ECAC Winds of Change Shift Direction

A late proposal has thrown a curve into the ECAC’s plans to change its postseason tournament format.

According to sources, the ECAC, in its plan to include all 12 member teams in the postseason, has moved away from the initial idea of six quarterfinals, and instead will add an extra week of playoffs that will result in a more customary Final Four scenario.

According to the proposal, seeds No. 5-12 will play a best-of-three first-round series, while the top four seeds receive byes. The following weekend, after the teams are re-seeded, teams 1-8 will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series, with those four winners heading to the Championships in Lake Placid.

Pending approval, this will all take effect for the 2002-2003 campaign.

Attempts to reach ECAC assistant commissioner Steve Hagwell were unsuccessful. Hagwell is currently attending the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee meetings.

The format would restore the more desirable final four scenario, and maximize revenue by creating eight home playoff series. (Currently, there are five home playoff series.) Furthermore, eliminating the sparsely-attended Thursday play-in game that the final five required would remove the uncertainty for fans attending the final weekend.

This scenario is made possible by the addition of an extra week to the season, starting in 2002-03. The extra week was created when the NCAA tournament was pushed back one week so it wouldn’t conflict with the NCAA basketball tournament. Since the start of the ECAC season usually arrives later than the other conferences, the new start date would be unchanged, creating an extra week.

Hagwell, as recently as Friday, was expecting to use this extra week to alleviate the Harvard Beanpot dilemma. In recent years, Harvard has been forced to play two league games on the weekend preceding the Monday Beanpot games, while their opponents normally play just one, on Friday. With the extra week of leeway, the ECAC was going to create a schedule that alleviated this problem. However, that solution is now in question.

The ECAC men’s meetings were wrapped up late Thursday, but questions still linger?

  • Will this new proposal be approved, or has it been already?
  • Will the proposed expansion in games from 32-34, already approved by the ADs, be passed by the ECAC’s Policy Committee, especially considering the possible added week of playoff games?
  • What impact will the increase in the games allowance have on the Ivy Leagues? They went along with approving the games limit, but there’s still an Ivy limit of 29. Will they make changes to that, or will it even be discussed?
  • What will Hagwell’s future role be? The ADs were mulling a proposal to give Hagwell more authoritative power on hockey issues, while ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco is tied up with other conference matters.