Big Ten Hockey Official: Now About Logistics

Submitted by Brian on March 21st, 2011 at 3:43 PM

 psu_jerseyanthonytscherne

As expected, the Big Ten was all like "yoink," announcing it will begin play in 2013 when Penn State moves into its new arena. I laid out the reasons I think this is a good move for college hockey as a whole (as long as measures to prevent smaller CCHA teams from folding are taken) in an earlier post, but there are still a ton of variables to work out.

Items follow.

Configuration

Western college hockey schools will probably look like this in 2013:

WCHA

  • North Dakota
  • St. Cloud
  • MSU-Mankato
  • Minnesota-Duluth
  • Bemidji State
  • Colorado College
  • Denver
  • Alaska-Anchorage
  • Michigan Tech
  • Nebraska-Omaha

With three of college hockey's premiere schools and another three or four regular tourney contenders the WCHA will be fine. The two Big Ten schools finished fifth and seventh this year and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. As far as the product on the ice goes, they'll be fine.

CCHA

  • Miami
  • Notre Dame
  • Western Michigan
  • Ferris State
  • Lake Superior State
  • Northern Michigan
  • BGSU
  • Alaska-Fairbanks

As long as ND and Miami stick around it's a viable conference with at least two bids every year and possibly a third when WMU/Ferris/Northern are having a good year. Finances might be tighter but I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make—it's not like anyone in the CCHA was getting more than peanuts from FSD.

Bowling Green, FWIW, seems to be past the bit where they threaten their lone national championship program:

"Our member schools have a commitment to hockey, so we'll figure this out."
Christopher was quick to reiterate that the news does not shake Bowling Green's commitment to its hockey program.

"When we went through the process a couple of years ago, we put our stake in the ground that we were going to sponsor a strong hockey program," he said. "I'm not concerned about this news affecting the future of hockey at Bowling Green.

With eight teams everyone in the league can play four against each other and still maintain 28-game conference schedules, or they can cut it back a bit.

Big Ten

  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Ohio State
  • Penn State

The Big Ten has announced teams will play four games against the other five opponents, leaving 14-16 nonconference games available depending on whether or not the Big Ten takes advantage of exemptions for travelling to Alaska.

Despite small school fans wailing about how they're doomed, Michigan is the only(!) Big Ten school to make the tournament the last two years. The year before that Ohio State was the only addition, squeezing into the last at large slot and getting clunked by BU. You have to go back to 2008 to find more than two Big Ten teams in the tourney*.

*[Michigan was a 1 and made the Frozen Four; Minnesota, MSU, and Wisconsin were all threes. Minnesota went out right away, and the other two made it to the second round.]

Conference tourney: how does it do?

WCHA teams currently play in St. Paul. CCHA teams currently play in Detroit. Big Ten teams would probably do neither. They could alternate between the X, the Joe, and… uh… Pittsburgh I guess. Or they could put it in Chicago, a location that's as close to central as you can get and features throngs of Big Ten grads.

Or… you know… the thing is… right now the CCHA tourney is a three week affair. With six teams you could play three best two-of-three series on home ice. That provides 10-15 probably-sold-out games. A four-team tourney after a first round provides 8-10 games, four of which are going to be at a neutral-ish site hosting doubleheaders. It seems like abandoning the neutral ice would provide more money and a better championship structure.

College hockey is addicted to hypothetically neutral ice, but will it be enough to overcome doubling your playoff revenue?

TV: Yes, please

Hockey loves HD and I'm betting most Michigan hockey fans used to cameras from the 70s that make everything look underwater almost gasped the first time they saw a BTN hockey production. I remember it myself—a road game against OSU with a picture so sharp it could skate. The main asset from the fan's perspective is the prospect of ten road games on BTN.

Getting to ten road games is kind of a hike, though. Basketball teams rarely play on Friday, so you can televise a Friday game of the week, but what happens on Saturday at 8:00? What do you do when two teams are playing simultaneously? There are three options:

  1. Many games are not televised on BTN.
  2. BTN deploys its bonus feeds.
  3. Games move for TV.

#2 seems ideal but probably costs more money than it brings in. #1 could make the TV situation worse than it is right now.

