/Western New England league, with Connecticut being the wild card, either in HE or this new league, depending on Notre Dame.

    I can also see Robert Morris and Mercyhurst being courted to stay in AHA as part of an AHA/ECAC merger as heavily as by the CCHA.

    I believe that if the Ivies stay in ECAC, then Jim’s model makes sense, but I am not sure I understand why RIT would leave AHA and the other western NY schools along with the bus rides to Springfield/Hartford to add flights to Alabama and Alaska. Why would RIT drive past Buffalo to play in Erie, Pittsburgh and Ohio?

    I think of all the leagues, CCHA is in the most trouble, since five schools have already left and the other shoe has yet to drop with Notre Dame. To surive, CCHA needs to poach Mercyhurst, Robert Morris and RIT while extending an offer to a previously spurned Alabama-Huntsville.
    Is there some unrest in AHA that I am missing? I thought that even Air Force was very happy in AHA despite the travel. I wonder why they would leave AHA except to join the new Western league, which has schools in Colorado Springs and Denver.

    I think the WCHA, while smaller and potentially having increased travel budgets, is in a better position to thrive.

    • Colgate fan

      So does this all mean that Colgate would be forced to drop hockey? I didn’t see you include them in the NY/WNE league, which btw I hope does not happen. I like the ECAC just the way it is.

      • Joe C

        I always thought Colgate was an Ivy. Since I am mistaken, they are DEFINITELY part of this list. I enjoyed seeing Colgate play in an eastern regional in Albany.

        By the way, I hope that the ECAC stays the way it is as well, although I remember when the ECAC and HE championships were held together at the old Boston Garden, not in Lake Placid or Atlantic City. But I do not think ECAC should change. I DO want to see Hockey East grow.

  • Paul23

    Air Force does not want to leave Atlantic Hockey. They have a monopoly on that league. There are only 2 or 3 teams that can win that division – and have respectable programs. Every year Franky Boy Serratore runs through that sad division and heads to the NCAA. RIT  Niagra are good programs, and so is Robert Morris – all ex CHA members.  I mean a program like Bentley has never had a 500 season (maybe one – and that is pathetic). And what is all this talk about UCONN going to HE. Their program is in a sad state. A big state school like that with no quality rink, no fans, no tradition, not winning anything is going to HE? Get real pal. Bruce Marshall stop recruiting in Minnesota and Canada and get some local talent on the roster – CT has some good players and you do not have one kid from the area on your team!!! Loser – you can’t do any worse with CT kids than you already do!!!!

    • Joe C

      If UConn was in Hocket East, playing Boston College, Boston University, Providence and the UMass mothership, I can tell you the alumni would find the money for the program. And there is very good hockey talent in Connecticut. Right now, it plays in Hockey East and the ECAC.

  • blackswampblues

    The problem with all of this scenario-spinning is that pundits and PR flacks don’t buy tickets.
    As a BGSU alum and hockey season ticket holder, I’m not buying.
    History and rivalries matter. BGSU is a MAC school. I’ll spend my money watching BGSU thrash Miami and Western Michigan in hoops and football, or even losing to Ohio State.I will not spend a dime watching a season full of meaningless hockey games vs. AHA teams.
    Fortunately…when I want to see hockey, there’s always the ECHL Toledo Walleye. Who needs college hockey?

    • Redhawk

      Miami football = MAC champs, buddy

    • guest

      I wouldn’t say that BGSU thrashes much of anybody these days

      • blackswampblues

        And you would be wrong. Six-time defending MAC champs in women’s hoops: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. And a ticket to DI NCAAs for the fifth time in seven seasons. 
        Oh yeah. And unlike any other school in Ohio, BGSU actually has a National Championship in hockey.

        • ForeverFaithful

          Who cares about women’s MAC basketball?  It’s a yawner!

          • blackswampblues

            who cares what you like and don’t like?
            better to support MAC basketball, football, soccer, or tiddleywinks than some bullshit new hockey league where the closest team is omaha. it’s called roots, sweetheart.

          • Redhawk

            like I said earlier… Miami Football = MAC Champs!!!

          • ForeverFaithful

            I’m all for the MAC, but getting excited about the number of women’s basketball championships anybody has won is a real hoot.

          • blackswampblues

            you’re confused. merely correcting the clueless posting above. just stating the facts.
            now BGSU’s powerhouse rugby program, that’s something to get excited about.

  • Anonymous

    If Penn State can hatch a hockey program, so can (and should) Syracuse. With ten teams, Hockey East doesn’t need to ‘grow,’ but the addition of a marquee school that doesn’t bust the travel budget for everyone else might be welcome. Notre Dame and Syracuse are two schools that might fit well within Hockey East…one (obviously) sooner than the other.

    • http://profiles.google.com/ltpowers99 J. Isaac Powers

      Syracuse has Title IX issues; they’d have to add a women’s sport of some sort and they already added hockey.

  • Kwd_13

    Don’t really like bringing Notre Dame and UConn into Hockey East (assuming they would come as a package because HEA was at 9 teams for many years and that created its own problems), and here’s why.  1 – HEA schools are for the most part very closely located geographically and that creates soem great rivalries.  Plus, there are 27 in-season in-conference games, which further strenthens the teams.  That leaves just 7 possible out of conference games, which seems to sometime put HEA schools at a disadvantage come NCAA time when they play the Western teams.  If 2 teams are added, they’d have to use all there schedule in conference or reduce the games to 2 per team.  Don’t think either is a good idea.  10 teams seems to work very well for HEA so why change it just to access some markets in Chicago?  The HEA market is Boston and New England.

