College Hockey Realignment Underway
Here’s a good post from the CollegeSportsinfo.com forums that sums up the upcoming movement:
It appears that D-1 hockey realignment is following a grand plan (in the wake of the CHA disintegration).
Hockey East Association stays at 10 teams (no change)
ECAC Hockey League stays at 12 teams (no change)
Atlantic Hockey Association absorbs Niagara and Robert Morris to go to 12 (approved 1/27)
WCHA (currently 10 teams) opened up for expansion to 12 –
(likely to admit Bemidji State + one other applicant (likely a team transferring from CCHA))
CCHA (currently 12 teams), assuming they lose a team to WCHA expansion, has application from U Alabama-Huntsville to replace team #12.
This will shove all 58 D-1 hockey teams into 5 conferences.
The question is “who wants to move to the WCHA, and who will WCHA accept along with Bemidji State ?”
WCHA has made overtures to:
Nebraska-Omaha (CCHA) – they seem happy where they are, and
Northern Michigan U (CCHA) – former WCHA member – geographically they are a rival of WCHA’s Michigan Tech in the U.P.
Other obvious possibilities: Alaska – Fairbanks (CCHA) and Air Force (AHA).
First, Air Force… they are the only team in AHA west of Pennsylvania. They seem to be a good competitive fit in AHA with Army, and the fact that the AHA has set a lower limit on scholarship players. Air Force fits geographically with the WCHA (Denver and Colorado College are in WCHA), however, Air Force would be at a competitive disadvantage, not being able to recruit foreigners or Canadiens. If they were to move to WCHA with Bemidji State, I suppose that would open a slot in AHA for UA-Huntsville, although UAH would then have to agree to trim schollies from 18 to 12, as Niagara and Robert Morris will have to.
Second, Alaska-Fairbanks… WCHA seems to want to avoid Fairbanks, even though this would offer the obvious pairing with WCHA member Alaska-Anchorage. I would think in a 12-team league, they could go to a 22-game schedule, and play everyone home-and-away. One trip to Alaska could hit both locations over the course of a single weekend (1 trip to Alaska), so the travel thing doesn’t seem that different than visiting just UAA. Fairbanks is quite a bit smaller than Anchorage, and BITTERLY cold during the winter. Anchorage is on the Pacific Ocean, and not nearly so “arctic”… If others could expound upon why UAF is so unattractive to the WCHA, I’d appreciate hearing about it….