#3 would be weird but I think it's manageable. They can probably massage the schedule such that there are rarely three conference series on the same weekend. Unfortunately, getting two games on Friday would require one starting at 7:30 Eastern, and the other at 9 Central. That's going to hurt attendance.

We might start seeing a fair number of series that go Saturday-Sunday—a quick look at the basketball schedule doesn't show anything pressing most Sundays and even most Saturdays could hypothetically squeeze two hockey games in. If you have at least two teams playing nonconference series every week you could hypothetically broadcast every conference game if the only overlap is on Saturday.

Further realignment?

The conferences above seem viable to me, but they might not be done shuffling. I'm not sure how much credence to put in rumors that the WCHA will seek to poach Miami and ND since those teams are very far away from the WCHA core (Miami's shortest road trip would be 681 miles to Michigan Tech, longer than Miami's longest current conference trip) and travel costs would seem to eat up more money than either team would get from increased attendance at their nice, new, very small arenas.

I don't think the CCHA is going to take another look at Huntsville since the same ruthless cost-benefit equation that saw UAH denied when UNO left still applies, but when Niagara left the CHA they wanted to get into the CCHA and only grudgingly accepted entrance into Atlantic Hockey. AH has a cap on the number of scholarships you can award significantly below the NCAA's max of 18, and as a result a Niagara program good enough to twice get NCAA at-large consideration has fallen off the national radar. Niagara would bolt for the CCHA in a hot second if the conference would take them. If the CCHA wanted another team, Robert Morris would be the most likely candidate. They're located in Pittsburgh.

The most likely outcome seems to be the status quo above, but I'd watch those AH schools.

Further expansion?

If we don't get that AH move, college hockey finally has some spots for new teams to come in. I'm not sure any Big Ten teams would add hockey without a crazy rich guy donation similar to Penn State's but there's been a steady stream of smaller schools that start up, find that there's nowhere to go, and then evaporate. Now you might see a Wayne State stick in the CCHA.

Let's play for stuff

fa-cup

The FA Cup

One of the most exciting aspects for Michigan hockey is the prospect of getting 14-16 nonconference games, allowing Michigan to play BC, BU, North Dakota, and other teams they have a history with on the regular. On the other hand, I've played too much Football Manager to not look on that massive schedule gap as an opportunity to add silverware to college hockey. This seems like a fantastic opportunity to add a cup competition for Michigan-ish schools.

Unfortunately, NCAA scheduling regulations mean that everyone always tries to play the maximum number of games and that makes structuring a competition between seven teams awkward, as does the geography, as does the presumably very large CCHA conference schedule. We can either add BGSU or Notre Dame, or both and boot Tech since Tech has the GLI and is always terrible.

Assuming the latter:

1. Create groups of four by splitting the Big Ten teams and the UP teams and dividing the other four up randomly. Example group: Michigan, Lake Superior, Ferris State, BGSU.

2. Michigan and MSU play home and home series against the non-UP teams early in the season and alternate home and away with whichever UP team is in their bracket yearly.

3. The CCHA teams set up their scheduling such that teams in the same group play an early conference series. In the example above, LSSU-FSU, LSSU-BG, and FSU-BG would all take place before Christmas.

4. At the end of this process you have four teams having played each other round-robin twice. Pick the top two teams World Cup-style. These teams move on to the Joe to play a traditional college hockey tournament that probably replaces the GLI. (Issue: what about teams not selected? They wouldn't want to leave two games on the table but the only teams that would have an opening are the other teams in the tourney, most of which are other teams in their conference. Maybe you could get the NCAA to exempt the finals? This would lead to more of these tourneys, which would be cool.)

End result:

  • Assuming no more GLI, Michigan and MSU spend six nonconference games playing old conference foes.
  • Noncon-restricted CCHA teams spend two games each against MSU and UM, which helps mitigate losing those old rivalries.
  • The GLI gets way more interesting.
  • You're creating a banner that means something.

I know Tech started the GLI in the 50s and they think it's really important but they've been so, so terrible for so long that the tournament's way less than it should be.

