By Katie Joly
As the college hockey winds down, many teams are playing in their conference championship games this weekend, searching for a bid to esteemed Frozen Four tournament. However, for the members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), this year’s quest for the Mason Cup is especially important. Why? It’s the last championship game for the CCHA. The conference will disband after this season as college hockey appears to have followed in the footsteps of college football and the NHL and realigned conferences.
Big Ten Conference
Three current members of the CCHA, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are leaving to form the Big Ten Conference with newly established varsity team, Penn State, and Minnesota and Wisconsin from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
Why the move? Well, money is perhaps the largest reason for these teams creating their own conference. With the creation of the Big Ten Network, which generated $242 million in revenue in 2011, Big Ten football teams have seen increased exposure and media revenues and now the hockey teams want a piece of the action. The increased coverage of Big Ten hockey by the network will also increase interest in the conference and sport as more people will be able to watch the games.
Another benefit to creating a new conference is to encourage growth of the sport. Having the Big Ten Conference could encourage other Big Ten members such as Northwestern or Nebraska to start programs. Newly acquired Big Ten member, Rutgers, who enters the Big Ten in 2014 currently has a club hockey team and with increased exposure and revenue from joining the Big Ten, this could be just what they need to go varsity (and a rink of course).
So what happens to the remaining teams?
The remaining CCHA teams, Lake Superior State, Alaska, Ferris State, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Northern Michigan, and Miami have a few options with some schools already deciding their future. Miami and Western Michigan have joined the newly created National Collegiate Hockey Conference which also includes six other schools; Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State.
After losing Minnesota and Wisconsin to the newly created Big Ten Conference, the WCHA invited members of the CCHA to join the remaining teams in the conference. Their conference now includes Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State-Mankato, Northern Michigan, and Alabama-Huntsville.
And as for Notre Dame, they are making the jump to Hockey East as that conference grows to eleven teams.
CCHA Bids a Farewell
As the weekend of March 23-24, 2013 approaches, the legendary conference will host its last championship series and one team will lift the Mason Cup victoriously one last time. The match-ups for the upcoming weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan are No. 3 Ohio State versus No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 4 Michigan versus No. 1 Miami. The winners of each game will battle for the title of ‘Last CCHA Conference Champions’ on Sunday March 24.
As we wish the remaining teams good luck, we bid farewell to one of the most respected conferences in the nation and look forward to what the realignment will do for college hockey next season.