Penn State starting to take shape; how long until Big Ten does?

We knew it wouldn’t take long for the Penn State program to take shape, and we’re starting to see a little bit of that emerge, on multiple levels.

This week, we learned the names of two Nittany Lions recruits thanks to recruiting guru Chris Heisenberg: forward Jake Friedman of the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s South Shore Kings and goaltender Tim Carr of the EJHL’s New Hampshire Junior Monarchs.

We also heard definitive word, through the Wisconsin State Journal’s Andy Baggot, that Penn State has received permission to interview Wisconsin women’s coach Mark Johnson for its men’s head coach opening.

My thoughts: We will hear more names connected to Penn State, so let’s not jump to conclusions. That being said, Johnson would be a great person for the job, and I figured his name would be connected to the opening in some fashion. I think it will take a lot to get Johnson out of Madison (and I’m not talking about money), but the lure of being able to do for Penn State what his father, Bob, did for Wisconsin could be appealing.

Meanwhile, I had a chance to meet Joe Battista, Penn State’s associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey operations, a few weeks ago when he was checking out a Minnesota-Wisconsin game in Madison as part of his tour of facilities. He was carrying with him designs for the Pegula Ice Arena — named for the program’s lead donor — and it looks like it will be an impressive building along the lines of many newer college hockey arenas. A single tier for student seating behind the goal the opponents defend for two periods could be imposing if it turns out like the pictures depict.

So what does this all mean for the future of college hockey? I get the sense that we’re going to start to get those answers soon. People who will be impacted by the development of a Big Ten hockey league are starting to get a little antsy for definitive words on when that entity will come about.

Here are my impressions from talking to people involved in the process: The Big Ten will sponsor hockey (like it or not), and if I was forced to predict the season that it starts, I would say 2013-14. Not everyone is convinced of that, or whether it would be good for Penn State to be playing Big Ten hockey in its second season as a program, but I think that’s where things are trending.

The Pegula Ice Arena should be ready for play in September 2013, a year earlier than projected last September, when Penn State confirmed its plans to form varsity programs. At that time, the school said it would be joining a conference in the 2014-15 season, but that timeline seems to have accelerated along with the facility’s.

What does it mean for the rest of college hockey? That, my friends, is the ultimate “stay tuned” question.