Comments

kmd

March 21st, 2011 at 3:52 PM ^

"Despite small school fans wailing about how they're doomed, Michigan is the only(!) Big Ten school to make the tournament the last two years. The year before that Ohio State was the only addition, squeezing into the last at large slot and getting clunked by BU. You have to go back to 2008 to find more than two Big Ten teams in the tourney*.

*[Michigan was a 1 and made the Frozen Four; Minnesota, MSU, and Wisconsin were all threes. Minnesota went out right away, and the other two made it to the second round.]"

 

Didn't Wisconsin kind of make it to the championship game last year?

 

[quick edit: I guess it depends on whether you read the sentence as "both of the last two years" or "either of the last two years"]

bluebyyou

March 21st, 2011 at 4:02 PM ^

As far as modifying hockey schedules for TV, Sundays are usually NFL days until after the Superbowl.  Big Ten Network (or someone else) might televise games, but it would take a mighty important hockey game to keep me from watching the Pats play the Colts.  Of course, that is why God gave man DVR's.

bcsblue

March 21st, 2011 at 4:09 PM ^

That fake Big Ten logo looks more fake and silly with every single hour that passes. I said it from the start and still stick by it, I love the new B1G logo. Its simple and makes me smile. 

Z

March 21st, 2011 at 4:16 PM ^

Agree if you do away with the baby blue color. Really like how the logo looked when it was painted into the key during the B1G basketball tournament.

ChalmersE

March 21st, 2011 at 4:15 PM ^

Alabama-Huntsville and Air Force.  Seems like the CCHA could just take in A-H.  Then maybe move Mich Tech into the CCHA and let Air Force switch West from from the Atlantic?

Wolverine318

March 21st, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

UAH is not going to the CCHA. The financials that prevented them joining the CCHA in the past still remain, particularly travel and lack of fan interest. The CCHA does not need a second BGSU like program that would just be a financial blackhole for the conference.

kmd

March 22nd, 2011 at 2:24 AM ^

I don't believe finances were a major concern, since UAH was offering significant compensation for travel costs. At best, you could maybe cite secondary financial losses in the form of slightly lower attendance and splitting conference revenue an extra direction. Though with U of M and MSU gone, conference revenue from the finals is going to be significantly smaller, anyways.

 

It'll be interesting to see if some of the ADs are willing to overlook details that previously held them back if the WCHA poaches NMU, and suddenly the conference is down to 7 teams. Of course, they might also be fine with 7 teams, or might be more interested in expanding by poaching Niagara/Robert Morris/Mercyhurst.

Wolverine318

March 22nd, 2011 at 7:26 AM ^

There is also a competitive mismatch between UAH and the rest of the CCHA. UAH would make Bowling Green look like conference champs if that says anything. Yes, they did make the NCAA's during their former conference's last year due to a miracle run they went on, however, they were subsquently destroyed in the opening run. 

NMU was the WCHA's first target during their lastest expansion. NMU turned down the WCHA. The WCHA definitely wants NMU. 

The CCHA is on a fine line. If things stay the status quo with regards to membership after Michigan, MSU, and tO$U leave, then they will be fine. It is when conferences start poaching members, is when the CCHA gets stuck in a very precarious postion. 

kmd

March 22nd, 2011 at 1:58 AM ^

Air Force isn't leaving Atlantic Hockey for the same reason Niagara wants to get out; scholarship restrictions. As a military school, they don't really offer "athletic scholarships", so it's easier for them to be competitive in a conference that restricts how many athletic scholarships other teams can offer.

Wolverine In Exile

March 22nd, 2011 at 7:37 AM ^

AF wanted to be in the same conference as Army to guarantee rivarly games without taking away valuable OOC's. Niagara, Robert Morris, and THEN UAH would be the most likley CCHA poachees... frankly though, I could see NMU wanting to go to the WCHA now so that they could pair with Mich Tech since the two biggest draws for them, MSU and UM, are now not guaranteed home dates every (other) year.

Mr. Robot

March 21st, 2011 at 4:17 PM ^

Michigan Tech hasn't been as bad as they are now for THAT long. They haven't threatened for a national championship or anything, but they certainly didn't suck as bad as they do now. I think they even had a Hobey finalist a few years ago. I expect that now that their coach is finally gone, they should start to rise back up again too. Again, maybe not to the point of threatening for hardware, but definitely not a free win (I might also add that they beat North Dakota in the GLI a few years ago as well, even though that was one of their 3 or so wins for the year).

blacknblue

March 21st, 2011 at 10:18 PM ^

That would be Michiagn native Mr. Christopher Conner, who is actually playing for the Penguins against the Red Wings at this very moment.

