[Today, the nine MAAC Hockey League schools declared their independence. Our MAAC — oops, Atlantic Hockey — correspondent, Jim Connelly spoke with Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald and new league commissioner Bob DeGregorio. — ed.]
(see also: Analysis by Jim Connelly)
JC: Talk about coming up with the name of the conference.
JM: On bylaws, we might call it Atlantic Hockey Conference, but on logos and such it will be “Atlantic Hockey.” We wanted to make it words, not letters [i.e. similar to ‘Hockey East’ rather than ‘CCHA’].
JC: Where will Bob DeGregorio work?
JM: It’s yet to be determined but it’s a site that he will select. He might be working out of home for a little bit.
JC: What allows you to keep your autobid?
JM: We’ve done more work on that than anything. But the NCAA rule is that if the group of institutions stays the same, you retain your NCAA governance and access to tournaments. The bylaws state that if the membership says the same then the right to the automatic bid stays the same.
JC: Will there be administrative support for the commissioner?
JM: We’re going to walk before we run. We’re going to make sure we know who we are and what our finances are. In the first year, we’re going to try to streamline it as best we can. We want to end the year in the black and see where we can spend. We’ll try to expand the office but not in the first year.
JC: Will the member schools have to help administratively?
JM: That all remains to be seen. We all want to chip in and do our part, but it will take a month of evaluation before we can see what we need to do.
JC: What will happen to the league tournament?
JM: The tournament will be at Army and we’ll leave it up to the coaches to decide the format. All nine schools may go to the tournament. We’ll do the whole tournament there, but the format is yet to be decided. That’s one of the first orders of business.
JC: Was it an easy decision to choose Bob DeGregorio as commissioner?
JM: It was a slam dunk. It was easy. Bob was the commissioner of Hockey East and I’ve known Bob since Quinnipiac’s days in the Northeast-10. It was his conference experience. He’s a former chair of the Men’s Ice Hockey Committee.
JC: What will happen to the referees from the MAAC?
JM: Officials still remains to be discussed. That will be one of Bob’s first charges.
JC: What is it like to return as a college hockey commissioner?
BD: College hockey is kind of special to me with what I experienced with my years at Merrimack, serving as the Hockey East commissioner, and serving on the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee. It’s a great family of people and I hope with the coaches and ADs of our league we’ll be able to grow and make some noise in the Division I ranks.
JC: Where do you think you can take the league?
BD: Right now, there are nine members with two institutions that dropped hockey. There’s noise out there that there are as many as four schools interested in moving their league to a D-I league. My recommendation is to get through the first year of operation and then we’ll decide who we want to come into our league to make it stronger and better.
JC: What will be done to help programs like AIC and Bentley which have been rumored to struggle financially in the MAAC?
BD: I think first of all we have to establish the league and make that strong, by doing that hopefully we can make all nine of our members strong. When you talk AIC and Bentley, those are two schools that jumped into hockey and need to build hockey on their campus. But they have 32 or so other programs that they need to balance. Their ADs, though, are committed to the new leagues and supporting the growth and development of Division I ice hockey.
JC: What are the first items of business you’ll look to tackle?
BD: I’m having a meeting with the [league’s] executive committee on Monday. We need to get office space and become incorporated. There are a lot of things on the business end to get everything in place. Then we’ll look at the tournament and build on last year’s success at West Point. We want to make that our showcase. Our goal is to get our league the reputation to make them compatible and competitive with the other Division I leagues.
JC: In the past, a lot of coaches have complained about officiating. Will this be something you’ll look at?
BD: There’s been some things I’ve been doing behind the scenes, and that’s one of the issues I’m aware of. I’ve been told by coaches that officiating has been an issue and we’ll be doing what we can to make that better. But I can tell you from my affiliation with Hockey East that no one is ever happy with officiating. It’s a tough job, but we have to do our job to make it the best it can be.
JC: Where will the league be headquartered?
BD: In the beginning, at least, I’ll be working at either my house [in Winthrop, Mass.] or out of Bentley College until we can settle this. But I hope to know more after our meeting next Monday. We need to have a place that we can receive phone calls and faxes and all of the intricacies that go along with corporate offices.