To our readers: Thank you for taking part in our Mailbag Monday this week. Star Tribune beat writers received many questions about the teams and leagues we cover, and each writer selected at least a couple of questions to answer. Look for a question and answer about each team in a future edition of the Star Tribune.
Q: Randy, where are we at today on the men’s side of the WCHA? Is it going away & is the CCHA now going to be resurrected? @HerrickScott
A: Whenever the college hockey season starts, the WCHA men’s league will have 10 teams for the final time before Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan leave to begin play in the new CCHA in 2021-22. That will leave the WCHA with only Alabama Huntsville, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage, and those three programs already had financial challenges even before the coronavirus outbreak. WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson is seeking more teams to join that trio. Arizona State is an independent. St. Thomas is targeted to play in Division I if and when the NCAA approves the Tommies’ all-sports reclassification from Division III to Division I. Those two could be candidates for the WCHA or other conferences.
Also, don’t rule out tweaks in conference alignments. For example, would Miami (Ohio) be a better fit in the new CCHA with its Michigan and Ohio flavor than it is in the NCHC? Would Minnesota State, which applied and was denied membership to the NCHC in 2016, be a better regional fit in the NCHC than Miami?
Q: Do college hockey programs get eliminated as a result of Covid-19? @coryc711
A: It wouldn’t surprise me at all if programs are eliminated as colleges try to balance their budgets with the loss of revenue resulting from coronavirus. Both Alaska programs had financial issues last summer amid decreased university funding from the state Legislature. This outbreak certainly doesn’t help programs that were hanging on by a thread.
Q: Curious on your take of how the upcoming season will be affected. @BEkiersted
A: That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? I’d say it all depends on when students return to campus. If the colleges aren’t open to students for the fall semester, I doubt that we see college sports in the fall. And with that comes the huge financial it. The University of Minnesota, for example, estimates it would miss out on $75 million of revenue from athletics if the fall season is canceled.
Might we see a January start to the college hockey season? It’s possible, and conference commissioners are developing contingency plans. Nobody knows anything for certain just yet.
This question is a three-parter, from Chad:
Q1: Who of the Gophers’ incoming freshmen are you most excited about?
A1: I’m intrigued about two defensemen that I believe will be part of this class: Mike Koster, the former Chaska standout who played for Tri-City of the USHL this season, and Carl Fish, the 6-2, 209-pounder from St. Paul Johnson who spent the past two seasons with Bismarck of the NAHL. With Tyler Nanne and Ryan Zuhlsdorf exhausting their eligibility, there are spots available on the blue line.
Q2: How do you rate the overall class? I would say about a “C.’’
A2: I’d give the Gophers a “B’’ so far, with the asterisk that everything is uncertain with the coronavirus pandemic. It won’t be nearly as big as last year’s class of 11 newcomers. Rather, coach Bob Motzko said he expects four or five in the new class.
Q3: Do you see any off the current players leaving early? I think we would have a strong team if they stayed together.
A3: It’s late April, and things certainly can change, but I’d be surprised if there are any early departures from the Gophers. It appears the first wave of those leaving college hockey early has hit, and whether more would follow this summer remains unclear because we don’t even know when teams will be playing again at all levels of hockey.
This question was submitted to and answered by Megan Ryan:
Q: Best-case scenario for the hockey team next season? – @rdavis2501
A: The Gophers make it to the Frozen Four so I can have my triumphant return to my old stomping ground of Pittsburgh. I reminisce while walking through my former neighborhood. I eat at my favorite little neighborhood Thai restaurant. I remember when PPG Paints Arena was once called Consol Energy Center. I see my old coworkers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I dwell on my now faraway youth. Sorry I made this about me. Except I’m not, I want to go back to the ‘burgh. (But yeah, best case they win the national championship, anything’s possible! And I do think they’ll be pretty good next year.)
A call for your sweet sweaters
I’m gonna piggyback on this blog by encouraging hockey fans to submit photos of their favorite hockey jerseys, plus a story why they’re so important to you. Please submit your photos (preferably in jpeg format) with your name, contact info and an explanation of why you like your jersey to the Puck Drop email address (email@example.com) or on Twitter (@PuckDropMN). We’ll take the best and run them and their stories in future Puck Drop newsletters, possibly in a tournament format, depending on how many responses we receive.