But no Tech has not always been awful.  They were actually one of the premeire programs up until around the late 70's or early 80's.

Tech had a couple of good season a couple of years ago, unfortunately following that they have  a couple years with some of the most freakiest injuries you could ever imagine.  Tech is still a better program then LSSU definitley and probably Ferris and Northern Michigan.

Seth9

March 21st, 2011 at 4:37 PM ^

The relationship between NU and UNO athletically is comparable to Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth, UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, UCLA and UCSC, etc. They are part of the same university system, but are separate entities and have separate athletic departments and teams. Incidentally, UNO is moving up to D-1 for all sports (at the cost of its football and wrestling teams) in the Summit League starting in 2012.

Bronco648

March 21st, 2011 at 4:32 PM ^

Or, they could put it in Chicago, a location that's as close to central as you can get and features throngs of Big Ten grads.

Yes, have some!

Here's to hoping two (or all) B1G schools in the "I" states and/or the N(U)oob come up with men's hockey programs soon.

BeileinBuddy

March 21st, 2011 at 4:41 PM ^

Having the BTHC around and having more games televised will ultimately help recruiting, especially in Canada where BTN is about to come to an agreement with Rogers Communications. The BTHC schools will be accessible to Canadian recruits and will hopefully sway them towards the college route from the CHL route (who can now recruit players for drafting)

kw_hanna

March 21st, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

That collarbone piping looks hideous!

Excited about the idea of seeing Michigan play in Madison every year. Now, I don't have to wait for every other year and awkward seating alignment for the holiday tournament!!

erik_t

March 21st, 2011 at 5:13 PM ^

As a Minnesotan, I hate this all so very very much. I care infinitely more about playing Duluth or SCSU than I do about playing tOSU, never mind a Penn State program that doesn't even exist yet.

vegasjeff

March 21st, 2011 at 6:27 PM ^

Play those Minnesota teams in the nonconference part of your season.

A Big Ten hockey conference is great, another thing that separates the B10 from all other conferences. It is great for the BTN, great programming for fans, who will see their favorite hockey teams more, and in HD.

There is no reason why Wisconsin and Minnesota won't quickly develop geated rivalries with the current CCHA/Big Ten teams, and Penn State won't take long to build a decent team.

erik_t

March 21st, 2011 at 6:50 PM ^

Excuse me? Did you raise a massive stink about the very possibility that tOSU might not be the last game of the season? Yet you tell me to grin and bear it as I lose three major rivals on my conference schedule?

 

A Big Ten Hockey conference may be great for you. It is doing my state and my university no favors.

Michigan Arrogance

March 21st, 2011 at 8:39 PM ^

you started the condescension dude.

stop advertising how butthurt you are over UMinn not playing SCSU and Bemedji for 2 points in a conference a couple times a year. If you'd explain some concrete reasons why you think this move hurts D1 hockey, or even the twin cities campus, then express them. otherwise, kindly stop crying about it.

erik_t

March 21st, 2011 at 9:42 PM ^

It's 'butthurt' to say that you're angry about losing three major longstanding conference rivalries, and your home conference, a conference of which you were a founding member, in favor of being forced to play teams with whom you have no historical ties, one of which will only exist because some rich alum wrote a check?

 

I'm seriously not allowed to find that upsetting?

 

I truthfully don't know what to tell you.

Michigan Arrogance

March 21st, 2011 at 9:56 PM ^

It's 'butthurt' to say that you're angry about losing three major longstanding conference rivalries, and your home conference, a conference of which you were a founding member, in favor of being forced to play teams with whom you have no historical ties, one of which will only exist because some rich alum wrote a check?

 

Yes

 

I'm seriously not allowed to find that upsetting?

 

No, you're allowed. Just don't belabor the point.

 

and minnesota has plenty of historical ties with M, MSU and Wisc.

