The college hockey world will undergo a major upheaval beginning in the 2013-2014 season.
In addition to the formation of the Big Ten hockey conference, published reports in the Grand Forks Herald (N.D.), Omaha World-Herald and Duluth News Tribune on Thursday said another league will be formed that will include current Western Collegiate Hockey Association members Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver and Nebraska-Omaha along with Central Collegiate Hockey Association power Miami-Ohio.
That league will also begin play in 2013-2014.
The WCHA schools in the new league have combined for 17 NCAA championships, including Minnesota-Duluth’s first one this past season.
It was reported that there will be a press conference in Colorado Springs on Wednesday to formally announce the new league.
CCHA members Notre Dame and Western Michigan could also join that league, it was reported.
Notre Dame has explored the possibility of joining Hockey East.
The Big Ten hockey conference became a reality when Penn State alum Terry Pegula and his wife Kim gave his alma mater an $88 million gift in September, 2010 to build a multi-purpose arena and start Division I ice hockey programs for men and women.
Joining Penn State will be current WCHA members Minnesota and Wisconsin and CCHA teams Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.
The two new leagues will leave the WCHA with Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State, Michigan Tech, Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage and leave the CCHA with Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks, Lake Superior State and Bowling Green along with Notre Dame and Western Michigan.
University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead called the news of the new league “exciting.
“It’s going to create interest in college hockey,” said Whitehead. “Having two new conferences is unique for college hockey. I might have a different tone if I was one of the teams left in the WCHA or the CCHA. But those teams could get together and form their own league.”
He is optimistic that college hockey will survive the changes.
“You rarely see schools add or drop hockey,” said Whitehead. “Schools are very solidly behind their hockey programs.”
Penn State will be the 59th Division I men’s program. All but one of the current 58 teams are affiliated with a league. Alabama-Huntsville is the only one without a conference. It was left stranded when College Hockey America disbanded after the 2009-2010 season.
The Maine coach said college hockey is in a good place right now. He noted that attendance at the Frozen Fours has been excellent; the Frozen Fours are an attractive event to sponsor as evidenced by the fact Tampa, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will host the next three for the first time and up to one-third of the players in the NHL are former college players.