College Hockey:
CCHA intends to remain viable, commissioner says, but has to let events unfold

While the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has led to something akin to panic from some of the college hockey world, the CCHA is letting events unfold the way they will. That, according to commissioner Fred Pletsch, is just about the sum total of what the CCHA can do — for now.

“I reflected on my role in the last little while, which is really no different than when I started,” said Pletsch, who was named the league’s commissioner in early May after Tom Anastos left to become Michigan State’s head coach in April. Pletsch has been with the CCHA since 2001, when he was named director of communications; he was named associate commissioner in 2008.

“Regardless of what happens, it’s business as usual for the CCHA for the next two years — that hasn’t changed — but with the changes to the membership coming after that.”

Pletsch said that the league is committed to remaining a viable college hockey conference. “My first priority is to maintain the solvency of the CCHA brand, which has been around for 40 years,” he said. “Failing that, if circumstances dictate otherwise, I see my role as seeing that there’s a place in a league for each of our member schools.”

With the Big Ten’s announcement that it will begin league play in 2013-14 and Wednesday’s announcement of the NCHC — also slated to begin play in 2013-14 — both the WCHA and CCHA find themselves down several members. The WCHA has been perceived as having been more proactive, reportedly courting current CCHA members Northern Michigan and Alaska to keep its member enrollment high.

Two other CCHA members, Notre Dame and Western Michigan, may also be leaving; Notre Dame is reportedly being courted by both the NCHC and Hockey East, while WMU has released a video to promote itself to interested leagues.

“The moves that have been made really are not unexpected,” Pletsch said. “As soon as the Big Ten announced — and I said this before and it still applies — schools in the WCHA and the CCHA and right through to Atlantic Hockey and other leagues were saying, ‘Where do we fit into the landscape?’ Some teams have proactively made some changes … and some have done some preliminary exploring.

“I think what you’ve seen so far, the move by Miami and the five WCHA teams, that was a direct response to what the Big Ten did. You can’t dispute that. What the WCHA is left with, that’s a pretty good geographic and institutional fit now. Our league kind of has geography working against it a bit. I would expect more moves.”

Pletsch said that he couldn’t comment on CCHA teams that plan to leave the conference before those teams announce their decisions, nor could he speculate on any realignment that would include teams currently in other leagues joining the CCHA in the future. He has been active, however, in trying to keep the CCHA running beyond the next two seasons.

“Once the Big Ten schools announced, if you looked at the eight remaining teams [in the CCHA], if you took those eight remaining teams under the parameters of how college hockey operates, it’s a pretty good league,” Pletsch said. “My initial focus was to put together how that league would function in terms of budget, in terms of championship, and funneled that to the members [during coaches meetings in Florida in April] and they looked at it and some of them made a decision to look elsewhere. That’s their right. Everyone acknowledges that everyone has a right to go where they think they fit best.”

What most people don’t realize is that decisions about league affiliation don’t rest simply with hockey coaches and their staff. Ultimately, it’s up to the administrations of member institutions to decide where schools not otherwise affiliated — like Big Ten schools — will play their conference hockey. It is a decision-making process that depends on much more than just previous conference affiliation, and there are finances to be considered.

“Decisions right now are going to be based on institutional philosophy and geography,” Pletsch said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Should CCHA members decide to leave or other schools from outside the CCHA apply for affiliation, Pletsch said he’ll play an active role in that. “You facilitate meetings and forums for schools to get together and discuss what they need to do, should it come to it,” he said.

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  • Snipercohan23

    If Pletsch was smart he would begin talking with the remaining WCHA teams and forming just a CHA since they both cannot not survive.  Bring in UAH and now you have another viable conference that still has some rivalries.   

  • komey

    The CCHA and WCHA need to remain seperate so that both get their automatic bids.  That would be best for the smaller schools left behind.  Maybe they have an interlock schedule, but if I were running those leagues I would do everything in my power to keep two leagues and only combine if there is no other option.

    • Big 10 Hater

      Do the math though:  Right now, there are 5 teams for the WCHA and 7 for the CCHA.  Western and Notre Dame seem like they are both out, and going to “bigger and better places”.  They would HAVE to combine or something close to that, and it would probably be the CCHA brand that would be extinct. 

  • Guest

    Viable?  As what?  A D-2 conference?????

    • Bob

      This sounds pretty defeated to me.

      “Failing that, if circumstances dictate otherwise, I see my role as
      seeing that there’s a place in a league for each of our member schools.”

  • Nickels22784

    Pletsch is a moron.

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like Northern has already jumped ship with Fairbanks right behind them.  CCHA best be on the phone with Huntsville, BobbyMo, and Niagara.

    My gut feeling is the WCHA will make it official Friday they’re adding Northern so they have the required six for the AQ.  They will want to add two more – likey waiting it out to see what Western does. 

    • Nickels22784

      Add Niagra and Canisus to the list.  Get those five teams to join LSSU, Ferris, and Bowling Green to make an eight team conference.

