Realignment Winners and Losers


I have tried to avoid the realignment talk as much as I can for as long as I can, given that we are two  years away from any real changes and I prefer to focus on things that will impact things that involve actual hockey. Nonetheless, as much as I want to ignore it sometimes it is still a huge story.

In general I have been opposed to the realignment because I think it will spell doom for several division 1 schools e.g.  Bowling Green and Lake Superior State, both of whom have rich histories and national championships to their names. However, with the news that Minnesota State-Moorhead is considering a jump to D1 hockey perhaps the breaking up of the WCHA and CCHA will provide a landing spot for new programs rather than push existing ones out. I do think a lot depends on what happens with those conferences merging, as a pair of 6-8 team conferences would be more welcoming of a new member than one 14(ish) teamer. Still, I stand by what I said in that a larger profile program looking to jump to D1 hockey won’t head to the WCHA (at least not for long) but would instead recruit similar sized institutions to join at one time. So while college hockey as a whole looks to be in the undecided camp as far as winners and losers go, I think there are some more definitive answers:


Western Michigan – I really do believe Western is a sleeping giant. They have good history and a fanbase that supports the team wholeheartedly. Still, one tournament appearance in the past 15 years and one CCHA title game appearance in the last 25 years doesn’t scream like a hockey powerhouse to me. And with Western having to replace departing coach Jeff Blashill (granted they will be able to sell candidates on the new conference and they have some money to throw around) Western seems like the “lucky to be here” member of the NCHC.

Notre Dame – One of the biggest names in college sports anyways, the Irish are now perhaps the most coveted team around. With a new multimillion dollar facility opening this year and an uncertain future in the CCHA, the NCHC and Hockey East are both courting the school. Notre Dame will have the opportunity to move to one of the best two conferences in the country, as well as having the bargaining chip that VERSUS will likely be interested in broadcasting some Irish hockey games. From what I have read and heard, it seems there is a bit of a split in South Bend, with most of the non-hockey higherups wanting to go to Hockey East, whereas many of the hockey people are opting for the NCHC.

St. Cloud State – The school with just one NCAA tournament win all time is probably the best remaining member of the WCHA. Instead of telling kids why they shouldn’t go to Minnesota, North Dakota or Wisconsin, they just have to keep them away from Mankato and Bemidji. Getting to compete with schools who spend similar dollars on college hockey

Michigan Tech – Again, part of it is due to the bigger schools leaving and them having to convince kids to come to Houghton over Mankato and St. Cloud, etc. Plus with Northern Michigan moving to the WCHA, Tech will have a nice natural rival, with the two schools being only 100 miles apart.


The CCHA – A lot of smart people I follow on twitter have said they don’t think this is the end for the CCHA, but I don’t really see how. Not only do I think the conference is in trouble but I think a lot of individual schools left are in trouble as well. Michigan has no incentive to travel to Lake State or Ferris State, and those schools rely fairly heavily on gate revenue provided by a visit from the Wolverines or Michigan State or Ohio State.

The WCHA – It is pretty well known that the WCHA suffers from a lack of good leadership. Without the big names still in the conference, the league will have to work that much harder at raising revenue, getting a TV deal, etc. and they will have to do it relying not on the big names of Minnesota, North Dakota, etc. but on the strength of the people in charge. Good luck.