NCHC planning ‘two pretty big announcements’ in coming week

The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference expects to make “two pretty big announcements by Wednesday of next week,” commissioner Jim Scherr said on Tuesday.

Details were few, but Scherr will be in Minneapolis next Tuesday after spending the weekend in Naples, Fla., where he will talk with league officials and coaches attending the American Hockey Coaches Association’s annual meetings. An announcement on Tuesday likely concerns the new league’s postseason venue or the hire of the conference’s first director of hockey operations.

More than 160 people applied for the hockey operations job, making for a lengthy and detailed interview process for the former United States Olympic Committee chief executive officer, who is working to establish a league office.

The Big Ten announced last week that its postseason tournaments will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., in 2014 and 2016, and at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in 2015 and 2017. The Big Ten’s inaugural tournament is slated for March 20-22, 2014.

Both the Big Ten and NCHC begin play with the 2013-14 season. The formation of the six-team Big Ten conference prompted six members from the WCHA and CCHA — Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota — to form a new league based in Colorado Springs in July 2011. St. Cloud State and Western Michigan joined the NCHC in the fall after Notre Dame chose Hockey East.

The remaining nine teams from the WCHA and CCHA will combine into a new-look WCHA in 2013-14. The CCHA will cease operations.

It has been reported that the NCHC or the WCHA could alternate with the Big Ten’s tournament site. Another possibility is Minneapolis’ Target Center, which hosts the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and was the site of the WCHA Final Five in 1999 and 2000.

The process of hiring other league staff members will begin after the hockey operations director is announced, Scherr said. The hockey operations hire has been deemed to be critical by some because Scherr’s extensive sports executive experience does not include a direct involvement with hockey.