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College Hockey:
Offseason takes shape, issues come into focus with coaches meetings

Next week, the 59 Division I men’s hockey coaches, five current conference commissioners, those who represent the future of the Big Ten and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and members of the NCAA and the NCAA ice hockey rules committee will all gather in Naples, Fla., for what may be the most important meeting of the American Hockey Coaches Association in recent memory.

While there will be plenty of fun in the sun for all who make their way back to Florida’s west coast (many of them for the second time in three weeks after attending the Frozen Four), there will be more than the fair share of hot topics that will be handled in a plethora of meetings.

Many may think last summer was one of the most contentious in college hockey since teams broke away from the ECAC to form Hockey East back in 1984. Massive restructuring of conferences impacting nearly half the teams that play the game made headlines throughout the entire offseason.

But those changes, along with a number of other impending issues, could make this year’s convention even more interesting.

Here is a look at some topics that are likely to be addressed next week:

The fallout

Forget about the fact that there are issues still to be resolved in restructuring, the most overt Hockey East’s search for a 12th member. One of the biggest issues related to restructuring could be interpersonal relationships.

This is the first time all of the coaches and commissioners will be assembled in one place since the explosion that hit college hockey a year ago. One has to wonder what hard feelings exist.

Let’s not forget, while everything about the Big Ten was done out in the open — and of course, that was the domino that first fell — the negotiations to form the NCHC were done out of public view. From conversations that took place throughout the season and at the Frozen Four, it’s clear there were some schools that certainly felt abandoned, slighted and, for lack of a better word, betrayed.

Now, don’t expect fisticuffs that would require Brendan Shanahan to dish out discipline, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see coaches not support other coaches during league votes, etc., simply out of spite.

Clearly, that’s speculation, but we would be naive to think that every conversation and debate will be flowers and buttercups.

Back to UConn

Thanks to a governor in the state of Connecticut who has lips looser than defenses of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh combined, the fact that UConn is applying to Hockey East has become the worst-kept secret.

Commissioner Joe Bertagna publicly acknowledged during his appearance on USCHO Live at the Frozen Four that there have been preliminary conversations. But multiple sources have confirmed in the last week that there have been additional conversations among the current Hockey East membership since Bertagna’s unofficial visit to Storrs, Conn., in late March.

The one thing that is known about UConn’s application is that it would require a hefty investment on the part of the school and the state, one that Gov. Dannel Malloy seems ready to make. Malloy told CBS Connecticut that the XL Center (nee Hartford Civic Center) could be the venue at which the Huskies play, a major step up from the school’s small Freitas Ice Forum.

Nittany Lions ready to drop puck

When the college hockey season opens in October, Penn State, the nation’s 59th Division I ice hockey program, will drop the puck on its first season as a varsity sport.

Penn State will play a season as an independent but Guy Gadowsky’s team will be playing against the big boys for the first time in the school’s history.

While Gadowsky has been scrambling since he first arrived on campus to assemble a schedule, no doubt that handshaking will continue in Naples as he negotiates non-league series.

For that matter, Naples will certainly be the place that many of the leagues will begin to solidify their 2013-14 schedules. While a few leagues may have to make changes to those schedules if teams leave/enter, it’s time that these schedules begin to be put on paper.

And then there are the rules

This summer is what most around NCAA ice hockey call a “rules change summer.”

Every two years the NCAA ice hockey rules committee assembles to review the rule book, making additions and subtractions as necessary. This is one of those offseasons.

During the Frozen Four, USCHO had the chance to talk to four people who will be part of those conversations: Frank Cole, the NCAA’s director of officials; Ed McLaughlin, chairman of the NCAA rules committee; Steve Piotrowski, NCAA secretary of rules; and Ty Halpin, the NCAA liaison for rules and officiating.

They noted that while there are a number of rules that may be considered, the two most notable are the use of half-shield visors — as opposed to full cages — for male college hockey players and the use of four-on-four overtimes and/or shootouts, similar to the system employed by the NHL.

The rules committee has studied the ample amount of data on head injuries related to wearing visors as opposed to full shields but still isn’t convinced that half-shields have the full support of the coaches and administrators.

Overtime, too, is very much up in the air. While it seems like many around the game prefer some sort of final outcome — rather than a tie — to hockey games, Piotrowski said he’s not sure that changing to four-on-four or a shootout has sufficient support.

He also noted that four-on-four and shootouts aren’t the only types of overtime solutions on the table. Another is the use of longer overtimes, as were in place 30 years ago, with the hopes that 10 minutes or 20 minutes might help decide an outcome better than the current five-minute format.

