The Day the WCHA changed
- Blog Post by: Roman Augustoviz
- March 22, 2011 - 2:01 AM
The news hit the internet shortly before noon on Monday. The Gophers and Wisconsin were leaving the WCHA in two years, after the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, to join the new six-team Big Ten Conference. The rest of the day was spent gathering information and comments on the issue.
Here is some of the day's work:
Paul Kelly, executive director of College Hockey, Inc., has the best read on the prospect of adding new programs in college hockey. He is in charge of the marketing arm of the sport, College Hockey, Inc.
He said several Big Ten schools have inquired about the possibility of adding hockey, but that was a while ago, about the time Penn State decided to add men's and women's hockey. A donation of $88 million from Terry and Kim Pegula made the Nittany Lions' decision easy.
Penn State is building a new arena with some of that money.
Kelly said it is unlikely other Big Ten schools will find somebody whose pockets are as deep as the Pegulas, who got wealthy in oil and natural gas, but there is seed money out there.
"There are wealthy alums who are hockey guys," Kelly said. "They won't give what Mr. Pegulas did, but they might donate $10 to $20 million."
Kelly said once a Big Ten school add men's hockey, it could become a sport that generates revenue, helped by dollars from the Big Ten Network.
Penn State is taking applications for its head coaching job and should have a coach by the end of May.
A couple of schools in western Canada also have shown some interest in having their teams play NCAA hockey.
"We do have schools in other sports," Kelly said. "I don't know how that will be received."
The Gophers were one of the seven founding members of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League, which eventually was renamed the WCHA in 1959-60. Wisconsin joined the WCHA in 1969-70.
* WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod on new Big Ten Conference: "If there is going to be a domino effect, we could be susceptible. Right now we look solid at 10." He said no other WCHA team has said anything about leaving.
The speculation is out there, though. Paul Kelly has heard it. So has a WCHA beat writer and a WCHA blogger. Maybe those two are helping spread it? All are talking about a superconference formed around the top teams in the WCHA (North Dakota and Denver) and the top teams left in the CCHA (Notre Dame and Miami).
* Gophers senior captain Jay Barriball on the Big Ten hockey conference: "From everything I've heard, it is pretty cool. Everybody loves the WCHA and how competitive it is and the rivals we have. But people are excited about the Big Ten." ... Barriball is resting his injured knee, which forced him to miss six games near the end of the regular season. He won't need surgery.
* Former Gophers forward Mike Antonovich, who played for the Gophers from 1969-72 on the Big Ten hockey conference: "There was a Big Ten Conference in the late 1960s. To me, i don't know what to think about this. I'm a great fan of the WCHA and the CCHA. And with Duluth, North Dakota, those rivalries for Minnesota were really good. I'm sure you will have rivalries in the new conference."
Actually, there wasn't a Big Ten Conference but there was a Big Ten hockey tournament in 1968 at Williams Arena, '69 in Madison, Wis., and '70 in AnnArbor, Mich.
Antonovich played in the 1970 tournament; the Gophers played three games in three days, losing to Wisconsin 4-3 in overtime, beatting Ohio State 4-1 and losing to Michigan 6-1.
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