College Hockey:
After Notre Dame move, ‘nothing else is in progress,’ Hockey East commissioner says

Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said Wednesday was a very historic day with the announcement that Notre Dame will join the conference in 2013.

It turned out to be another day where realignment rumors were confirmed, but is this it for how Division I college hockey conferences, at least Hockey East, will look two years down the road?

“People will also speculate and write things on the Internet, but right now, nothing else is in progress,” said Bertagna. “It’s been a long summer and even with Notre Dame coming to our conference in 2013, there are still some minor details to be worked out. I can’t say much now, other than everything will be official in a few weeks’ time.

“From a logistics standpoint, we’d like to have an even number of teams and it’s not our goal to have a contrived number of teams,” said Bertagna. “That’s our guiding principle.”

And while it appears on the surface that the Irish moving to Hockey East was an idea that seemingly gained legs in just the past few weeks, Bertagna said it’s actually been bandied about longer than that.

“We had casual conversations in the spring and we were nothing more than passive partners,” Bertagna said. “We knew Notre Dame had three options for ’13 and that was to play as an independent, go to that national league or come join Hockey East. Notre Dame viewed an interest in coming here and we started talking more. It ended up being a seamless conversation.”

Notre Dame will be the 11th team in Hockey East, and that in itself will lead to talk that another team will be joining Hockey East or one may be on the move. Bertagna wouldn’t comment on speculation, but did say why Notre Dame was chosen to be the westernmost member of Hockey East.

“This sport will look significantly different in two years,” Bertagna said. “It’s safe to say that not a whole lot of schools would consider the move [to Hockey East]. It’s big for our conference any time we can grow. This is the first time we’ve ever had a school out of New England, but I think that we’re combining two strengths that will benefit both sides.”

That said, even with a TV deal with NBC Sports starting in 2013, Notre Dame did have some concerns before hooking up with Hockey East.

“Notre Dame wanted to make sure that scheduling wouldn’t compromise any of their student-athletes’ academics,” Bertagna said. “We ensured them that the scheduling would meet their needs. They’ll only make five trips a year.”

Speaking of road trips, Bertagna said that while it should be exciting for Notre Dame to venture East for away games, it will also be a thrill for Hockey East schools to make the trip to the Midwest.

“If you look at our recruiting 25 years ago and you look at past Hockey East rosters, we had predominantly New England and Massachusetts players,” said Bertagna. “Nowadays, we recruit across the country in places like California, Texas, Missouri, everywhere, and even get players from the U.S. national program. A lot of our schools have newer buildings and I think it will be a great experience when our schools go to Notre Dame and play in that amazing building [Compton Family Arena] I saw today.”

Still, amid all the excitement of the past few months, Bertagna has to take a step back now and then to realize what is in fact happening.

“A few years ago, I was at the coaches’ meetings down in Naples and we started hearing rumors of a ‘super league,’” said Bertagna. “Personally, I didn’t see the benefits and thought it was more of an overreaction to what would potentially happen with the Big Ten. Now that it’s happened, I want to see how it all plays out. Penn State joining Division I is great for our sport as it is any time you can add a team, but I just hope everyone has a place to play. It looks like Alabama-Huntsville is the only one without a home, and I hope they find a place to play soon.”

Bertagna added that he and other commissioners are heading to Grand Forks this weekend for the Ice Breaker to scout new Michigan State coach Tom Anastos, the former CCHA commissioner.

“We want to see how Tom does,” said Bertagna, perhaps tongue-in-cheek. “We want to see if he’ll give hope to more commissioners leaving their jobs to be head coaches.”

Should that come to fruition, that, too, would be a historic day in college hockey.

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  • Anonymous

    I can’t see Hocket East staying at 11 teams…still think either RPI/Quinnipiac/Niagara could be in the mix…I hope they don’t add UConn…they are more into their Basketball and now with there Football programs,they would have to make too many upgrades to the Hockey program imo.

    • Joe C

      The more I read about it from other people, the more intriguing Quinnipiac is, especially if UConn takes a long time to get serious about men’s hockey. Maybe Hockey East should wait until Syracuse launches its mythical team, so that UConn would have incentive.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed abut Q……..but reading between the lines, it seems like HE may be taking it’s time to name #12 to give UConn (or Syracuse) a chance to ramp up. Notre Dame may a big say in who becomes the next member.

