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Pegula tells Penn State officials he’s committed to new arena, programs

It stands to reason that the new Penn State men’s and women’s hockey programs will be affected in at least some way by the sex abuse scandal that has enveloped the school and athletic department.

The school’s president, Graham Spanier, who appeared at the introductory press conference for the program last September, is out. Athletic director Tim Curley is on leave and facing perjury charges. So a new-look administration awaits the hockey programs when they start Division I play next fall.

But it appears the development of the programs and the arena they will share will not be halted. Terry Pegula, whose $88 million donation is funding the men’s program and the arena, to be named the Pegula Ice Arena, has told Penn State officials that his family’s commitment is “as strong as ever.”

That’s according to Joe Battista, the associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey development, who responded to an email by first acknowledging that hearts are heavy for the victims and their families.

The Penn State men’s program is scheduled to start varsity play next season before joining what will be a six-team Big Ten league in 2013-14. The women’s team also is ready to start next season as a member of the CHA.

Pegula Ice Arena is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

UPDATE: Pegula released a statement through the Buffalo Sabres, which he owns. Here is the full text:

The events that are unfolding at Penn State University are deeply troubling and a matter of great concern to me and my wife Kim. As many have expressed, our primary concern is for the individuals and families who may have been victimized.

Penn State’s reputation has been severely tarnished. We are encouraged to see the University trustees have begun the process of restoring integrity and trust in the institution. This process will take a period of time and trust will need to be re-earned as a result of these recent disclosures.

Penn State is supported by millions of students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators. Our own support for Penn State and its hockey program is well known and will continue. We expect the University will carry out its educational mission with high standards and integrity.

How the conferences look with Bowling Green, Notre Dame moving

Here’s your latest look at what the Division I men’s college hockey conferences will look like in 2013-14, when realignment comes around. Bowling Green has committed to the WCHA and Notre Dame has said it’s going to Hockey East, which gives everyone from the current CCHA a new home.

ATLANTIC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Air Force *
American International #
Army *
Bentley #
Canisius *
Connecticut *
Holy Cross *
Mercyhurst #
Niagara *
Rochester Institute of Technology ^
Robert Morris *
Sacred Heart *

BIG TEN (6 teams, new)
Michigan (from CCHA) *
Michigan State (from CCHA) *
Minnesota (from WCHA) *
Ohio State (from CCHA) *
Penn State (from independent) *
Wisconsin (from WCHA) *

ECAC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Brown *
Clarkson ^
Colgate *
Cornell *
Dartmouth *
Harvard *
Princeton *
Quinnipiac *
Rensselaer ^
St. Lawrence ^
Union ^
Yale *

HOCKEY EAST (11 teams, adds 1)
Boston College *
Boston University *
Maine *
Massachusetts *
Massachusetts-Lowell #
Merrimack #
New Hampshire *
Northeastern *
Notre Dame * (from CCHA)
Providence *
Vermont *

NCHC (8 teams, new)
Colorado College (from WCHA) ^
Denver (from WCHA) *
Miami (from CCHA) *
Minnesota-Duluth (from WCHA) #
Nebraska-Omaha (from WCHA) *
North Dakota (from WCHA) *
St. Cloud State (from WCHA) #
Western Michigan (from CCHA) *

WCHA (9 teams, loses 8, adds 5)
Alaska (from CCHA) #
Alaska-Anchorage #
Bemidji State #
Bowling Green * (from CCHA)
Ferris State (from CCHA) #
Lake Superior State (from CCHA) #
Michigan Tech #
Minnesota State #
Northern Michigan (from CCHA) #

INDEPENDENT (1 team)
Alabama-Huntsville #

* – Schools at Division I level in all sports (38, 64 percent)
# – Schools at Division II level in most sports but Division I for hockey (15, 25 percent)
^ – Schools at Division III level in most sports but Division I for hockey (6, 10 percent)

Now we’re on the lookout for the next moves. Does Hockey East find a 12th member? Does Alabama-Huntsville survive its internal battle and find a conference home? What of Minnesota State-Moorhead and Buffalo, two schools that have indicated an interest in playing Division I hockey?

Stay tuned.

