Monday, the ECAC Policy Committee passed two proposals to take effect in the 2002-03 season, increasing the number of allowable games in the regular season, and expanding the conference tournament to include all 12 teams.
This vote finalized a series of events that began back in April.
Under the new guidelines, the regular-season game limit will be expanded from 32 to 34 for all men’s ECAC Division I institutions in ice hockey. The 12 teams in the ECAC will then have the option of playing up to 34 regular-season games within the guidelines set forth by the NCAA.
This immediately affects only six teams — Clarkson, Colgate, Rensselaer, Union, St. Lawrence and Vermont — because the other six institutions in the ECAC are also members of the Ivy League. Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, under Ivy guidelines, are only permitted to play 29 regular-season games, meaning that Ivy League directors would have to vote to accept the ECAC’s new limit to make the full 34 games available to Ivy schools.
The other proposal passed involves a change in the playoff format. Starting with the 2002-2003 season, the ECAC playoffs will be expanded to three weekends, with the first round taking place the first weekend, followed by the quarterfinals, and then the championship bracket the following weekend in Lake Placid.
Under the new format, all 12 teams will qualify for the playoffs and the top four finishers will earn a bye past the first round. Teams five through eight will host a first-round series against the bottom four teams.
The winners of those series will then be reseeded to travel to the bye teams in the quarterfinals, resulting in a four-team bracket at Lake Placid.
“It does a lot of things,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “It gives teams that might not have a home-ice opportunity [under the old system] to get a series in their building. It gives your top four seeds a nice rest. It draws attention to our league and then it cleans up Lake Placid and the logistical nightmare that goes along with it.”
“I am very pleased at the outcome of both proposals,” said ECAC Associate Commissioner for Ice Hockey Steve Hagwell. “The discussion was healthy on both sides of the argument and at the end, I am glad that the Policy Committee made this decision. These proposals are good for the league and they will help us grow.
“The new format is unique and gives everyone a chance, and puts extra importance on the regular season. Adding more games will help us progress in helping us grow.”
The proposals were first brought to the table by the coaches of the ECAC in their annual meetings in Naples, Fla., and further discussed at the annual Athletic Directors’ meetings. The issue was then put to the Policy Committee and tabled until Monday.