Hockey Realignment React

Submitted by Brian on July 8th, 2011 at 12:45 PM

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What is going on? In hockey, everything. We are apparently not going to have two straight years of speculation about a WCHA/CCHA superconference because it already happened:

UND will soon announce it is leaving the men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association for a new, startup conference in 2013-14  … At least five other teams will join UND in this league: Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and Miami (Ohio).

Notre Dame and an eighth school — possibly Western Michigan — also could be added to this group by the end of the summer.

It is a "done deal." An official announcement comes Wednesday. Everyone left behind is super happy!

"At our meeting in April we voted to extend an invitation to Miami and Notre Dame," Cobb said, referring to a pair of CCHA teams. "That passed with 100 percent of the vote. Nobody said they were unhappy. We left the April meeting and basically some of them contacted Notre Dame and Miami and said, 'Don't take the WCHA invitation, we're going to invite you to join our super league.'

"I blame everybody for being less than honest with their own league members. It's a really sneaky back-door deal."

There's no way Notre Dame is going to stick in the CCHA without Miami; Western is now without a coach and has been terrible for years before their surprise tourney bid under Blashill. They would be signing up to get murdered year-in, year-out. They might prefer Hockey MAC to being a punching bag for five powers and UNO.

If Western does go for it, the smoking husks of the WCHA and CCHA are about to be down to five teams. In the WCHA, Bemidji, St. Cloud, Minnesota State, Alaska-Anchorage, and Michigan Tech are left. In the CCHA, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Bowling Green, Alaska-Fairbanks, and Northern Michigan remain.

The remnants are going to have to glue themselves together in some fashion to get to the six schools required for an autobid; the most obvious thing to do is for the WCHA to grab the UP schools and possibly Air Force to get to eight. That would leave the two remaining lower peninsula schools, BG, and Alaska in a very precarious position—they could grab two or four of the Atlantic Hockey schools that want to offer 18 scholarships but travel costs go up and revenues down and BGSU already considered shutting their program down.

And now…

THE COLLEGE HOCKEY TEAMS MOST SCREWED BY REALIGNMENT

  1. St. Cloud State. The Huskies were a solid middle-of-the-pack WCHA team that often grabbed tourney at-large slots, though they infamously never won once they got to the actual tourney. Now they get to be Boise State.
  2. Bowling Green. Thanks for saving your program, guys. Now let's make it even less relevant than the team that finishes dead last in the CCHA every year.
  3. Undetermined Superconference Eighth. Hi, random eighth team in unnamed superconference. At best you're St. Cloud or Western. The worst programs you are going to play on a regular basis are UNO under Dean Blais and defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth. You are signing up to be bludgeoned.
  4. Someone Else In The Superconference. There is not room for six or seven teams in any conference to make the NCAA field, especially in a world with two more autobids. At least one of the teams in the new conference is going to lose a coach or just be bad for while and fire a coach and all of a sudden they're the new Minnesota State. This will not be North Dakota. It could be anyone else.

THINGS MICHIGAN SHOULD DO

  1. Try to keep Western around by offering some scheduling guarantees.
  2. Play BG/Ferris/Lake Superior/NMU almost yearly, at their places sometimes, possibly for stuff.
  3. Get Michigan State to also do this.

HYPOTHETICAL NEW WORLD CONFERENCE RANKINGS

  1. Super Conference
  2. Hockey East
  3. Big Ten (Michigan was the only member to make the tourney last year)
  4. A Gaping Chasm
  5. WCHA-ish
  6. ECAC
  7. CCHA-ish
  8. Atlantic Hockey

HYPOTHETICAL MAIN BENEFIT OF SUPER CONFERENCE

You've taken the 35 teams jammed into three conferences (36 with Penn State) and turned them into five conferences of reasonable, or even smallish, size. Before, any teams looking to add hockey were looking at a forbidding existence as an independent or in the rickety CHA. Now there would be up to 24 extra spots for college hockey to gracefully expand.

HOW MUCH GUFF THE BIG TEN SHOULD TAKE FOR "DESTROYING COLLEGE HOCKEY"

Zero.

Comments

MGoShoe

July 8th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

...College Hockey News about the conference realignment situation is pretty much spot on.

Maybe this is what's best for the game. It almost certainly will lead to more exposure, more interest, more revenue for the programs in the new leagues. And as the better recruits gravitate towards those leagues and programs, it should give us some pretty good hockey.

But we can't help but think about all the programs whose futures are left hanging in the balance. The hope is that they'll be able to band together somehow and forge a new identity that will work for them. Reality, however, indicates that some may have to scale back their investment and support. And some may have no choice but to stop playing.

We're not looking to lay blame here with anyone in particular. No one is to blame.

But when you look at it as a whole, everyone is to blame.

This is what we wanted, for so many years.

Now we've got it.

E.L. blue fan

July 8th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

I really hope Michigan and State keep playing the other Michigan schools in non conference because it would be a real shame if those programs go under. Hopefully that would be enough to keep them afloat. 

