Friday, August 26, 2011

WCHA's future coming into focus (updated)

MSU played Bowling Green in 2009. Could the
Falcons be a WCHA rival for the Mavericks in 2013?
Don't call them the "leftovers" anymore.

In two years, the hockey teams left behind following the departure of schools to the Big Ten and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference could be forming their own "super league." On Thursday, the WCHA's remaining teams invited the five remaining CCHA teams to join forces for 2013-14.

Alaska and Lake Superior State already have accepted the offer, and Ferris State appears close to making a decision, (UPDATE) as has Ferris State. Bowling Green has yet to issue a statement yet, and Western Michigan says its exploring all of its options. WMU has made no secret that it is waiting to see what Notre Dame decides to do. Notre Dame was not among the CCHA schools invited to the WCHA because it's clear that the Irish are moving on.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod told the St. Cloud Times that this is not a merger of the WCHA and CCHA. This is an invitation to join the WCHA. No matter what you call it, it's the end of the CCHA, which has been around for 40 years.

As it stands current, the WCHA will have eight nine teams in 2013-14 — Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State and Ferris State — and likely nine once Ferris State jumps aboard. That number could rise as high as 11, depending on what the other three schools decide.

Interestingly, the nine schools are all Division II schools that have Division I hockey programs. Western Michigan and Bowling Green are Division I across the board. An MSU official recently told me that it would be nice to have a DI school in the WCHA, as it would give the league a vote during NCAA DI meetings.

The decision appears to be a good one for the health of college hockey. And, in light of the potential damage done to the sport by the Big Ten and the NCHC it was good of the WCHA school presidents to invite everyone, rather than just pick and choose from the scraps (still, this makes me curious about the future of Alabama-Huntsville).

There are many things to work out, of course. Scheduling should be interesting, with two Alaska teams, three in Upper Michigan and one in the lower part of the state. There will be talks about a conference tournament format, bylaws and finances. Also, fans of the current WCHA teams will have to learn about their new rivals. One bad thing about the death of the CCHA will be the loss of an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The extra at-large bid might be tough for the WCHA to cling to, while the Big Ten and the NCHC will be licking their chops for it.


Hagar said...

I guess this is good news considering everything that has gone down this summer. I'm not really familiar with a lot of these teams that would be coming in as far as their hockey tradition. Any idea if any of these teams have won the CCHA in the last 10 to 20 years?

Chris said...

In the last 10 years, Ferris State won the CCHA in 2002-2003, which was Chris Kunitz's senior season.

In the last 20 years, Lake Superior has a couple conference and national championships.

Dave said...

Penn State be damned for messing up what was a healthy college hockey environment. Their move has really hurt the landscape of college hockey. Their addition to D1 hockey will not further the interest in it except the B1G conference will be lining their pockets with the money that Minnesota and Wisconsin will bring to the conference, while hurting the WCHA "leftovers" by removing that money.

BIGhkyfan said...

So how is the team looking early on?
Players perspective?
Coaches perspective?

Boss Outfitter said...

In summary there are 3 well established Division 1 college hockey conferences unchanged Atlantic, ECAC & Hockey East.

2 new conferences, The Big 10 & NCHC, that are made from major colleges or highly successfull hockey programs.

This leaves the "new" WHCA. As of today the 2013-14 league is 9 Division II schools with Division I Hockey programs.

I think the "new" WCHA should get TWO automatic bids to the NCAA tournament. The WCHA's & the CCHA'S. That would balance the scales of division I college hockey and help support the new WCHA which will probably become the financialy weakest and most at risk league in division I hockey.

Huff0341 said...

As an avid College hockey fan, I can't say the shake up is surprising. The B1G Ten day was going to come with the growth of the sport in general. As a Hockey East Fan, I think there is some good in the way the WCHA is still hanging in there. They are made up of schools that truly care about hockey, and although might not have as big a market now, it'll never die because the schools are so loyal to the sport. The B1G Ten can have there conference but Hockey will always play second fiddle at best in there conference. I hope the WCHA continues it's proud winning tradition along with Hockey East. Hockey East stays out of the realignment.