The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which is losing seven of its 12 members for the 2013-14 season, has invited five members ofh the Central Collegiate Hockey Association to join it that season.
Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan have 30 days to reach a decision. Notre Dame was not invited.
The Fighting Irish are considering several options: the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Hockey East or, and this seems less likely, becoming an independent.
The six-team Big Ten Hockey Conference forms in 2013, with Minnesota and Wisconsin leaving the WCHA; with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State leaving the CCHA, and Penn State starting a program.
The NCHC also will start in 2013, taking Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, Denver, Nebraska Omaha and Colorado College from the WCHA and Miami Ohio from the CCHA.
Officials from the WCHA and CCHA met earlier this week in Chicago to discuss the future of their conferences. Following the defections, the six teams remaining in the WCHA would be current members St. Cloud State, Minnesota State Mankato, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Alaska Anchorage, and Northern Michigan, which has already announced it will depart the CCHA.
“This is truly a significant and quite remarkable twist in what has been a period of great consternation and transition in the college hockey world,” Commissioner Bruce McLeod was quoted as saying in a WCHA news release. “On behalf of the WCHA, we couldn’t be more excited and pleased to extend these invitations to Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan.”
“This invitation represents a tremendous opportunity for the remaining members of both leagues,” CCHA Commissioner Fred Pletsch said. “Their collective commitment to Division I hockey was evident in Chicago and the synergy created by last Tuesday’s meeting will help all involved chart a course that is right for their respective program and provide further stability to college hockey’s evolving landscape.”
If the five CCHA all accept the WCHA's invitation, the new 11-team WCHA would be Michigan (five teams) and Minnesota (three) based, with two other teams in Alaska and one in Ohio.
Here is the tentative lineup:
Minnesota (3): Bemidji State, Minnesota State Mankato and St. Cloud State
Michigan (5): Ferris State (Big Rapids), Lake Superior State (Sault Ste. Marie), Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan
Alaska (2): Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks
Ohio (1): Bowling Green
How do you break up those 11 teams into two divisions? Maybe the five Michigan teams and Bowling Green in one, the three Minnesota teams and the two Alaska teams in the other. Lots of traveling in that second division.