        • Joe C

          Well, Notre Dame also has a big say in the scheduling. That being said, if I start seeing Hockey East games every week on my TV, via Versus and other NBC cable channels, I will not be sad. Maybe we can even get Hockey East Playoffs on Versus!!

    • NCAAHockeyFan

      I am pretty sure Quinnipiac will look into joining Hockey East; they have been an eager program since joining the D1 ranks. RPI has potential, but I think they would stick with the rest of the NY teams in the ECAC (Cornell, Colgate, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Union). I don’t think Niagara is a good fit in HE either.
      With that said, I think the best options would be UConn or Holy Cross.

  • falcon

    I really hope Cornell would move to Hockey East and schedule all their non-conference games against the rest of Ivy (only 5 other teams), too bad that this will never happen…

    • Joe C

      The Ivies never turn their backs on their own conference. I sure would like to see Cornell against BU/BC and everyone else. Instead, just a couple of non-conference games, even if the Madison Square Garden is a fun venue. I wish we could make it happen, too, as it sure would be fun.

      Commissioner Bertagna says no more changes are being contemplated right now. As we have learned from football, this can change rather quickly.Just like we heard very little about Notre Dame’s potential move, I suspect that the 12th Hockey East school will be kept very quiet until about a week before the press conference.

      This is how it should be. Say very little and then make a move if necessary.

  • Joe C

    The interesting nugget is the “five trips east”. Obviously, this turns into six trips east if Hockey East adds a 12th program in New England or New York. I am also absolutely positive that Notre Dame is hoping for a sixth trip east every year to play in the TD Garden for Hockey East semifinals. They might have to travel east a sixth time for Hockey East quarterfinals, in which case they hope for a seventh trip to the Garden.
    Now, we have time to figure out what the schedule will be like. Give the five trip limitation, does this make divisions required?
    Without divisions, to play a balanced schedule, there are either 20 or 30 regular season games. 20 is too few and 30 is too many. (Each school plays the other 10 teams 2X or 3X). Unless my math is off, you cannot play unbalanced schedule without divisions and have every school play the same number of games.
    20 balanced regular season games means a home-and-home with every other team in the conference. This means Notre Dame would double up each of the five trips and play two schools on the weekends it flies east. Maine/UNH, UMass/UVM, any combination for the remaining MA/RI schools because travel is easy from Boston. This also means that the other programs each make one trip to South Bend for one game. BU/BC/Northeastern will probably make the trip during Beanpot weekends, since they usually just play one game on those weekends.

    Effectively, to make Notre Dame only take 5 regular season trips east, there will be a 20-game balanced schedule. This is a loss of 7 regular season Hockey East matchups. 11 teams means each conference weekend has a school looking for a dance partner. Everyone could schedule UAH as a home-and-home (not necessarily the same weeknd) to fill in the calendar. They could also fill up the the missing conference matchups with money-making games, too.

    • Joe C

      As for divisions, you could have a division of 6 teams and a division of 5 teams. Call them “SIX” and “FIVE” for reference ease.
      Scenario A: SIX plays 4 games in division (20 games) and one game against each FIVE (5 games) for 25 games. FIVE plays 5 games in division (20 games) and one game against each SIX (6 games) for 26 games.
      Scenario B: SIX plays 3 division games (15 games). Five play 5 division games (15 games) SIX plays FIVE twice (10 games for SIX and 12 games for FIVE) leading to 25 total for SIX and 27 for FIVE.
      In Scenario A, if Notre Dame is a SIX school, it has 5 trips east for division play and 2.5 trips for non-division (3 one year, 2 the next), If Notre Dame is a FIVE school, it has 6 trips east each year for division (5 games is two home and homes plus a 5th game)., along with 3 games out east. This is 7.5 trips.
      In Scenario B, if Notre Dame is a SIX school, it has 3.5 trips east for division play and 2.5 trips east for non-division for a total of 6 trips east. If Notre Dame is a FIVE school, it has 6 trips east for division for 3 trips east for non-division. This is is 9 trips!

