Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wayne State to Drop Men’s Ice Hockey Program

Originally written 09/27/2007

Citing budgetary constraints, Wayne State University in Detroit has opted to eliminate its NCAA Division I men's ice hockey program after the 2007-08 season, the Warriors' ninth campaign. The women's hockey program, though, will be retained.

Players wishing to stay at WSU will supposedly have their scholarships honored, but will no longer have a varsity team to skate for. They can also transfer at the end of the season to another school without having to sit out the normal one-year waiting period mandated by the NCAA.

That makes at least a half-dozen men's D-I puck programs eliminated in the last 13 years - Kent, Illinois-Chicago, Fairfield, Iona, Findlay, WSU - and likely also spells the demise of the College Hockey America conference, which also lost Air Force a few years ago and is down to just four teams. That's not enough schools for the group to qualify its playoff champion for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which WSU made for the first - and only - time in 2003.

Wayne State was recently denied membership in the venerable Central Collegiate Hockey Association, home of five major in-state schools, including perennial national powerhouses like Michigan State (defending national champ - Go Spartans) and Michigan, plus other neighbors like Ferris State, Northern Michigan and Western Michigan - and 4,000 miles away (yes), Alaska Fairbanks. How central.

WSU was probably also done in by its lack of an on-campus arena, with the Warriors calling five different rinks home in their eight-year existence. And they call Detroit "Hockeytown" - well, maybe for the NHL's Red Wings, but not the NCAA Warriors.

On a personal note, I was there when Wayne State made its debut back in 1999 and when it recorded its first-ever home win against Findlay at the old Michigan Coliseum Fairgrounds. Seven months from now, when the new D-I national champion is crowned in Denver in April, WSU will join also-defunct Findlay on the sidelines, and all that will be left of the Warriors are memories.

What a rotten day for college hockey.

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