Rumors that Atlantic Hockey will admit Robert Morris and Niagara for the 2010-11 season seem to be on the verge of becoming official, according to Chris Lerch’s story on USCHO.com.
That move, combined with the WCHA’s recent vote to lift its moratorium on expansion, are good news for the programs that now comprise College Hockey America. Well, at least for three of them.
With Robert Morris and Niagara now with a confirmed home, and the anticipation that Bemidji State is a likely candidate for WCHA membership, the only program that is in a serious state of flux, then, is Alabama-Huntstville.
UAH has a strong tradition of college hockey. The Chargers began as a Division II club in 1985 under head coach Doug Ross, who coached Alabama-Huntsville for 22 years before retiring in 2007. At the Division II level, the Chargers captured two national championships (1996, 1998) and finished runner-up in the national tournament twice (1994, 1997).
The school’s challenge is its georgraphic location. Huntsville, Ala., lines up vertically with the schools in the CCHA, being south of both Bowling Green, Oh., and South Bend, Ind. But still, UAH is about 650 miles away from the league’s metro center of Detroit and nearly 1,000 miles from the league’s most northern school, Lake Superior State, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Still, if there is any conference that will be a “good” geographic fit for the Chargers, it seems to be the CCHA. But, it’s not likely that the CCHA is ready to drastically change its composition.
There has been plenty of talk of having Nebraska-Omaha leave the CCHA for the WCHA, possibly a better geographic fit for that school. That move would clear the way for UAH.
But the reality is that for almost any school in the CCHA or WCHA, a trip to Huntsville is a plane trip, just like trips to the two Alaska schools (and yes, I understand that Huntsville is a heck of a lot closer than Alaska – my name isn’t Sarah Palin). Thus, any league could conceivably be as good a fit as any for the Chargers.
True, Hockey East and the ECAC are leagues with extremely small geographic footprints. Neither would likely want UAH as a member. But for the WCHA or CCHA, either one could be a fit.
At this point, Atlantic Hockey has done its part to save two college hockey teams. The WCHA has begun to take steps to be a savior as well. Now it’s time for the CCHA and WCHA to begin working together for the greater good to determine what the best solution is to ensure that hockey continues to be played at Alabama-Huntsville for years to come.