SBD/March 22, 2011/Colleges

Big Ten To Launch Men's Hockey League Beginning With '13-14 Season

Michigan, Michigan State among six teams who would form Big Ten hockey league
The Big Ten "plans to create a men's hockey league starting in 2013-14, a move that will drastically change the landscape of the sport at the college level," according to George Sipple of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The proposal, which has been recommended by ADs for schools with hockey programs, "will be sent to the Big Ten Council of Presidents for approval in June." The Big Ten hockey league would have six teams: Central Collegiate Hockey Association members Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State; Western Collegiate Hockey Association members Minnesota and Wisconsin; and Penn State, "which starts its program in 2012." There would be a 20-game conference schedule, and a "postseason tournament would determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament." The move is the "first of what will be a series of changes the next two years in college hockey, as the remaining members of the CCHA and WCHA decide how to move forward without five of their strongest members" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/22). In St. Paul, John Shipley reports the decision was "considered inevitable as soon as Penn State," spurred by an $88M donation from Sabres Owner Terry Pegula, "announced in September it would add men's and women's hockey." Minnesota coach Don Lucia: "Had Penn State not added hockey, we would have been very content where we are." Big Ten Associate Commissioner for Governance Jennifer Heppel said that "details beyond the 20-game conference schedule ... are still to be discussed, such as where the conference tournament will be or how the Big Ten Network will affect scheduling" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/22). College Hockey Inc. Exec Dir Paul Kelly "called the Big Ten hockey conference, on its own merits, a step forward for the sport." Kelly: "When a prestigious institution like Penn State and other large schools combine to form a conference, it will get a lot of media attention, better TV exposure, and all of that is a positive for the sport. It likely will prompt other Big Ten schools to look at (hockey) like Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/22).

WHAT'S NEXT FOR OTHER LEAGUES? CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos said the Big Ten hockey league "doesn't come as a surprise," as it has been "evolving for quite a while." When asked if he thought the CCHA would fold, Anastos said, "No, I don't. There's so many different ways to look at membership. It's really hard to speculate since membership is a fairly complex issue. We've been engaged in a lot of dialogue and there are all kinds of different models being discussed, but it's too premature to see what it's going to look like. It could be as simple as the WCHA just going down to 10 teams and the CCHA going down to 8. Each league would still get an instant qualifier (for the NCAA Tournament)" (DETROIT NEWS, 3/22).
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