Friday, February 8, 2013

WCHA scraps 'Alaska Plan,' will have 8-team playoff

It appears that the revamped Western Collegiate Hockey Association is getting close to finalizing its championship format and playoff venues for its first four years.

And, oh by the way, the controversial “Alaska Plan” is out. But so is a Final Five.

Athletic directors from the 10-team WCHA voted to approve an eight-team tournament with the bottom two teams in the regular-season standings missing out on postseason play. The top four teams would host the next four in best-of-three first-round series with the winners advancing to a single-elimination championship weekend. The championship site likely will rotate between Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. (2014, 2016), and the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul (2015, 2017).
The playoff format will not have the two Alaska schools, Anchorage and Fairbanks, automatically playing each other in the first round, as the league announced they would last summer. That plan made some sense from a cost-saving standpoint but was almost universally panned on its competition merits.

Comment: This appears to be a much better plan than what the league came up with last summer. With everything happening with the Big Ten and the NCHC, the WCHA couldn't play the small-potatoes game. It had to be as legit as it's been for much of its history when it comes to playoffs — which ultimately decides the league's NCAA bid. The Alaska Plan hurt that integrity and that was worth more than the money saved in travel costs. As for leaving the ninth and 10th teams out of the playoffs, I have no problem with that. Incentive to get better. The four-, not five-team format in the championship. No biggie there right now. The Final Five brand will be tough to part with, but this might give the league a chance to rebrand itself under its new look going forward.

For more, including some comments from Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman read my story in The Free Press story here.

1 comment:

MSU Grad 97 said...

Thank goodness. Common sense prevails! Can't wait for the real WCHA to start next year with teams that love hockey more than the almighty dollar!