One rule that seems certain to be altered is the awarding of a clear and imminent goal when the net is dislodged. Twice in NCAA regional play this year, apparent goals were disallowed because the net was slightly raised from its pins. The current NCAA rules dictate a goal must be disallowed if the net is not firmly in place when the puck enters.

“We really want to find a way to allow good goals,” Cole said. “If the net moves a little bit, maybe pops up on the pins, those are situations we need to find to allow those goals.”

In addition to development of new rules, McLaughlin said there will be some “tightening of rules,” which could mean that additional clarification, explanations or points of emphasis would be added to the current rule book.

The future of CHI

When College Hockey Inc. executive director Paul Kelly resigned late in the regular season, there was some immediate concern as to what will happen next for the organization that was charged with marketing college hockey to the masses.

There were a number of conflicting reports about just how happy the college hockey commissioners were with Kelly and his aggressive nature. But Kelly established a strong network of educational programs in the U.S. and Canada aimed at delivering the college hockey message to potential players.

Kelly also was successful in leveraging his past job as executive director of the NHL Players’ Association to arrange meetings between college hockey representatives and the NHL brass. Players leaving college before graduation to sign professional contracts continues to be an escalating issue, and there is little college hockey can do without changing the current NHL collective bargaining agreement. While it isn’t known what headway was made in these discussions, Kelly delivered that seat at the table.

Kelly’s replacement, Nate Ewell, still holds the word “interim” attached to his title. Ewell has strong NHL ties, having spent a number of years running the Washington Capitals’ PR department.

But it is unclear how important the NHL network is to the executive director position, at least in the eyes of the commissioners. One thing is clear, though: Whether it is Ewell or another person who becomes the permanent director of CHI, that person will need to work with the commissioners, not around them.

The NCAA tournament

While this year’s Frozen Four may have been one of the best in recent memories in terms of the host city, the venue and the atmosphere created around Tampa, the regional tournaments the preceded the Frozen Four left a lot to be desired.

Many of the regionals had attendance problems, whether because of location or the game times. There has been significant public outcry to examine how the regional tournaments are handled going forward. Whether it is to return opening rounds to campus sites or to use a super-regional format that would bring eight teams in a single region to create two champions (similar to the format used before 2003), dialogue concerning changing the regional format is at least warranted.

And while it may not be a discussion in Naples, this summer will produce the announcement of the next three Frozen Four destinations as the NCAA will award the 2015, 2016 and 2017 tournaments.

All of these topics will make for one very interesting offseason, and it all begins in Naples next week.

Update: An earlier version of this story indicated that Penn State would not be eligible for the NCAA tournament in the 2012-13 season. Penn State’s compliance department, however, said the team is immediately eligible, citing an NCAA interpretation:

An active Division I member institution that adds a new sport is not subject to the two-year conformity requirement prior to being eligible to enter a team or individual in an NCAA Championship, inasmuch as the requirement is intended to apply only to a member institution that is in the Division I reclassification process. [References: NCAA Bylaws 18.4.2.2 (championships-eligibility) and NCAA Bylaw 3.2.4.4.1(intent to sponsor varsity sport)]


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  • Spanky

    How about they get rid of whatever stupid rule allowed the east coast officials to try and screw UMD against Maine in the regionals. Maine scored a goal even though 10 seconds earlier a UMD player knocked off the opposing net off all the way into the corner practically and they didn’t blow the whistle. Maine did the same thing in the first period and refs blew the whistle that time.

    • Trey

      CCHA officials did that game, not “east coast officials.”

    • guest

      The officials actually had it correct.  Maine had a clear offensive advantage and UMD knocked the net off.  If UMD hadn’t stopped playing and touched the puck or slowed down the play, the refs would have blown the whistle.  Actually saw the exact same thing in the Red Wings game the other night.  Only that Detroit did not score.  Know the rules before you attack the refs.

      • Blueline892910

        THANKS for spelling that one out….

      • Spanky

        Yes Maine had a “clear offensive advantage” in their own zone!! I could see letting it play out if Maine had the puck in the offensive zone, but how can a team have a clear offensive advantage when they puck was still in their zone? Also the fact that the same thing happened in the first period when Maine knocked the net off, but the refs blew the whistle that time. Remeber UMD won that game, so I’m not complaning because we lost, but the rule is redulouosly subjective.

    • BulldogFan

      I am a Bulldog Fan and yes the refs did get the call right but the rule should be changed. And I think the refs in that game were from the CCHA but I’m not 100% sure.  

    • WCHA got spanked

       Whew….
      I was nervous this page might not have any WCHA whining on it

      • TypicalWCHAfan

        Not possible.  Here, I’ll help out.

        The NCAA is doing everything possible to prevent another all WCHA Frozen Four.

        And sure we lost the game but [insert WCHA team name here] we really dominated and they only won because their goaltender stood on his head.

