Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh said the meeting with ECAC officials is scheduled for Oct. 2.
Niagara, currently a member of College Hockey America, has expressed interest in joining the ECAC since the inception of its ice hockey program in 1997. Niagara turned down an invitation to join the MAAC Hockey League when it was formed in 1998.
Canisius, a member of the MAAC, recently promoted Cavanagh to a full-time coaching status, and new athletic director Tim Dillon has placed an emphasis on upgrading Canisius’ hockey program.
“I think the MAAC realizes our situation, but are probably a little disappointed that we’d make that decision [to leave the league],” said Cavanaugh. “But the MAAC league has some limits to it. For one they only allow 11 [scholarships].
“Since [Dillon’s] been here, he’s taken a look at every single program. He’s looked at the hockey program and what we can do to help grow the program. In doing so, we found that Niagara is a natural travel partner.
“We know that Niagara wants to be a part of one of the major four conferences, and geographically speaking, the ECAC makes the most sense.”
The question, of course, is whether the ECAC athletic directors will agree.
“We’re looking at this situation from all of our resources,” Cavanaugh said. “We understand we’ll need more scholarship money, a new facility, additional staffing. Though we’re looking at this as an immediate action, it’s something we need to look at as a five-year plan as a university in terms of growing the program.”
One thing that may speak to the ECAC: Money.
“We’re also the home of Empire Sports network,” said Cavanaugh “This would provide an opportunity for ECAC schools to be covered by Empire, which stretches right up into the Toronto area. That’s a big recruiting area for a lot of schools, so really this is a win-win situation.
“Buffalo is a hockey town. We’re the only division I school here in Buffalo. This is a chance for other ECAC schools to show off their school and show their team to western New York and even Canada, just 45 miles away.”
If the two schools, co-hosts of the 2003 Frozen Four in Buffalo, do submit applications to join the ECAC, they would be vying to become the 13th and 14th teams in the league.
“Our policy is to listen to all teams interested in joining the ECAC,” said ECAC Assistant Commissioner Steve Hagwell. “The decision will lie with the athletic directors (of the ECAC) if they do decide to submit applications.”