|The Free Press|
It's almost fitting that this vote occurred going into a weekend in which MSU goes to Anchorage and Bemidji goes to Tech.
You can read releases from the WCHA here and Alabama-Huntsville here.
Stories in The Huntsville Times, USCHO (and here) and College Hockey News. Good reporting from The Mining Journal (Marquette, Mich.) sports editor Matt Wellens; follow him on Twitter.
From the MSU side, here is some more reaction ...
"There have been a variety of motivations for the actions of others over the last 24 monhts, but this vote today protects the broader interests of college hockey by helping to retain a program and is a nod to advocating on behalf of the student-athletes who play this great game." — Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman (via text message).
It sounds like there are some scheduling issues to work out for next year since most of the WCHA teams have their slate of games set. Buisman made it sound as if having Huntsville as anything but a full member would be "last resort."
Lots of kudos out there on Twitter to the WCHA and its leadership for making this happen and not allowing the only independent D1 college team to wither on the vine. As I've written about in the past, the WCHA has its flaws but by and large had done right for for the sport, whether it was admitting Minnesota State, helping form and lead College Hockey America, starting a D1 women's conference in the west or by bringing in Bemidji State after the CHA folded. It was natural to wonder if that would continue as it picked up the pieces from the big breakup caused by the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
A year and a half ago, Huntsville's program was dead. It was saved suddenly in the middle of last season by a strong community and alumni effort in that community. But it needed a conference in order to survive, and now it has one.
In a joint statement between Minnesota State president Richard Davenport and WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, they said: "The WCHA is delighted to have reached in principle an agreement to officially welcome University of Alabama in Huntsville into the Association family as a full-time men's member. This is a significant day for the Chargers, the community of Huntsville, the conference itself, and college hockey in general. Growing the game and assisting developing programs however possible has always been a charge of the WCHA and this is another positive evolution in our history."
Huntsville made a strong presentation that included the offer of travel subsidies to league members. In return, the WCHA will have a 10-team league that should give each team a fairly natural rival (Minnesota State and Bemidji State, for example).
Now if they can just get that silly Alaska playoff plan changed before next season starts.