Over the last couple of days, I have become very anxious over the future of the sport I love — and cover.
Big Ten Hockey Conference aside, which I think has the chance to ruin the game as we know it, Penn State joining the college hockey fray is a great thing for the game. Had the topic of the BTHC never been broached, Penn State joining fellow Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the CCHA would have been the best possible outcome for the college game.
But with the formation of the evil empire, Penn State, Jim Delaney and the Big Ten will ruin a growing game that has become more entertaining and exciting over the last 10 years.
That is my fear. Will it become reality? Only time will tell.
But there is growing fear that my worst thoughts may be coming true.
There is no question in my mind the WCHA would survive with the losses of Minnesota and Wisconsin. With flagship programs like North Dakota and Denver as well as Colorado College and reigning national champion Minnesota Duluth, the WCHA would be just fine.
The CCHA would need to adapt without Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. But growing powers like Notre Dame and Miami would provide the league with two solid anchors to build upon.
Now, reports are circulating that the two leagues may fracture even more, as reported by Kevin Pates of the Duluth News Tribune. According to the report, the buzz at the Frozen Four was around the formation of a new, six-team league featuring DU, UND, Miami, Notre Dame, CC and Nebraska-Omaha.
Full disclosure: I was at the Frozen Four and I never heard a single word about this. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t discussed.
If true, it would ruin college hockey. Division I would become much more regionalized, with programs like Michigan Tech likely joining Ferris State, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan to form a “Great Lakes Conference,” while Minnesota schools like UMD, St. Cloud State, Minnesota State and Bemidji State would form a “10,000 Lakes Conference.” The problem is, with only four teams, there would be no automatic bid. Teams like Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska and Alabama-Huntsville would be left without a logical, geographic home. Could they join the Minnesota teams? Sure. But now there is an unfair financial burden on small state schools already crushed by budget cuts at their institutions.
The fact is, the Big Ten Hockey Conference is a reality and it will happen. But further fracturing the WCHA and CCHA would only put gas on a fire that could ignite the entire college hockey landscape as we know it.