1464

July 8th, 2011 at 1:15 PM ^

What are the odds that ND would like to land somewhere soft in hockey, and that could be the straw that breaks the pastor's back for the B1G?

psychomatt

July 8th, 2011 at 1:22 PM ^

I'm not sure I understand all the dynamics in play here, but why not invite ND into the B10 for hockey? It ties ND to the B10 one step further (in case they ever do join a conference for football) and I would guess ND games vs. B10 teams are among the highest rated college hockey games. It would also open up another slot in the new Superconference for one of the remaining CCHA or WCHA teams.

lhglrkwg

July 8th, 2011 at 1:21 PM ^

I can't really blame miami and ND for wanting to escape the lame-duck CCHA but those stupid WCHA teams are the ones that are going to kill everything. WHY would you obliterate a perfectly competitive conference so you can basically ditch the same teams you complained the BTHC is screwing over. They are flipping the bird to the alaska schools and all of the lesser CCHA schools for the sake of what? Buying a new car to keep in line with the neighbors?

South Bend Wolverine

July 8th, 2011 at 1:28 PM ^

These assholes are going to destroy a solid handful of college hockey teams almost beyond any doubt.  If everyone stayed put after the formation of the B10 conference, we would've had a nice handful of stable conferences that had power teams in them and room to grow.  Instead, we firebomb the entire bottom half of college hockey, which is already a sport with too few teams.  Great freaking job.

Kilgore Trout

July 8th, 2011 at 1:52 PM ^

Wait, so UM, MSU, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and OSU decide to leave their respective conferences that contain smaller schools with less prestige to advance their programs and make more money.  Then the mid level teams that are left over in those two conferences decide to do the same thing for themselves, and they're assholes?  I don't get it.  So basically we can do it and not worry about how it affects the other teams in our league, but if some of those teams try to band together to look out for themselves, they're the bad guys and we're blameless?

South Bend Wolverine

July 8th, 2011 at 4:29 PM ^

Your post contains several misconceptions.  First of all, Michigan is the only team in the new B10 conference that is performing at a high level (although Wiscy, Minny, and MSU have strong histories, they have been weak of late), while the "super-conf" teams are in the nation's elite, so it's not like this is the act of "mid-level schools."

More importantly, though, when the B10 teams separated off, we left a stable WCHA with power teams and room to grow, a stable CCHA with power teams (Miami, ND, and WMU - we didn't know about Blashill to Detroit yet) and room to grow, and created a stable B10 with power teams and room to grow.  All that was required was for other folks to stay put, and the sport as a whole would be in a great place.  Instead, tons of teams are being put in a really tight spot for very marginal benefit.  The B10 could've been a great thing for the sport.  Now, instead, things are going to be extremely dicey.

So yes, they're jackasses.

Monk

July 8th, 2011 at 6:40 PM ^

ND and Miami sure, but no guarantee that even with Blashill, WMU would continue to be a top-20 team, and then you have schools with very regional followings so the new ccha would not be able to recruit with the big ten or wcha and they would start falling behind.  Would you consider ND if you knew that you weren't playing any big ten teams (unless it was non conf) and no one of national power, except Miami?

As for the WCHA, they're in a better position so I could see them adding teams and remainng intact, but can't really fault NoDak (who would have to carry the conference initially) to try to team up with ND and Miami for a new conference.

And I'm not sure what your defintion of late is, but MSU won it all in 2007, Wiscy in 2006 and Wiscy was in the finals two years ago. 

 

 

South Bend Wolverine

July 8th, 2011 at 11:59 PM ^

Taking your points in turn:

1) First, if Blashill had stayed, I'd wager a lot of money that WMU would be in the top 3 of the CCHA and a national power.  You don't take WMU to the NCAA tourney in your first year by being anything less than awesome.  Second, people forget that a lot of the CCHA middle of the road teams have been national powers, NMU & LSSU most notably.  Those are teams that were pushed into the middle by the powerhouses of UM, Miami, and ND in recent years, but with a lightening of the load, might well have seized the opportunity.  It's not like the CCHA was the big 3 and bunch of no-name schools.

2) Suggesting that NoDak would've had to carry the conference alone just doesn't make much sense to me.  Minny-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, Denver, and Colorado College were all in the NCAA tournament (damn you Duluth!!!) this past year - again, it's not like the WCHA was NoDak, Wiscy, Minny, and nobodies.  Wiscy & Minny weren't even part of the WCHA elite.

3) Fair point, although MSU's historic suckage these last couple years and their hiring of Tom Anastos (HALOL) kinda makes my forgetting about 2007 justifiable.

Monk

July 9th, 2011 at 11:11 AM ^

can't believe I forgot about those schools.  Anyway the wcha would not have been hurt as much, in fact they should have made a play for ND and UAF or just stayed where they were and see what happens.

