My $0.02 on College Hockey realignment
By Scott Moore
Seems like everywhere I go, the number one topic of conversation has been the Big Ten Hockey Conference, and what it will mean to the CCHA. Nobody seems to think about the WCHA which is also losing two of its’ big name teams.
For the record, I was not initially in favor of a Big Ten Hockey Conference, and I still have some issues with it. It will be much harder for the Big Ten (or is it B1G now?) schools to get at large bids into the NCAA tournament. Under the old configuration, the schools were in the running for 2 automatic qualifiers, and up to 3 at large bids. Now there will be just one AQ, and hopefully 2 at large bids, maybe as many as 3. I think that with all of these powerhouse teams in the same conference, overall records will not be great, (everybody will beat up on each other) although the Pairwise Rankings could make up for wins and losses as long as the teams schedule their non conference games carefully.
However, after two trips to Fairbanks over the course of three weeks at the end of last season, suddenly the Big Ten Hockey Conference looks better than ever!
So what happens with the teams the Big Ten leaves behind? One rumor had Notre Dame and Miami joining Denver, Colorado College, UNO and North Dakota to form a “Super Six” conference, but that was quickly laid to rest. The hot new rumor is Notre Dame (and possibly Miami) joining Hockey East! Well, if the Air Force Academy (located in Colorado Springs) can be in Atlantic Hockey, I guess The Irish and RedHawks could go East.
The idea I like the best, though, is to have the teams left behind by the Big Ten, combining to form a new Western or Midwestern College Hockey Conference. Here’s what I think it would look like…
The West Division would be made up of Alaska, Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota State, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota and St. Cloud. The East Division would be made up of Bowling Green, Ferris, Lake Superior, Miami, Michigan Tech, Minnesota Duluth, Northern Michigan, Notre Dame and Western Michigan. Teams would play twice against each team in their division, and once against each team from the other division.
This makes for a 25 game regular season. If you want to make it 26, you could assign protected rivalries and have them face each other 3 times. My suggestions for rivalries are Alaska and Anchorage, Bemidji and NoDak, CC and Denver, Minn State and UNO (Mavericks vs Mavericks!) St. Cloud vs Minn Duluth (cross divisional, so they would face each other twice each season) BGSU and Miami, Ferris and Lake Superior, Michigan Tech and Northern Mich and Notre Dame with Western Michigan.
These Protected rivalries would help with the single games played out of division, because you could face one team each night. For example, North Dakota and it’s Rival Bemdji could face Notre Dame and Western on the same weekend NoDak at Notre Dame Friday and at Western Saturday while Bemidji starts in Kalamazoo then goes to South Bend. When teams from the East had to travel to Alaska, they would also face Anchorage. And when teams from the West had to go to the 49th state, they could schedule the trip to face Alaska twice, then stay in Fairbanks (or head to Anchorage) and play the Seawolves the next weekend, while their rival made the opposite trip. Student Athletes could arrange to attend classes via high speed internet connections. When teams from the East went to St. Cloud, (or western teams to Duluth) they could either schedule another non conference game on the same weekend, or just play one game.
We could get really tricky and try to create two 10 team divisions! We invite Alabama Huntsville (the only independent D-1 team in the nation, and Mercyhurst (currently in Atlantic Hockey and in Erie, PA close to the current CCHA footprint) This allows us to move Minn Duluth back to the West Division where they’ll still be travel partners with St. Cloud. I’d put both UAH and Mercyhurst in the East Division and pair UAH with Miami (the two southernmost teams - it's actually four hours closer than driving from Oxford to Marquette) and Bowling Green with Mercyhurst, creating the battle of I-90. If you then play your own division twice and out of division once each, you have a 28 game regular season, leaving 6 non conference games available, 8 if you’re one of the 8 teams making the trek to Alaska, since games played in the 49th state are exempt.
As long as they don’t name the Divisions “Legends” and “Leaders”, I think either scenario is acceptable!
That’s all for now. I hope you’re having a great summer!