How the 2013-14 conferences look after NCHC goes to 8

Following up on an earlier post on how the conferences will look in 2013-14, when the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference form, here’s the breakdown after the NCHC’s addition of St. Cloud State and Western Michigan:

ATLANTIC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Air Force *
American International #
Army *
Bentley #
Canisius *
Connecticut *
Holy Cross *
Mercyhurst #
Niagara *
Rochester Institute of Technology ^
Robert Morris *
Sacred Heart *

BIG TEN (6 teams, new)
Michigan (from CCHA) *
Michigan State (from CCHA) *
Minnesota (from WCHA) *
Ohio State (from CCHA) *
Penn State (from independent) *
Wisconsin (from WCHA) *

CCHA (2 teams, loses 9)
Bowling Green *
Notre Dame *

ECAC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Brown *
Clarkson ^
Colgate *
Cornell *
Dartmouth *
Harvard *
Princeton *
Quinnipiac *
Rensselaer ^
St. Lawrence ^
Union ^
Yale *

HOCKEY EAST (10 teams, unchanged)
Boston College *
Boston University *
Maine *
Massachusetts *
Massachusetts-Lowell #
Merrimack #
New Hampshire *
Northeastern *
Providence *
Vermont *

NCHC (8 teams, new)
Colorado College (from WCHA) ^
Denver (from WCHA) *
Miami (from CCHA) *
Minnesota-Duluth (from WCHA) #
Nebraska-Omaha (from WCHA) *
North Dakota (from WCHA) *
St. Cloud State (from WCHA) #
Western Michigan (from CCHA) *

WCHA (8 teams, loses 8, adds 4)
Alaska (from CCHA) #
Alaska-Anchorage #
Bemidji State #
Ferris State (from CCHA) #
Lake Superior State (from CCHA) #
Michigan Tech #
Minnesota State #
Northern Michigan (from CCHA) #

INDEPENDENT (1 team)
Alabama-Huntsville #

* – Schools at Division I level in all sports (38, 64 percent)
# – Schools at Division II level in most sports but Division I for hockey (15, 25 percent)
^ – Schools at Division III level in most sports but Division I for hockey (6, 10 percent)

As before, Bowling Green and Notre Dame are listed under the CCHA banner because they haven’t yet announced where they’re headed. The WCHA’s deadline for Bowling Green to act on an invitation was set to come up this week, but now it appears that has been extended to Oct. 7, according to Kevin Gordon of the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune.

And as for Notre Dame, you have to think that the tumult in the Big East Conference, in which the Irish are members for many sports, could further push back a decision from South Bend. Every time there’s a conference change, the Notre Dame-to-the-Big Ten machine gets going again, and this week has been no different.

By now, I’m just hoping we have a picture of how this thing is going to look by sometime in 2013.

Hope continues for new RIT arena

ritarena Hope continues for new RIT arena

An artist's rendering of a proposed new arena for Rochester Institute of Technology's hockey teams (photo: RIT Athletics).

In November, Rochester Institute of Technology launched a fundraising effort designed to secure $15 million needed to fund a new hockey arena for its men’s and women’s teams.

So when school president William W. Destler got to the part of his annual President’s Address about building projects on campus, naturally, the potential for a new home for the Tigers came up.

“I’m hoping against hope to have a significant announcement related to this effort soon,” Destler said.

A tip, or just hope? We’ll see.

Here’s the video. The line about the new arena starts at 38:47.

A look at how the conferences shape up for 2013-14 (today, anyway)

We got a request via email the other day to publish what the conference structure will look like in 2013-14, when the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference begin play. The situation is still fluid, of course, but let’s take a look at what we have at the moment.

One caveat: I left the CCHA as it stands even though you have to think the likelihood that the league exists in 2013-14 is smaller than small. I did that because I don’t want to assume anything with the three CCHA teams that have yet to announce their intention. (We all know that Notre Dame won’t be there, but bear with me.)

