Five CCHA schools offered spots in WCHA; Alaska, Lake Superior State quick to accept

Five CCHA schools have been extended invitations to join the WCHA for the 2013-2014 season, and two have jumped at the opportunity.

Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan were offered spots Thursday on behalf of the presidents of the six WCHA teams that will comprise the league following the 2012-2013 season.

Also Thursday, Alaska and Lake Superior State announced they were accepting the invitations.

They will join Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Northern Michigan in the WCHA starting in the 2013-14 season, when the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference form.

“This invitation represents a tremendous opportunity for the remaining members of both leagues,” said CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch in a statement. “Their collective commitment to Division I hockey was evident in Chicago and the synergy created by last Tuesday’s meeting will help all involved chart a course that is right for their respective program and provide further stability to college hockey’s evolving landscape.”

“We are committed to creating stability for the conference and believe by inviting these institutions we will create one of the strongest conferences in the nation,” added Minnesota State president Dr. Richard Davenport. “This is one of the main reasons presidents voted today to invite CCHA member institutions to join our conference. Also, as presidents, we are committed to providing the best college hockey opportunities in the country for our student-athletes.”

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said that he couldn’t be more excited and pleased to extend these invitations to CCHA member schools.

“This is truly a significant and quite remarkable twist in what has been a period of great consternation and transition in the college hockey world,” said McLeod. “During what were very informative and productive meetings in Chicago, and as we worked our way through the agenda, it became clear that all of these great institutions share a commonality in that every one of them is 100 percent committed to the sport of collegiate ice hockey and that they also share a great deal philosophically both athletically and academically. From there, the idea of coming together was a natural progression.”

As a condition of this potential membership process moving forward, the WCHA member presidents set a 30-day response timeline for acceptance. The WCHA and CCHA have also agreed to continue to hold regular talks to address such topics as bylaws, scheduling, tournament scenarios, finances and additional membership.

Alaska’s confirmation means both Division I hockey-playing schools from that state will be in the same conference.

“There is a collective sense of relief,” Alaska athletic director Forrest Karr said in a statement. “We can now turn our attention to making sure all CCHA student-athletes have a quality experience over the next two years and to helping build on the WCHA’s solid foundation.”

Lake Superior State will join fellow Upper Peninsula schools Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan in the WCHA.

“This will be a great step for our program — to find a league with teams that are similar to ours,” athletic director Kris Dunbar said in a statement. “We will be in a conference with similar schools and good hockey traditions. This should be appealing to fans, alumni and recruits. Our fans will continue to see good college hockey played in Taffy Abel Arena for years to come.”

Ferris State and Western Michigan also issued statements Thursday.

Ferris State’s read, in part: “As an institution, Ferris remains firmly committed to academic and athletic success for all of its student-athletes. As a proud and long-time member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, the university looks forward to responding to the WCHA’s invitation in the very near future.”

Western Michigan has been linked with a potential move to the NCHC, and a statement attributed to athletic director Kathy Beauregard was noncommittal.

“The description of the recent Chicago meeting as creating synergy is absolutely true as evidenced by the WCHA’s membership invitation,” Beauregard said. “We at Western Michigan are very appreciative of this invitation and are equally appreciative of the stability this combined league will provide for the changing landscape of college hockey.”