      • FrozenFourFan

        Scenario Reality:
        Notre Dame will have 5 trips (excluding playoffs) per their agreement with HE.

        • Joe C

          You mean the 20-game no-division balanced schedule listed in the first part? The one where I think Hockey East is headed, provided there is no twelvth program? I could not agree with you more.

          I wonder what the HE tournament will look like, as currently it is top eight play in semi-finals at the host school and the bottom two sit it out.

          The second part was an attempt to determine the possibilities of a 5-trip grouping of divisions. For my part, I could not figure out a way to fit divisions into an 11-team conference and limit the number of east coast trips to five for Notre Dame, with the assumption that a max of two games per weekend trip would be scheduled. I think this is what Joe Bertagna was referencing with the “contrived” number. Six, seven, eight, nine and ten team conferences are pretty easy to figure out a balanced schedule. Once you get above ten, you find problems with odd numbers like eleven, thirteen, seventeen and nineteen. Fifteen is easy, 3 x 5.

          Our reality scenarios match up, unless someone can come up with a pod system. We reached the same conclusion. The five trips comment means Hockey East and Notre Dame already figured out the number of conference games and the structure. The loss of seven current conference games will be made up in non-conference matchups.

  • Anonymous

    To really screw things up, there are rumblings that Penn State might not want to continue in the Big 10! 

    If PSU left the Big 10, the Big 10 would be down to 5 teams. 

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if the school that started this realignment by initiating hockey ultimately caused a whole nother realignment by quitting the Big 10?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AWUWXDKNATZUSY7MZ3ZCBASABM David

      No way.

      The “rumblings” were just a few cranky older alumni and the idea was quickly dismissed by the administration.

      The FB money is too good.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IBX3ZLT5XKNZDOL2YZHPVX27VI STEVEN P

      I don’t think they have a choice,unless they leave the Big Ten in all sports. Check the bylaws.

      • Joe C

        I agree. Also, check out the cash the Big 10 gets from BCS bowls, the Final Four and Big Ten Network.

        Penn State is not very good in basketball, as Maine beat them soundly at State College last year. Even so, they were able to swoop in and get BU’s coach Chambers to move there easily. The Big Ten is a premier conference made up of Midwest AAU schools.

  • JMBell1964

    What’s the matter Joe, BU, BC, UNH, Maine not giving you enough TV time and national attention?  They always seem to be ranked in the top 12-15 teams in the country.  So, now we’re going to add ND?  I was skeptical about adding Vermont!  Who’s next Joe, Wisconsin, North Dakota?

    Years ago there was the ECAC with 18+ teams.  Hockey East was established to bring more of the elite teams into their own league.  I think it did great things for college hockey. 1. it allowed some of the smaller programs a chance to compete on their own level with a better chance of making the post season. 2. It made HE a much more exiting league to watch and compete in.

    Now, by adding ND and another program (to be named later), HE is going to be nothing more than another elite ECAC league stacked with a boat-load of teams.
    This is a mistake.  This has nothing to do with making the league more competitve.  It’s all about more money and more TV time for the league and nothing else. If Joe wanted to add ND to the schedule, fine, cycle ND through some the HE teams, but don’t add them to the league.

    Joe had a good formula with HE and now he blows it.

    • Joe C

      The ECAC and AHA function just fine at 12 schools. Hopefully, Buffalo will be there to fill in any holes. I agree that Hockey East got Notre Dame for television money. This makes sense, as BTHC has the BTN. There is no one else out there with combined current market size, alumni base and hockey excellence to hit the ground running. UConn, RPI and Quinnipiac have potential.

      Vermont was absolutely a great move for Hockey East. Ten teams was a great number, 27 conference games are my preference.

      I understand your concerns and I hope the Joe B. has the correct answers, as the league is now married to Notre Dame and NBC. That will have some impact on what the 12th program will be and when it joins. You point out the risks very nicely. Perhaps the right thing to do is make UAH the 12th team. But as you so aptly put it, there is no money/television there.

  • Anonymous

    ND to HEA is a mistake.  The idea that this will help with exposure and recruiting is absurd.  Consistently putting teams in the NCAAs. Frozen Four and winning natianl titles – that’s what helps with recruiting.

