Don Lucia on Wednesday was named the commissioner of the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association, a seven-team conference of teams breaking away from the WCHA to form a league that will begin play in the 2021-22 season.
For scheduling purposes, eight teams are preferable to seven, and during a Zoom news conference Lucia said adding and eighth team is a priority for the CCHA – given the right fit in commitment to hockey and geographic proximity.
One school that might fit well is St. Thomas, which on Wednesday was awaiting word from the NCAA Division I Council if it will be allowed to move directly from Division III to Division I.
Might Lucia have tipped his hand for a preferred school? If so, he appeared to have some “UST’’ face cards.
“They certainly would be a candidate,’’ the former Gophers men's hockey coach said. “They have a rich tradition academically and athletically. They should find out, hopefully today, which direction they’re going to go [from the Division I Council]. In past conversations with Phil [Esten, St. Thomas athletic director] that he’s pretty positive, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed. Any time we can add a Division I institution to college hockey, I think is a great day for college hockey. Hopefully, that’s going to happen here today.
“If they do come through with that announcement, they’re obviously going to be looking for a home, and that’s somebody we certainly would have an interest in, as I’m sure other conferences would as well,’’ he added. “They would be a nice candidate, and I look forward, if this goes through, being able to sit down and talk to them.’’
There are ties between the new CCHA and St. Thomas. Morris Kurtz, the athletic consultant who organized the seven schools’ move from the WCHA to the CCHA, was an assistant athletic director at Penn State from 2013 to ’15, when the school’s hockey program was transitioning to the Big Ten. Esten was deputy athletic director at Penn State from 2014 to ’18 before taking over at St. Thomas.
Does that mean St. Thomas to the CCHA is a done deal? Not at all, but the move certainly would make sense in many ways.