In an effort to attract one or more new teams to its league, College Hockey America has passed a five-piece incentive package.
The CHA will dip below six teams in 2006-07, when Air Force leaves to join Atlantic Hockey. Six is the minimum number of teams mandated by the NCAA in order to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Under the plan, a new program would receive:
• A waiver of the league’s initiation fee ($100,000)
• A waiver of league dues for each of the first three years
• $50,000 cash each of the first three years
• A share of the CHA’s league revenues
• Scheduling considerations
“We felt it was in the best interests for the continued growth and development of college hockey that we take a proactive approach toward expansion,” CHA commissioner Bob Peters said. “As we prepare to host the Frozen Four (St. Louis in 2007) and to build on our position in collegiate hockey, our athletic directors felt strongly that an incentive package would encourage growth.”
The share of league revenues, and the $50,000/year cash consideration, will come from things like the honorarium for co-hosting the 2007 Frozen Four in St. Louis.
Scheduling consideration would include an offer to play an unbalanced scheduled for the first few years to ease potential travel concerns, and to also allow for non-conference games that may already be on the schedule. This may require the return to some four-point games that the league had in its first couple of years.
New members would have to stay in the league for a still-to-be-determined minimum number of years (to be approximately six or seven), or else have to refund all of the incentive money received.
According to sources, the CHA is specifically targeting Canisius, Mercyhurst and Merrimack as three potential new schools. None of the schools have said they were interested. Canisius and Mercyhurst play in Atlantic Hockey, which only can award 11 scholarships as opposed to the 18 in the CHA.
“We feel strongly that with the automatic bid our champion receives to the NCAA tournament, the commitment of our institutions to the long-term success of hockey, and the proximity of our universities, that this combination of incentives will be attractive,” Peters said. “We will move quickly on adding an additional program to our conference.”
Merrimack is unlikely to leave because the incentive package, among other things, doesn’t match the revenue it already gets as a by-product of the popularity of Hockey East.
There have been fears that if the CHA cannot gain another program, and loses its automatic bid, that one or more of the league’s team could drop their hockey program.