NCHC Adds St. Thomas Beginning in 2026-27, It’s a Good Thing

by | May 25, 2024

NCHC Adds St. Thomas Beginning in 2026-27, It’s a Good Thing

by | May 25, 2024

Last week, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference added the University of St. Thomas as its 10th team, beginning in the 2026-27 season. The addition of UST happened quickly. According to The Rink Live, there were no formal discussions with the University of St. Thomas about becoming the conference’s 10th member during the annual convention in Naples, Florida.

This is a Positive Move

First, this is a good move for the league. The University of St. Thomas is a like-minded school with outstanding growth potential. They’ve moved from Division III to Division I in all their sports and are a member of the Summit League. They join fellow Summit League members in Denver, Omaha, and North Dakota. 

Adding the Tommies gives the league an even number of teams. Second, the NCHC will only have to do the scheduling pods for two years instead of long-term. Geographically, the Tommies are a good fit because they are within driving distance of St. Cloud State, Minnesota, Duluth, and North Dakota, possibly Omaha. It gives the conference another team inside the Midwest. 

From the NCHC Commissioner

“The NCHC is excited to welcome the University of St. Thomas to our ranks in 2026-27. During our annual NCHC meetings in Naples, the athletics directors engaged in a robust conversation about the Conference’s vision and goals in the current NCAA landscape, including membership. St. Thomas’s institutional vision and commitment to nationally competitive hockey, as well as their central location in our footprint and new facility, make them an ideal fit,” NCHC Commissioner Heather Weems said in a release from the NCHC. “The window of opportunity arose quickly, and we worked efficiently with our Board of Directors, Athletics Council, and the University of St. Thomas to achieve expansion. I want to thank St. Thomas President Rob Vischer and Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten for their vision and investment in hockey. We expect they will compete well against our current members and only strengthen the depth and quality of the NCHC.”

Director of Athletics Dr. Phil Esten

“The NCHC is among the premier conferences in all of college hockey, and we are thrilled to announce our membership in 2026.  The move aligns with our institutional and athletics trajectory and places the Tommies with the other Summit League hockey-playing members competing in the conference,” Esten said in a statement.  “We are enthusiastic about the new strategic opportunities this will bring our University and department as we will bring new rivalries to St. Paul and compete in expanded markets nationally.”

Say No to the Summit League Hockey Conference

With St. Thomas announcing that they’re joining the NCHC, some immediately called for the formation of the Summit League Hockey Conference. Hard pass on a Summit League Hockey Conference. Before we start with the NCAA doesn’t like single-conference sports. The Big Ten Conference is the only league with all its sports teams in the same conference—no other league can say that. It’s also the only conference that is entirely Power Five. From what I heard, there’s not a lot of support for the formation of the Summit League formation. 

The NCHC has built an identity as the top conference in college hockey. This subject is not up for debate. The NCHC has won six of the last eight NCAA titles. The Summit League is a lower-tier mid-major conference that hasn’t won a single national title in any sport. Moreover, the Summit League seems to have a problem with members coming and going, mostly going. 

Breaking down the NCHC members:
Big-12: ASU
MAC: Miami, WMU
Summit League: DU, Omaha, UND, UST

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