Saturday, July 2, 2011

Is it the end of the WCHA as we know it?

Minnesota and Wisconsin will be leaving the Western Collegiate Hockey Association after the 2012-13 season to join the new Big Ten hockey conference, along with Penn State and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Will North Dakota and others also be jumping ship?

According to an article by the Grand Forks Herald's Brad Schlossman, North Dakota appears to be well  beyond just initial discussions about forming a new hockey conference along with, as the article says, "remaining powers in the WCHA and CCHA" ... "schools that have similar philosophies about their hockey programs and are willing to invest in them and create new media opportunities."

Schlossman reports that it's believed that eight teams could be in the mix and mentions WCHA members Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College and CCHA members Notre Dame, Miami and Western Michigan. Presumably, Denver would be one of the teams, too (although DU is not mentioned in the article), and there are rumors of a Hockey East team.

Who else might be in the mix?

If this happens, the WCHA would be left with Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Alaska Anchorage and Michigan Tech, while the CCHA would have just five teams — Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State, Alaska, Bowling Green — one less than the six required for NCAA postseason eligibility. Independent Alabama-Huntsville, however, is still looking for a conference home.

Earlier this year, rumors of a so-called "super six" conference were dismissed, now Schlossman reports that something could play out by the end of the summer.

North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison said in the piece that he has concerned with the WCHA's current administration and also called the situation "an emotional decision," and "a business decision." So is this really on track or is it just a bluff?

The WCHA is also looking into the possibility of adding new teams. Both Notre Dame and Miami have been mentioned, but WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in the article (as he has in the past) that he wants to be careful and is not interested in ruining the CCHA. Notre Dame is rumored to be being courted by Hockey East, too.

I'll have some more thoughts on this later this weekend and, hopefully, some local reaction after the holiday.

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