Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NCHC Now a Done Deal

Say hello to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

It was formally announced on Wednesday in the state of Colorado that five WCHA schools and one CCHA club will make up the newest college ice hockey league in the NCAA Men's Division I ranks. Starting conference play as a unit in 2013-14 will be Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota. That same season will also see the nascent Big Ten Conference (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin) step onto the ice as a group for the first time.

More changes at college hockey's highest level are still in the offing, as Notre Dame and perhaps Western Michigan will be extended invitations to join the NCHC. Rumors have it that Northern Michigan and Alaska Fairbanks may soon jump to what's left of the WCHA and join Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.

If the defection of NMU and UAF does comes to pass, then the CCHA will be left with only Bowling Green, Ferris State and Lake Superior State. The Michigan-based association could then try to survive by adding current independent Alabama-Huntsville, which was rejected by the CCHA last year. It could then perhaps add two or more teams from Atlantic Hockey - such as Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Robert Morris - that would like to offer 18 hockey scholarships instead of the dozen they annually award now.

What happens with Hockey East and the ECAC could be two whole other stories. Hopefully this is the end of the college hockey conference upheaval for the time being, but no one can say it's been a boring summer so far.

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