  • Two-Pad Save

    A couple of corrections: regarding Penn State or any Big Ten schools opting out of the Big Ten to play elsewhere? It can’t happen. If the Big Ten sponsors a sport and a member fields a team in that sport, they have no choice but to play there.

    Second, in effect, there is no “television money” for college hockey. “Television money” is driving the multi-sport conference movement that is in the news (that and bowl money) but in hockey, for all practical purposes, what national networks “pay” is to produce the games. And that should not be dismissed. By 2013-14, more production money will be spent in producing more games and most (if not all) in high def (which costs more) so fans, and recruits, will be able to see the college game. As more recruits come from non-traditional areas (California, Texas, Florida, Arizona) and more Americans consider junior hockey options in Canada, getting college games on TV nationally becomes very important, regardless of what league you follow.

  • ND Alum

    If HE is sticking with 11 teams and we’re only making 5 trips east then a 20 game schedule seems like the logical outcome- play one weekend series against each team
    For the tourney HE could do what the CCHA did this year with 11 teams- first round teams 1-5 get byes and 6-11 play a best of 3 (or whatever number you choose), then you’re left with 8 teams and you progress from there

    • Joe C

      I completely agree with this. I think this is what ECAC does right now with twelve teams, which means 5-12 play when Hockey East goes to twelve.

      I do not want a Final Five setup.

      Going to the Gahden is always wicked!

  • Masshole

    Holy Cross is going to HE . UConn a definite no with no hockey history lousy arena .Huntsville gets the spot in the AHA which is what Bertanga is working out with the league.Most likely  to happen later than sooner.AHA is going to lose AirForce to the WCHA and talk of Buffalo having a Div 1 squad ready for 2013.Far from done, 

  • BCEaglekeeper

    It’s very simple. ND will play 10 road games in five trips. They will play at BC twice, but will have BU home twice one year and the reverse the next year. HEA will now have 3 “traveling” teams (Maine, UVM & ND). Every HEA team already plays either 2 road games against Maine or UVM each year. The schedule will balance out once RPI is added as the 4th traveling team. Until then either UVM or Maine or a combination of both will have to play some teams home and home to balance the home and away games. Again, not a big deal with the 3 game schedule we have now with each team.

    • Joe C

      If Hockey East could keep 3 games per opponent, than your idea is exactly right. But, I doubt that Hockey East will be able to maintain a balanced schedule of 3 games per opponent. This results in a 30-game conference schedule, requiring a minimum of 15 weeks. With that many games, how does Notre Dame keep a large non-conference schedule?

      We are much more likely to see a 20-game balanced schedule where everyone plays each team in a home game and a road game. With 11-teams, it is only possible to make them all true home-and-home weekends, if one team per conference weekend plays games out of conference.

      Your three-game example shifts to just two gaems. For example, Notre Dame could fly to Manchester, get on a bus, play in Durham on Friday and in Orono Saturdday, then fly out of Bangor. Another team, say Merrimack, plays in Orono on Friday and in Durham on Saturday. Meanwhile, one team, say Providence, plays out of conference with Brown and Harvard and the rest of Hockey East plays true home-and-home series. 

      When Notre Dame hosts, you could see travel partners too, where two schools travel west, each playing at Notre Dame plus a non-conference game nearby.

  • BCEaglekeeper

    3 teams will not make the HEA Tourney instead of 2. The HEA Tourney will never leave the Boston Garden.

    • Joe C

      Do you think that the Hockey East tournament will go to an everyone plays model, with the top seeds getting a bye?

      I am positive that the tournament will not leave Boston and that Notre Dame will look forward to its first appearance. They should be able to get enough fans for that, as opposed to a NCAA regional final.

  • kevhurls

    Does anyone remember BU’s (Hockey East) Natonal Championship in 1995? I do. BU’s captain? Jacques Joubert. His home town? So.Bend, IN. He was a transfer to BU, but he had been playing at Prionceton, not Notre Dame.

    • Joe C

      I might put the DVD in tonight and watch it again. I did not get a chance to go the game in person, but I sure loved DC in 2009!


    BC owns The Sioux

  • Paul

    I was told there would not be any math :(

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