Big Ten Hockey Appears Imminent

When Penn State University added a men’s ice hockey team to its list of varsity sports in September, Big Ten hockey became the next logical step.

Current Big Ten Conference athletic directors that sponsor men’s ice hockey announced today that they will recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors that it become an official conference sport starting in 2013-14. The proposed conference would include Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Six teams is the smallest number allowed by the NCAA in order to be recognized as an official conference.

A 20-game conference schedule would allow the six-team league to have each squad play the other five schools four times. The regular season would be followed by an annual conference tournament in March, with the winner garnering an automatic NCAA tournament selection.

“We are excited about the launch of hockey in the Big Ten conference. I believe that sponsoring men’s ice hockey will enhance the conference, its member institutions, and college hockey,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said in a statement. “Already, there is intense competition among the six programs on the ice, and this will quickly develop into one of the most exciting leagues in the nation.”

If the conference does indeed accept the recommendation as expected, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conferences would be drastically affected. The CCHA would lose Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, three of its high-profile teams. Minnesota and Wisconsin would exit the WCHA. Penn State’s team does not begin play until 2012-13.

Since Penn State’s decision to launch a hockey program, Big Ten schools have been working with both the CCHA and WCHA to try to find a solution that works for each conference. This includes a strong commitment to scheduling non-conference games with both the CCHA and WCHA.

“Today’s announcement by the Big Ten does not come as a surprise as we have been engaged in discussing this topic with Big Ten officials for several months now,” CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said in a statement released by the conference. “We are studying the potential impact of this change and will continue to work closely with our membership and other stakeholders in college hockey to ensure the ongoing, long-term success of our league.”

WCHA commissioner Bruce M. McLeod released a similar statement.

The introduction of a new sport to the Big Ten not only means a new championship but increased revenues for the highly-successful Big Ten Network.

“We’re looking forward to a schedule being filled with conference games against Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, which will be great games for home venues and the Big Ten Network,” Hollis said. “Playing only 20 Conference games will allow our programs to continue to play non-conference contests against in-state rivals, important tournaments like the Great Lakes Invitational, and a competitive national schedule.”

The proposed league will be decided upon by Big Ten presidents and chancellors in June.


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