A year ago, Boston boasted itself as the City of Champions. With titles in all four major professional sports in a mere 10-year span — an unprecedented achievement — the proverbial shoe fit.
Hockey East partisans may similarly be ready to call themselves part of the League of Champions. Over the past five years, Hockey East schools have claimed the title four times: Boston College in 2008, 2010 and 2012; and Boston University in 2009.
BC could be poised for yet another run, entering this season atop the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll and for more than ceremonial reasons. But several other league teams should also have a say in the outcome. Four-and-a-half Hockey East schools join BC in the national rankings and three more received votes.
Four and a half?
Notre Dame, ranked 14th, will be joining Hockey East next year followed one year later by Connecticut to make it an even dozen schools.
As such, this will be a year of transition. For the last time, teams will play each other three times. Starting next season, they’ll face each other just twice, once at home and once away. (Notre Dame will be the lone exception, playing teams in pairs, either twice at home or twice on the road, to minimize travel costs).
For the last time, teams will be left sitting home at the end of the regular season. Last year, two points separated sixth-place New Hampshire and out-of-luck, ninth-place Northeastern. Two years earlier, the 2010 Huskies suffered an even worse indignity, finishing ninth just four points out of third.
Starting next season, every school will make the playoffs. Once UConn also joins the league, the top four teams will earn first-round byes while the other eight tangle to produce the current field of eight. During next year’s oddity of only 11 programs, five will earn byes (in the first round of the playoffs it’ll be seed six vs. 11, seven vs. 10 and eight vs. nine).
So consider the upcoming season as the last of its kind, a transition to a Hockey East with new rivalries, new playoff scenarios and more non-conference games.
Many challenges. Many peaks. Many valleys.
Get ready to savor them all.
With that in mind, below are our preseason predictions. Click on a team name to read its season preview.