So here it is:

ATLANTIC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Air Force *
American International #
Army *
Bentley #
Canisius *
Connecticut *
Holy Cross *
Mercyhurst #
Niagara *
Rochester Institute of Technology ^
Robert Morris *
Sacred Heart *

BIG TEN (6 teams, new)
Michigan (from CCHA) *
Michigan State (from CCHA) *
Minnesota (from WCHA) *
Ohio State (from CCHA) *
Penn State (from independent) *
Wisconsin (from WCHA) *

CCHA (3 teams, loses 8)
Bowling Green *
Notre Dame *
Western Michigan *

ECAC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Brown *
Clarkson ^
Colgate *
Cornell *
Dartmouth *
Harvard *
Princeton *
Quinnipiac *
Rensselaer ^
St. Lawrence ^
Union ^
Yale *

HOCKEY EAST (10 teams, unchanged)
Boston College *
Boston University *
Maine *
Massachusetts *
Massachusetts-Lowell #
Merrimack #
New Hampshire *
Northeastern *
Providence *
Vermont *

NCHC (6 teams, new)
Colorado College (from WCHA) ^
Denver (from WCHA) *
Miami (from CCHA) *
Minnesota-Duluth (from WCHA) #
Nebraska-Omaha (from WCHA) *
North Dakota (from WCHA) *

WCHA (9 teams, loses 7, adds 4)
Alaska (from CCHA) #
Alaska-Anchorage #
Bemidji State #
Ferris State (from CCHA) #
Lake Superior State (from CCHA) #
Michigan Tech #
Minnesota State #
Northern Michigan (from CCHA) #
St. Cloud State #

INDEPENDENT (1 team)
Alabama-Huntsville #

* – Schools at Division I level in all sports (38, 64 percent)
# – Schools at Division II level in most sports but Division I for hockey (15, 25 percent)
^ – Schools at Division III level in most sports but Division I for hockey (6, 10 percent)

Something jumped out to me in compiling the NCAA divisions for the schools, and that’s the remarkable change in structure that the WCHA is facing. As it stands today, it has five Division I teams, six Division II teams and one Division III team. All nine of the schools that have to date confirmed their place in the WCHA of the future are Division II members that play Division I men’s hockey. My friend Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press wrote about that here, and it’s pointed out that the WCHA needs Division I members Bowling Green or Western Michigan to keep its vote at the Division I table.

There’s no sense using concrete terms yet, though. This summer is bound to give us another twist or two.

A cringe-worthy time for college teams in race for top talent

It might be time for us to get out some asterisks or some other notation for our list of college hockey-related players selected in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

That’s because in the give and take that is the often tenuous relationship between college hockey and major juniors, there has been an awful lot of giving by the NCAA side lately.

The top three names on that list have recently either left college for the CHL or pulled their college commitment to head to major juniors.

Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, the 14th pick in June’s draft by Dallas, left Northeastern after one season to sign with Saginaw.

Forward J.T. Miller, who was on his way to North Dakota in the fall, instead is headed to Plymouth after being picked 15th by the New York Rangers.

Connor Murphy has backed out of his commitment to Miami and will play next season for Sarnia. The defenseman was the 20th pick by Phoenix.

It doesn’t end there. Goaltender John Gibson, the 39th overall pick by Anaheim, was headed to Michigan until he changed course and signed with Kitchener, leading to this deliberate, one-sentence statement issued by Wolverines coach Red Berenson: “John Gibson has decided not to attend the University of Michigan or to play college hockey.”

And forward Reid Boucher joined Murphy with Sarnia, ending his commitment to Michigan State. He was a fourth-round pick, No. 99 overall, by New Jersey.

That’s five of the top 23 once-college-related picks in the draft gone to major juniors.

We don’t always track the comings and goings of players before they actually reach campus, but when things start to become trends, it’s time to pay attention.

It’s enticing to wonder whether college hockey’s summer of upheaval has given those on the major juniors side some marketing material, especially when you consider that four of the five college teams impacted by those moves will be on the move in 2013 (North Dakota, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State). But you’d hope that the schools would have had some rebuttal, given how adamant they’ve been that the conference shift will be for the better for their side.

That’s not the only part of the issue, of course, and I’m still a believer that we shouldn’t use broad strokes with the college-versus-major junior debate. College is right for some players; major junior is right for others. When talent departs in a group like we’ve seen in the past weeks, however, it’s cringe-worthy for anyone on the college side of things.

Another view: Thinking of history and the conference realignment

Here’s an email that came to us recently that the writer, Brian Patterson of Minneapolis, agreed to let us publish:

As a big college hockey fan, I have been following the recent developments closely and my concern, like many, is that the new conferences are completely ignoring the great history of college hockey.

