Early July is a special time for hockey fans. With the season concluded we've held the annual amateur draft and are now more than a week into the free agency season. Mini-camps are underway around the league. It's the time for us, the fanbase, to open up the "gifts" our front office so generously give us and talk about how great they are (or not) and say, "Look what I got!", in varying tones and inflections. A special time indeed. Except for Travis, maybe. But lost in the shuffle were some announcements of big changes in NCAA college hockey looming in the next couple of years, thanks to the influence of the owner of the Buffalo Sabres.
Terry Pegula is a billionaire, and then some. He's also a big hockey fan which he proved to everyone by buying the Sabres. He's signing free agents, reorganizing the farm system, getting trades done, and the like. He's also endowed Penn State's fledgling men's and women's ice hockey teams which spawned the creation of a Big Ten league in which they will compete a couple of years from now. Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Ohio St., Penn St., and Wisconsin will comprise the six-team minimum requirement for NCAA sanctioning. But also this week, the Grand Forks Herald broke the story of a new, yet to be named, six-team league being formed from teams coming from the WCHA and CCHA. The result of these defections is that the WCHA and CCHA will each be left with only five teams and thus will lose NCAA sanctioning. Their respective remaining teams will likely need to merge into yet another league in order for their programs to survive and one or both of the WCHA and CCHA will cease existence. I'm all in favor of any serious efforts to expand and improve the game of ice hockey at all levels. I commend Mr. Pegula for it, but I can't help thinking he has put many people to a lot of trouble.
This reorganization of college hockey is more than just the legal and logistical changes to be made by the individual programs. The way the NHL views NCAA hockey and its players will change as well. I believe the Big Ten teams will draw the best talent with the others getting the leftovers, creating something along the lines of a Division One and Division Two college football scenario. Evaluating talent will become more difficult. Certainly the way players are recruited, drafted, given scholarships, signed as undrafted free agents, etc. will require greater attention and due diligence than before by both schools and professional teams alike. The whole view of college hockey as a developmental system will change in the years ahead. Is this a good thing? If your a Big Ten team, no worries. But the rest of the affected teams will struggle, including defending champion Minnesota-Duluth.
An announcement of the new conference will come on Wednesday in Colorado Springs. Meanwhile, here is a small sample of links and quotes for your perusal:
My first post, so thanks for your patience.