    • Joe C

      UConn is in Connecticut, which is part of New England and a bus ride to every school. I will grant that the trip to Orono is quite long, but UMass seems to manage and that is exactly the same driving distance, just I-90 as opposed to I-84.

      As pointed out, UConn does have Title IX issues and they already have a women’s hockey program. However, UConn is also a sports powerhouse and has many very wealthy alumni, along the lines of Penn State.

      As for Notre Dame, while the school is located in South Bend, IN, with ties to Chicago, Notre is a HUGE brand in New England, New York and the rest of the East Coast Corridor. Otherwise apathetic fans might pay attention with a Notre Dame addition.

      Finally, looking even further down the road, if hockey expands to other Big East schools and Title IX issues are overcome, others have pointed out Syracuse as a possibility. Pittsburgh could also be a possibility. In my humble opinion, those are remote today but who knows in 20 years.

      I know that BU and BC just gave NCHC the “thanks but no thanks” and now the NCHC is claiming there were no discussions. This is because Hockey East is just fine the way it is. If it chooses to change, it will be to grow to 12 teams and the teams will be Notre Dame and UConn. Otherwise, it will stay happy at 10 teams.

      Finally, none of the 10 HE teams are on the chopping block, even with the struggles some programs have had recently, like UMass Lowell a few years ago. Hockey East’s business model is working just fine.

      • Guest

        Working just fine isn’t going to be a enough when these new conferences start. They are doing this for one reason, MORE MONEY. More TV, more exposure will bring more money. HE better do something to keep up or they are going to get left behind.

    • Guest

      The best reason for HE to get Notre Dame is that someone is going to and with the way the PWR are set up you want to plan in a tough conference. Look at the WCHA the last few years. No conference has sent more teams to the NCAA tourney than the WCHA and part of that is due to the fact they play such a tough schedule. It would make HE a better conference to have ND so if they can get them they should. Hope they don’t and ND plays in the new NCHC personally.

  • Jeff Hastings

    I don’t see Air Force leaving Atlantic Hockey. Air Force left the now defuct CHA to join Army in Atlantic Hockey to grow the service academy rivalry. As for the new conference, I am disappointed. Every March I looked forward to going to Saint Paul to watch the WCHA Final 5. In two years it will be gone.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RXIYXPN5XUZ2V5UT7CEV2YHZBY A guy named Joe

    Why ship RIT to the CCHA when they can’t offer scholarships anyway?  A western AHA team that can offer athletic rides would be a more logical fit.

    Would RIT be better served to play in a conference with all the other NY State D-III schools + Colgate?  Then boot Quinnipiac either back to the AHA or into HEA.

    One more thing.  The NCAA passed a hard barrier to future play-ups.  If any D-II school wanted to play ice hockey, they can’t play with the big boys.  Would a National Collegiate Championship of D-I/II be a way to expand the “mid major” conferences????

  • Rambo Wildcat

    People forget how cyclical college hockey has been over the years and decades…it wasn’t too long ago that DU, North Dakota and Miami were pretty dang lousy.  UMD has been very inconsistent at best, while UNO has been a flash in the pan and have not looked very solid.  CC has been solid, but is such a tiny, tiny school.  If this league folds up in 5 years, then what?  Will they go crying back home to daddy at the WCHA and CCHA?  

    • Suture

      When was UND lousy?  I’m waiting to hear this……:)

      • BD

        Well, they were “problematic” in the 1970′s….

        • Suture1

          Well, not sure what that means BD? I guess no national championships in that decade. Were runner-up in 1979 behind our friendly neighbor to the east. Won the national championship during the 1979-1980 season….but I guess that falls officially into the ’80′s.

          So, I guess you could say the Sioux were not too impressive in the 1970′s…..at least by “Sioux” standards. I can think of a number of college programs that would love to have that history, but I’ll give this one to you….the Sioux were not that great in the 70′s on the whole. I might be wrong but I thought the 1976 team was pretty solid? Maybe someone with more knowledge can help me out there…:)

      • Guest

        Right? this guys seems to have missed college hockey for the last 15 years or so. Maybe he just woke up from a coma or something?

      • Rambo Wildcat

        During the early 90′s, UND had let’s say a very average team led by “Gino” Gasparini…and by Sioux standards that is lousy.  I recall in 1991, DU was so bad people were like, why do we have a program?  I saw them get beat 12-2 by NMU, and it was like pros vs. kids…etc….just a point that basing judgement on these schools today due to last season’s success is a reach.  

    • Guest

      Really North Dakota was pretty dang lousy when? They may have had a couple of years where they were at national championship level but if you look back at the last 20 years they have been to a ton of FF’s won a bunch of WHCA titles for regular season and/or tournament. Not sure you can make a very strong case for either DU or UND being lousy any time recently and to think that CC has been the better of those teams you really need to rethink that. They haven’t won much of anything in the last 15 years and both UND and DU have won multiple titles in that time.

      There is NO CHANCE this league will fold. if anything both the WCHA and CCHA will fold before this one does.

  • joe555


North Dakota 2016 National ChampionsBNY Mellon Wealth Management