        • JakeB

          Let’s here the excuse for BC blowing out Minn-Duluth in the regional… referees, lucky goalie, soft ice… UMD surely would have been in your 2012 WCHA Frozen Four.

  • MoreNonConferenceGames

    Can someone summarize the length of each league’s schedule once the realignment shakes out?  All I know is the ECAC will still have 12 teams in 2013-14 and will play a 22 game league schedule.  Big Ten will 6 teams and likely play a 20 game schedule.  Hockey East should be up to 12 teams. 

  • Bueller

    this summer will produce the announcement of the next three Frozen Four destinations as the NCAA will award the 2016, 2017 and 2018 tournaments.

    Where is 2015?  

    • http://www.uscho.com Todd D. Milewski

      Sorry about that — was off by a year. Should be the 2015, 2016 and 2017 tournaments.

  • hockey101

    Visors – Vote Yes
    allow goalies to wear Cat-eye cages needs to happen too
    As long as the dislodged net has no impact on a clear goal then YES
    Fighting – first infraction= roughing 2 min-2nd in same game =5 min 3rd = ejection and two games. 
    Overtime one 10 min 5v 5 session, then one 5 min 4 on 4 then game is called tie.  Say No to shoot outs.

    • gophersnotgolfers

      Good god whatever they do, don’t weaken the fighting rules. I go to game to see hockey not fights.

      • Timbrush22

        Gophersnot… is 100% right – no fighting in college hockey ever, no way, no how. There’s enough in the NHL. If anyone needs more, watch the ECHL goon it up.

        • Timbrush22

          Gopher snot…whoops, didn’t mean that at all. Sorry

      • Nhlfreak2003

        fights should be game misconduct not game DQ

  • Blueline892910

    10 minute Overtime with 5×5…NO Shootouts…please,get over it…a tie is a tie in regular season play. And one last rumor is that the NCAA is kicking around the idea of a Frozen 4 in Canada(Toronto).

    • Kiyomark2000

      I agree and am not in favor of shootouts. I don’t like ties though and feel that they should play at least a 20 minute overtime 5×5.

    • TiesTiesTies

      Agreed with the overtime suggestion.  I’m absolutely against the 4 on 4 idea mainly because my team usually sucks at 4 on 4.

  • Guest

    The current NHL CBA expires September 15, 2012. It’s difficult to imagine the NHL will do anything to discourage college players from “taking the money and running” to the NHL after playing only a year or two in college. I’ve been attending college hockey games since the early 1960s and far prefer past decades when the best college players stayed on campus until their college eligibility had expired to today’s early departrures. Unfortunately the era of the best players staying for four years in college are long gone.

    And that’s sad for college hockey and college hockey fans.

  • guest

    Leave the fighting rules and OT rules ABSOLUTELY alone.  Let’s watch hockey, not the nonsense.  It would be nice to see Holy Cross in Hockey East and UConn in Atlantic.  Georgraphically it makes more sense.  Also, BC, PC, MC, HC and ND could have a preseason tourney called the Crusade that would stir up new rivalries with the two incoming teams.

    • Nhlfreak2003

      enough ties, i dont want a shoot out but no more ties either

  • Kroger

    Yes to visors, I didn’t see anything about fighting in the article, but it’s fine the way it is, the NHL point system (W, L, OTL/SOL) works perfectly fine, use that, and the net thing is reasonable, they have recognized it and are changing it, don’t knock the refs for doing their job.
    I think the biggest one, personally, is the CHI part. Having good relations with the NHL will help college hockey immensely. There needs to be rules about decommitting/choosing major juniors over college and (though this pertains more to the NHL CBA) a minimal requirement for players before they can sign a professional contract (similar to the NBA CBA). That’s all tricky to figure out though because it’s a three+ headed monster.

    • Mr Hockey

      I hope they stay away from the NHL points system. Why, reward a team with a point for losing? The Regular season overtime is a joke as well. Teams don’t go for a win they sit around and wait for a shootout. The NHL has 2 sets of rules reg season and playoffs for determining outcomes. I hope the NCAA stays away from this. I know from watching games Jeff Jackson, Red Berenson , Jerry York and Don Lucia hate shootouts. Good luck getting this passed. As for half shields put them on the.  USA is the only country to wear full masks. The U.S. also has the most problems with head injuries. Kids will keep their sticks down with half shields. 

  • Gobc

    Maybe they should have the frozen four aka the bc invitational in Boston? With these new ridiculous western leagues bc will dominate even more

    • BBear94

      Don’t be so smug….BC was a doormat in the past and they will be again.  No program stays on top forever.  Just look at Maine, LSSU, Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

      Good grief you BC fans are absolutely without class.  From your profanity-laced cheers coming from the student section at Conte to posts like this.  You kids come from privleged families and are lucky enough to go to a top school like BC, when the program is at its peak – how about showing some dignity and respect you smug little pr….