Seth9

March 21st, 2011 at 9:29 PM ^

You've played Bemidji State a grand total of 10 times in your history. That does not equate to a rivalry. And you haven't played Mankato too many times either (first time was the '97-'98 season). So while I can understand being highly upset over losing rivals in North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, and SCSU from the conference slate, it rings rather hollow when you complain about not being in the same conference with Bemidji.

erik_t

March 21st, 2011 at 9:55 PM ^

You're certainly right, those are just insult to injury. If the Hypothetical Collegiate Hockey Association were to snatch up Mankato and Bemidji, we would shed half a tear.

 

And to hell with North Dakota. May the Red River wash them away. It's losing State and Duluth that really burns me. Non-conference is better than nothing but it is not a satisfactory answer. It's going to feel like a particularly venomous exhibition game.

erik_t

March 22nd, 2011 at 12:33 AM ^

/looks away from heresy for a moment

 

I certainly care a great deal about beating North ****ing Dakota more than just every time we play them. People who root for Iowa and Wisconsin merely make bad life choices. People who root for UNfD are actually bad people. Were their program to sink into the doldrums or, god willing, fold due to lack of UMN/Wiscy money, I would dance around the grave. Because Ralph was a Nazi, etc.

 

I cannot overstate my hatred for North ****ing Dakota.

saveferris

March 22nd, 2011 at 9:18 AM ^

I can sympathize with your perspective, but here's a silver lining.  Based on the passion of the dialogue currently taking place, I see the Michigan / Minnesota series turning into a blood feud of epic proportions in short order.

And as for the Duluth and MSU series, I think you're being overly perssimistic on the relevance of those series once they are no longer conference games.  Michigan is going to lose ND as a conference rival, but I will still revel in pimp-slapping those guys every time they come to Yost.

GCS

March 21st, 2011 at 8:07 PM ^

Your state and university has done the Big Ten no favors by being a complete embarassment, support-wise, for years and completely leeching of the money all the other schools have generated. Michigan and Ohio State can point to the fact that their game has been the primary driving force behind the gigantic revenue stream that everbody in the  conference enjoys today. Minnesotans want to take the one positive contribution they have and keep it for themselves.

BlueDragon

March 21st, 2011 at 10:15 PM ^

The academic integrity of Minnesota more than makes up for its athletic weakness.  I would rather have a Minnesota-type school in my conference than a Tennessee-type or even an Alabama-type school.  It's certainly true that Minnesota and the B1G benefitted greatly from the consistent excellence of Michigan and Ohio State in revenue-generating athletics, but the B1G is so much more than that.  The academics and research that take place in our conference make it second to none, and Minnesota is a key university in maintaining the fine tradition of education we value so highly in the Midwest.

kmd

March 22nd, 2011 at 1:36 AM ^

 

My first game at Mariucci was three years ago, Minnesota vs UMD. It was the last weekend of the season, and Minnesota was trying to clinch home ice in the playoffs. Atmosphere was meh, attendance was meh, and people were streaming to the exits en masse *in the middle of overtime*.  It's just like how Michigan kind of has a rivalry with every in-state school just because they hate us so much, but on a slightly higher level because the other Minnesota schools generally field better teams. NoDak and Wisconsin are the only two big rivalries the Gophers have. One of them will be preserved in the BTHC, and they'll probably set up a yearly arrangement with the Sioux, similar to Michigan Tech/Northern Michigan.

blockski

March 21st, 2011 at 6:17 PM ^

How about option 1a for TV - many games are not televised on the BTN, but are made available for local syndication. 

Remembering that Fox owns 49% of the BTN and all of the aforementioned schools already have some sort of hockey television relationship with their local Fox Sports RSN, I could see this happening. 

On option 3: I'd also be curious to see them exploit the magic of time zones to try and squeeze a double-header in, particularly on Saturdays when home teams woundn't be as worried about a 6pm local start instead of 7 or 7:30.  You could have a 6:00 EST game and then a 8:30 EST (7:30 CST) game back to back - or even an 8:00pm Central start time, if you're worried about the first game going to OT. 

As noted, this won't really work on Friday, since the Eastern time zone games would almost have to go into the earlier time slot, and no team will want to host a home game at 6:00 or 6:30 on a Friday if they can avoid it.