SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame is leaving the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for Hockey East beginning with the 2013-14 season and will bolster the program’s national profile through another TV deal with NBC.
The network, which has done Notre Dame home football games for more than two decades, will televise Irish hockey, likely beginning with the school’s first season in the new league.
“The University of Notre Dame’s hockey team will have a more robust national television platform than any hockey program in the country,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference held Wednesday on the ice rink of the school’s new $50 million Compton Family Ice Arena.
Jon Miller, president for programming for NBC and Versus, said the plan is to do a big schedule of Notre Dame games and include Hockey East teams in the telecasts when the opportunity is there.
Details of the TV deal have not been completed.
Notre Dame, which has been a member of the CCHA since 1992, will become the 11th member of Hockey East. Current members include Boston College, Boston University, Maine, UMass, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont.
Conference realignment is shaking up college hockey.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association has invited five teams from the CCHA to join in two years, when the Big Ten starts its hockey league. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference will also begin play that year with eight schools.
At least 18 of the 58 teams currently playing NCAA Division I hockey — 31 percent — will change conferences by 2013.
Swarbrick said the Irish considered three options — go independent, join the NCHC or Hockey East.
“I would say the discussions with both conferences were very detailed and very earnest,” Swarbrick said. “Both had great assets, great reasons to consider them. At the end of the day I’m very comfortable with our choice. That’s not to say the other option wasn’t a very attractive one.”
He said Hockey East would have a positive impact on the hockey players’ experience and the media markets would provide high exposure. But mostly, he said, it was a matter of being the right fit for the program.
Veteran Irish coach Jeff Jackson said Notre Dame’s recruiting would also benefit from being in the new league, especially on the East Coast.
“There are a few Irish Catholics in the East, so hopefully we’ll be competing for a few of those top players,” Jackson said. He said it would also allow Notre Dame to still have a strong non-conference schedule where it could still play teams from the Midwest like Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota.
He also said it was difficult to leave the CCHA.
“It will be very disappointing for me as kind of a lifetime member of the CCHA,” Jackson said. “That’s where I was groomed as a coach and that’s where I followed hockey. So it’s a disappointment, and yet we have work to do yet in the CCHA.”
Boston University athletic director Mike Lynch, on the committee considering Notre Dame for admission, said it was a pretty easy choice.
“It’s an opportunity for us to expand our footprint, as well,” he said, noting that most teams in Hockey East don’t fly to games. In two years, they will when it’s time to come to South Bend.