Six of the nation’s top Division I men’s ice hockey programs have become founding members of the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which will begin competition for the 2013-14 season, the programs’ athletic directors and head coaches announced Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference founding members are Colorado College, Denver, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota.
“Miami University is very grateful for the leadership of Commissioner Fred Pletsch and the CCHA for our many years of partnership. We are forever appreciative of the many opportunities for our students through the years,” Miami athletic director Brad Bates said. “We are extremely excited about the future of Miami Hockey to compete in what recent history proves to be the premier hockey conference in the nation and for this historic moment in collegiate hockey.
“At the heart of our vision is to have the loftiest of standards for the intellectual and competitive excellence of our students while ensuring that this great sport continues to grow and increase opportunities for future generations of students. Ultimately, this significant moment in time will signal a turning point that integrates like-minded institutions in meaningful ways that inspire a future of exceptional collegiate hockey.”
Dating to 2000, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference boasts four national champions, 14 Frozen Four appearances, 12 conference regular-season championships and nine conference tournament championships. All six founding members were participants in the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship tournament in 2011.
“The motivation to create the National Collegiate Hockey Conference follow recent conference realignments that affected several of our founding teams,” said Brian Faison, director of athletics at North Dakota. “Our new conference was developed under the auspice of institutions that have displayed a high level of competitiveness on the ice, an institutional commitment to compete at the highest level within Division I, provide a national platform for exposure, and have wonderful history and tradition within their institution and hockey programs.
“The conference will be comprised of not only highly competitive, committed and winning hockey programs, but will also showcase many of the best student-athletes on and off the ice in coming years.”
Five of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s schools – 2011 NCAA Division I ice hockey national champion Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota – currently are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Miami competes in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. All six schools will continue playing in their current conferences through the 2011-2012 and 2012-13 seasons.
“The common thread among all institutions is a commitment to maintain a high quality level of college hockey,” said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. “The conference will provide a known structure and framework in the foreseeable future, which each institution can use as stability moving forward in these challenging times with our sport. The conference realignment started to happen this past spring. We believe this provided an opportunity to assess the landscape and make decisions for what’s in the best interest of each institution and college hockey as a whole.”
In addition to Faison and Gwozdecky, officials representing their respective hockey programs who have been actively involved with the formation of the conference include athletic directors Ken Ralph of Colorado College, Peg Bradley-Doppes of Denver, Bates of Miami, Bob Nielson of Minnesota-Duluth and Trev Alberts of Nebraska-Omaha, associate athletic directors Ron Grahame of Denver and Josh Fenton of Miami and head coaches Scott Owens of Colorado College, Enrico Blasi of Miami, Scott Sandelin of Minnesota-Duluth, Dean Blais of Nebraska-Omaha and Dave Hakstol of North Dakota.
“We are extremely thankful for the opportunity the CCHA has given Miami to grow and develop over the years for both our program and our student-athletes,” Blasi said. “We are excited about the future of Miami Hockey and the conference that we will be playing in beginning in 2013. Our goal is to always be playing at the highest level and to compete for a national championship and we feel this new conference will continue to give us that opportunity. This is an exciting time and one that all of Miami Hockey is looking forward to.”
The new conference will begin immediate research of additional members with no specific, pre-determined limit on the final number of institutions. In addition, the conference expects to have a broadcast package in place before launching its inaugural season, according to Faison. The Goldwater Group and Stafford Sports will serve as the conference consultant to initially assess additional members and the best possible media platforms.
“We anticipate the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will provide the fans and stakeholders of our programs with great competition, contested rivalries and the establishment of proud, new traditions, all of which will have regional and national appeal,” Faison said.
A national search for the conference’s first commissioner as well as work on other organizational details are under way.
The college hockey landscape already was significantly altered this year when the Big Ten announced a plan to form a hockey conference in two seasons. The new Big Ten hockey league will take Minnesota and Wisconsin from the 50-year-old WCHA to play with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State of the CCHA and the startup program at Penn State.
Once the new hockey league is established, the WCHA will have only five teams: Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State. None of those remaining WCHA programs have the tradition or revenue-producing ability of schools like Minnesota, North Dakota or Denver.
As with recent conference changes in football, the NCAA does not control, promote or oversee conferences — or teams’ movement between conferences. Member schools make the decision based on its best interests as to which conference(s) it is affiliated.
|By conference affiliation for 2013-14 season, as of July 13.|
|Big Ten||23||Michigan, 9; Wisconsin, 6; Minnesota, 5; Michigan State, 3|
|New conference||17||Denver, 7; North Dakota, 7; Colorado College, 2; Minnesota-Duluth, 1|
|Hockey East||11||Boston University, 5; Boston College, 4; Maine, 2|
|CCHA||5||Lake Superior State, 3; Bowling Green, 1; Northern Michigan, 1|
|ECAC Hockey||5||Rensselaer, 2 Cornell, 2; Harvard, 1|
|WCHA||3||Michigan Tech, 3|