Consider this — in the last quarter century, the NCAA Champions break down like this (by their “future” conference): Big Ten – 7; Hockey East – 7; NCHC – 6; ECAC – 1, WCHA – 1. You will probably notice this only adds up to 22. That is because the other three belong to Lake Superior State University — one of the remainders/castoffs (as of this date) from the CCHA.

(Full disclosure — I am a LSSU grad, and thus biased).

If NCAA football were to realign, would they cast off one of their storied teams? I doubt it. Now, I grant you that LSSU has not been highly/consistently competitive in at least 10 years — but (to continue the analogy to football above), has Notre Dame been competitive in football?

Of course, I realize this is not about storied teams and traditions, but about money. If you don’t think this is the case, then consider this — a three time NCAA Champion is being (kind of) replaced by a school (Penn State) that up to this point has had nothing more than a club team. I cannot be the only one that finds this astounding.

I am not blaming Penn State, by the way — their entrance into college hockey will likely be a very good thing, all told, when all is said and done.

The ironic thing is, and I am not the first to say this — for years college hockey fans have wanted their sport to get more attention within the overall collegiate landscape and be more “like” NCAA football and basketball. Well, we got it.

Be careful what you wish for.

What’s your reaction? Let us know in the comments below.

Realignment video roundup

While we try to catch our breath during this relatively quiet couple of days in the great offseason shakeup of 2011, here are a few videos that got posted in the madness of the last week:

Here’s the news conference at which the National Collegiate Hockey Conference was launched:

Here’s a video produced by Denver about the new conference:

And here’s the news conference at which Minnesota State-Moorhead discussed its potential new Division I program:

No hard feelings? Don’t count on it

One gets the sense that there are some hard feelings growing around college hockey, and it might get worse before it gets better.

Sources say that Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota will strike out on their own in a newly formed conference beginning with the 2013-14 season. It’s hard to do, but I’d like to wait for that announcement, believed to be coming Wednesday, and for the principals to give their explanations before passing judgment.

But in the course of a phone interview with WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod on Tuesday, one in which he said he hoped to be able to keep the league at 10 teams after the departure of Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2013, I asked whether there would need to be some fence mending done for that to even be possible.

As it turns out, it’s a moot point, but McLeod’s response might give some more insight into the behind-the-scenes climate of college hockey today.

“I’ve always believed that we were going to end up staying together as 10 and building from there,” McLeod said. “My tack was to keep the erosion of what we have to a minimum. We’ve had a couple of [athletic director] calls where the calls have been to some degree contentious, and I’ve always tried to mitigate that tension that’s going on with the hope that in the long run that erosion of what’s taken so long to build would be kept to a minimum.

“As time goes on and circumstances like this arise and it’s clear that the impetus is coming from a couple of schools in the WCHA — they seem to be driving this train and pushing it down the track — the erosion of what we’ve had, the erosion of the relationships that we’ve had and the erosion in the trust that we’ve had in one another gets to be more apparent. That is one of the concerns in the long run, even if we don’t stay together.

“There’s going to be some awful, awful hard feelings, and that will be reflected in scheduling prerogatives for all of the institutions involved, et cetera. So it’s not going to be an easy road here for the next couple of years, that’s for sure.”

Seems that way more and more each day.

One more league meeting this season

It’s the time of the year when we turn our attention to Florida and the American Hockey Coaches Association convention in Naples. Things start Wednesday afternoon with some committee meetings before the real deal gets going on Thursday.

The conferences add their own annual meetings either before or after the convention, and this year there’s one more member in the party.

The schools of the Big Ten Conference are meeting during the AHCA convention, not before or after to avoid overlapping with WCHA and CCHA meetings.

Expect a lot of discussion about how that 20-game Big Ten schedule will look when the 2013-14 season rolls around so the six teams can start planning for larger non-conference schedules.

Word is that the schedule discussion is wide open in terms of altering the traditional weekend slate to allow for more games on the Big Ten Network. But the schools will be mindful of the school calendar and travel costs when planning things.

My interpretation there is that two-game series on weekends is still the preference, but we’ll have to see how that fits into a TV schedule.

Between all of the coaching changes made so far (and those still to come) and the impending changes to the conference landscape, there should be some interesting discussions in and around Naples in the coming days.

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