NMU and LSSU have to get the right coaches for them to be relevant, post Comley and post Jackson, those schools have not been relevant on the national scene.  They can't be expected to be top-4 year in and year out to give Mia and ND some balance.  

The thing is that for a conference to fluorish, you need to be next to a decent or major media market, without Detroit or Chicago the new ccha would really struggle.  Even the new wcha has Denver, and h/e has Boston of course and ECAC has New York.  So I don't really see a WMU even with Blashill helping out too much in that regard.  

 

South Bend Wolverine

July 9th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

NMU & LSSU is certainly the weakest link of my case.  My hope (now obviously never to be realized) was that, with a little of the pressure at the top of the CCHA lifted, they might find themselves in a position where finishing in the top ranks of the conference would be easier, which would help with recruiting, etc.  I guess we'll never know now, and I admit it wasn't a sure thing.

The issue of a major TV/media market for college hockey is an interesting one to me, since hockey is very much a Northern regional thing, esp at the college level, making calculations like that somewhat different.  Minneapolis, for example, counts as a major TV market for hockey while for baseball the Twins are a bit of a smaller market team (compared with Chicago in the AL Central).

Even so, the CCHA would've had difficulties, because the Michigan market is dominated by UM & MSU.  However, securing some commitments from UM & MSU to play games against the old CCHA opponents could've gone a long way to mitigating those difficulties.

I guess ultimately what my argument comes down to is this.  The formation of the B10 conf. put some hockey teams at risk, but there were still believable scenarios where everyone could've ended up ok by staying pretty much put.  Now, it's almost impossible to not see at least a couple of smaller teams left out in the cold & folding, which I think just plain sucks.

Lionsfan

July 9th, 2011 at 2:38 AM ^

I kinda agree with it being late. I know it's only been 4-5 years or so, but consider how those teams have performed lately. Wisconsin may have made the Finals last year, but they got blown out by BC and didn't make the tourney this year. And Michigan State sucked this year, and now have Anastos (lol) as their head coach which doesn't inspire confidence. It's like the Pistons, it's hard to believe we made the ECF in 2008 as a 2 seed, and made the playoffs in 2009. The success that was achieved is only a footnote now

Bronco648

July 8th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

I have to feel bad for Mel Pearson (and Bill Muckalt for that matter). The level of competiton, in the remaining CCHA conference, just dropped, big time.

Why not have the remaining WCHA teams combine with the remaining CCHA teams to form a 10 team conference? If BG folds, invite AF to join.

OldHusky

July 8th, 2011 at 2:36 PM ^

The realignment might not be a bad thing for Pearson/Muckalt/MTU.  It appears that the shakeout will leave:

- B1GTen Conf
- Big Market / Super Conf
- Small Market Conf

The Small Market Conf will probably consist of the remaining WCHA and CCHA teams, perhaps minus the Alaska schools, which the new league may not be able to afford.

Among that group, Pearson stands a VERY good chance of making the NCAA tourney in any given year.  Among the old WCHA, it would have been almost impossible.

lhglrkwg

July 8th, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

the problem is, is that the 'small market conference' would probably only get 1 bid a year like atlantic hockey. they'd still be going against the bottom half of the WCHA they struggled against and some decent CCHA teams (Western, Ferris, Northern, etc.). I think the departure of elite teams will allow them to get back to .500 quicker and then build off of that, but I don't think they'll see success very quick up there

Yale Van Dyne Fan

July 8th, 2011 at 3:06 PM ^

...and I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing for the Huskies. They haven't been relevant in more than 30 years. You'd think that at least once since 1980 they would have just by sheer dumb luck won the four-team GLI with a couple bounces here and there. It's time to take a step back, re-evaluate your place in the college hockey landscape and come up with something more sensible, which will ultimately be aligning with NMU and Lake State and playing numerous home games every year with their Yooper rivals. When I was at Tech, games with NMU sold out or came close to selling out every time, while games with Minnesota and Wisconsin did not attract nearly the same level of interest.

So now you get together with NMU, Lake State, Ferris State, St. Cloud State, Bemidji and Minnesota State and you do something that makes sense from a travel standpoint and puts you on a more level playing field. There is a ton of hockey talent in the Copper Country for it being such a small area, and now hopefully more of these kids will have a shot to play at Tech, whereas before, they were a bit out of their league. Bringing in a fresh crop of kids from Western Canada every year just to win 5-10 games was beyond the point of getting old. Keep some of the local kids home, focus more on the USHL and downstate Michigan high school kids and put a competitive, hard-working product on the ice. No reason Tech can't turn this into something positive.

Seth9

July 8th, 2011 at 6:12 PM ^

The Big Ten schools helped themselves by forming a new conference because the new conference has a built in lucrative TV contract through the Big Ten Network that is not available to anyone else. This new conference, on the other hand, won't be able to attract nearly as strong a deal because they only have one national brand in Notre Dame, which will not be enough to capture a significant TV deal, and a handful of teams with passionate, but small, fanbases that do not merit significant TV deals.