      • JustDesserts

        Oh calm down, I think Gobc is just having some fun at the expense of some of our friends from the West who constantly brag about their league and their programs.

        • Hockeyeast

          Honestly why would a recruit go play at minn or mich in a dumb 6 team league with penn state when they can play in hockey east. Or this new west league with zero tradition. East will stay on top in the next decade

          • jcc

            because the big ten will have the biggest stage with the most airtime of any college hockey conference… its the BIG TEN.

          • WCHA got spanked

            ….its the Catalina winemixer

          • Gobc

            Im sure tons of people will be watching minn vs mich for the 6th time.

          • bronxbomberz41

            Big Ten schools graduate hundreds of thousands of kids over the course of just a few years.  Talk about an alumni network…

          • nogofer

            Wrongo, gofer breath…

          • jcc

            enlighten me then

      • Guest

        Get your panties unbunched BBear and grow up yourself.  A little cheese with your whine??   I’ve seen plenty of classless antics from Maine fans but I don’t get into a snit about it.  All kids are just kids and will grow up eventually. In the meatime it’s about what’s happening ON THE ICE that matters. Or have you forgotten that? 

        • bronxbomberz41

          I went to a Maine-UNH game at Alfond a couple years ago.  We brought my mother-in-law who is a huge Maine fan wearing her Maine jersey.  Because she was sitting with two UNH fans she got spit on.  I also saw one of the students rip a sign out of the hands of a child who couldn’t have been older than 10 years old and tear it up.

          yeah those maine fans are reeeeally classy.

      • Nhlfreak2003

        You think their cheers are bad, listen to other schools
        like RPI we take pride in being the rudest crowd in ECAC

      • Shany94

        I graduated BC but I didn’t come from a privileged family, and neither did a lot of my friends. The kids going there now are very lucky with the success hockey has had, but us older alums remember the rough times of the 1990s. BC will be fine as long as Jerry York is in charge.

    • jcc

      wow, pretty cocky huh? BBear94 is right, you used to be crap, everyone has their down years, guess what, its coming back around for bc here.

      • Shany94

        Aren’t Maine fans supposed to be complaining “Fire Whitehead” about now?

        • jcc

          not a maine fan

      • Gobc

        Bc has been on top for 15 years now not expectIng them to relinquish their claim to the best team in the nation for another 5 years at least.

        • jcc

          wow i havent laughed that hard in a long time. before i thought you were proud and arrogant and now i realized youre just dumb, do you realize how stupid you sound by saying that? do some research before you say something that stupid.

          • Gobc

            What is there to argue? 10 frozen fours 4 titles 8 title games

          • jcc

            4 for 15 does not give you the title of being the best team in the nation let alone for the next 5 years, good luck btw in the next 5 years well see what happens

  • guest

    There will probably be some hard feelings in Naples. Nice to see a “leftover” school almost win the national championship (Ferris State). Already a nWCHA team went farther then Big Ten or NCHC team in the NCAAs. Not going to say that will last, but a nice “stick it to them” for the leftover schools for the others who abandoned. 

    Ferris State joins fellow CCHA members Notre Dame & Miami (OH) with a national championship game second place finishes. Also, Ferris State now has better NCAA tourney credentials then Ohio State, Neb-Omaha, W. Michigan, and St. Cloud. 

  • Ed_crumbpacker

    OVERTIME – 5 on 5 - no time limit - NO GOALIES.  It would be as exciting as a shootout but wouldn’t be a random.  The teams with better puck control/passing would probably win a greater percentage of the time and I bet most games would end in 3 to 5 minutes.

    • AndNoDefense

      No goalies aka every day the WCHA!  Hey-O!!!

  • William Wallace

    Braveheart for overtimes – 1v1.

    Make helmets optional for officials and players.

  • YuppieScum

    Can someone put the awful, awful reffing of Hockey East on the agenda? Games keep getting tougher and tougher to watch and I know the other leagues aren’t pleased with them either in interconference play

    • Guest

      WCHA wasn’t much better.  To much inconsistency!   What is worse is if your name is Sheppard you will have a job do to nepitism!

  • Chuck

    I know the NCAA said that attendance was a problem in the regionals because of locations and game times. The real problem was the price of tickets. I have many friends that would have gone to the games with me, but $50 for a college hockey game is a lot and try bringing a kid or two. The price two years ago was less and before that. Second, the NCAA tied up the big restroom in the DCU center in Worcester MA for personal use. The paying customer had very few restrooms with very long lines. Couple of the real problems. From a long time college hockey fan and season ticketholder for 28 years.