    • Joe C

      When the pieces continue to fall, expect CCHA teams to move to AHA, ECAC, WCHA, even NCHC. If Notre Dame chooses, it will move to Hockey East, that is the only school that would go that far east.

      The Western New York and Western Pennsylvania schools are much closer to the New York/Western New England schools in AHA and ECAC than the WCHA. What is the incentive for them to lose bus trips and in-state rivals by jumping to CCHA.

      Right now, the only thing the CCHA has to offer is the name of their post-season trophy. I wonder how much the Big 10 would be willing to pay for the Mason Cup in two years.

  • BeaverHockey

    Another option for the WCHA is to bring in Air Force, I am sure that they are not liking all the travel to the East Coast all the time.  Plus their coach is a brother to the Bemidji State coach.  That could start a Serratore rivalry.  Plus he was born and raised in Minnesota, so I am sure that he would like to travel to Mankato, St. Cloud, and Bemidji rather than to New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania all the time.

    WCHA                                  CCHA                              Atlantic Hockey
    Bemidji State                        Bowling Green                  Army
    St. Cloud                              Ferris State                      RIT
    Mankato                               Alaska-Fairbanks              Canisus
    Alaska-Anch                         Lake Superior                   Holy Cross
    Mich Tech                            Niagra                              Sacred Heart
    Northern Mich                       Mercyhurst                       Connecicut
    Air Force                              Robert Morris                    Bently
    Ala-Huntsville                        Western Michigan             American Int.

    There I just solved the problem.

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

      Air Force joined AHA for a reason, you know, and it has nothing to do with where the coach — the coach! — wants to vacation.

      • BeaverHockey

        Yeah, Air Force joined Atlantic Hockey so that they can make the NCAA tournament on a yearly basis.  That is the only reason.

      • Joe C

        The Air Force not wanting to fly? That is an interesting position to take. Air Force seems to be VERY happy in AHA, where they even get to play Army! The NCAA berths seem to be doing quite well for the Falcons.

        If they were to leave AHA, it would come in the form of an invite from NCHC.

    • SAHA Prez

      I like your logic in this realignment, but would trade Lake Superior to the W & UAH to the C. The Chargers desprately need a home to survive & those institutions are geographically closer. It would also be nice to see the WCHA & CCHA play against each other during the regular season much like the ACC/Big East challenge in roundball. As for Air Force, I believe that they chose the Atlantic to be in the same conference as Army as much as a chance to go to the big dance on a regular basis.

  • Anonymous

    This from Eric Stromgren’s piece in the Bemidji Pioneer:

    In a press release from BSU, (AD) Goeb said in a statement that WCHA expansion is imminent and the league will be making an announcement shortly.

    “This is certainly a time of transition for the WCHA and for all of college hockey,” Goeb said in the release. “As a member of the WCHA, Bemidji State has and will be an active participant in that transition. The schools committed to securing the future of the WCHA beyond the 2013-14 season will be meeting later this week to solidify that future, and to ensure the WCHA’s member teams and any teams that may join us in the future are able to compete at college hockey’s highest level.”

    One can only assume they mean NMU as has been widely reported in a variety of media outlets all week. 

    In reading various media reports one gets the impression the WCHA has no immediate interest in combining with the remaining CCHA teams as a whole.  Instead they look to be an 8 team conference – NMU being all but a done deal to make six - then picking up Western if they don’t go NCHC plus one more – Alaska?  If not Western then Alaska and ????

    • Paula Weston

      Maybe Lake Superior State.  It would be a natural fit, geographically.

      • Anonymous

        I agree Paula – LSSU would be nice fit.

        It’s hard to watch the wheels come off the CCHA. Anyone who remotely calls themselves a college hockey fan has to have a sick feeling about this.  Hopefully the remaining teams can pull something together yet. 

        I see it was just announced on the main USCHO site NMU did vote to seek membership in the WHCA. 

  • Slugeye_on-fly

    I heard Lake State is looking to discontinue hockey.  Maybe a nasty rumor, but you heard it hear first.

  • FalconFan1983

    The Big 10 Conference really could use more teams.  Any chance of them taking a non-conference team that makes geographic sense.  It happens with lots of major conferences for other sports.  Why not take Bowling Green and Notre Dame into the Big 10 for hockey only to make an 8 team conference.  They are within an easy drive to all the other schools.

    • Anegadatortola

      that won’t happen, big 10 is in it for the cash, plain and simple.  they don’t like to share.  I now hate the big 10, and their money grubbing ways.  my season tickets will not be renewed in 2013.

      • Storm4003

        Think Big Ten TV network $$$$$

  • Redwingsfan20

    at the risk of sounding ignorant because i read this post while polishing of a bit of heineken…im a michigan fan and a fan of college hockey.   im also a traditionalist..  i wish much luck to the ccha if it can survive.  as for michigan….as for leaving the ccha i do not agree but a wolverine i will always be…

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