In a controversial move that has rudely awakened the rest of the college hockey world, it has now been announced that a new western conference has taken shape. North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami of Ohio have elected to leave the WCHA and CCHA to form what is temporarily being called the “Super League” by the hockey media, to begin in the 2013-2014 season. All six schools have issued a press release, which includes the following excerpt:
“We understand and appreciate the widespread interest in developments relating to the formation of the new hockey conference,” the release, issued in the names of the schools’ six athletic directors, said. “More information will be provided about the initiatives that have been undertaken, as well as the next steps involved, at a news conference in Colorado Springs this Wednesday, July 13. Our programs look forward to continued associations with our current leagues, the WCHA and CCHA, for the next two seasons.”
Notre Dame, believed to be debating between joining this new league or linking up with Hockey East, is expected to make a decision by the end of the summer, and could potentially bring Western Michigan with them to create an eight-team conference. The move has upset many administrators and fans of schools on both sides of the newly-constructed fence.
The Anchorage Daily News interviewed Alaska-Anchorage Athletic Director, Dr. Steve Cobb, who painted a harsh picture.
Cobb said that at the annual WCHA meeting in April, there wasn't a hint that any school was thinking about leaving the league.
"At our meeting in April we voted to extend an invitation to Miami and Notre Dame," Cobb said, referring to a pair of CCHA teams. "That passed with 100 percent of the vote. Nobody said they were unhappy. We left the April meeting and basically some of them contacted Notre Dame and Miami and said, 'Don't take the WCHA invitation, we're going to invite you to join our super league.'
"I blame everybody for being less than honest with their own league members. It's a really sneaky back-door deal."
Oft-maligned WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod has also chimed in with some of his thoughts during an interview with USCHO’s Todd Milewski:
”As time goes on and circumstances like this arise and it’s clear that the impetus is coming from a couple of schools in the WCHA — they seem to be driving this train and pushing it down the track — the erosion of what we’ve had, the erosion of the relationships that we’ve had and the erosion in the trust that we’ve had in one another gets to be more apparent. That is one of the concerns in the long run, even if we don’t stay together.
“There’s going to be some awful, awful hard feelings, and that will be reflected in scheduling prerogatives for all the institutions involved, et cetera. So it’s not going to be an easy road here for the next couple of years, that’s for sure.”
The good news for Tech fans is that the Michigan Tech Athletics Department is said to be optimistic and with MTU now being the only remaining charter member of the WCHA, they are taking a leading role in the discussions within the conference, which will continue in person in Minneapolis this Tuesday. In response to fans’ concerns, the school has released this statement via Facebook Notes:
We're obviously aware of the rumors surrounding college hockey. At this point we can't comment on any of it because nothing has been made official. We know change, at some level, is coming in college hockey, and Michigan Tech is well-positioned to continue moving forward and making positive progress. As we have clearly shown, we are fully committed to our hockey program, and we are confident no matter what happens over the next few weeks, we have great future opportunities. We will certainly have something to say regarding all of this once the dust has settled, and when the time is appropriate we are looking forward to laying out our thoughts on what has transpired, and the opportunities we have to improve our position. We're headed in the right direction....Go Huskies!
Meanwhile, on the CCHA side, the ADs held a conference call on Friday morning. UA-Fairbanks AD Forrest Karr spoke of awareness and the need to band together in an interview with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
“We’ve known for a long time that the conference landscape was changing,” Karr said. “Our priorities have not changed. We need to consider what’s best for our student-athletes and we don’t want to see any college hockey programs fold as a result of selfish decision making.”
Regardless of one’s personal feelings, it appears that this new conference will come to pass, and so it is time to look towards the future.