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July 13, 2011 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

New Conference Officially Born

CHN Staff Report

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — College hockey's seventh conference — dubbed the National Collegiate Hockey Conference — was officially born Wednesday in a Colorado Springs conference room. It will begin play in 2013-14, the same year the Big Ten begins.

As previously reported throughout the past week, the league will consist initially of five breakaway WCHA programs — Denver, Colorado College, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha — plus Miami, which will leave the CCHA. The league could still grow; it was acknowledged that Notre Dame has been given an invitation and is mulling it over. Others could join down the road.

The name of the conference includes the word "National" for a reason, conference officials state ...

It doesn't have a commissioner, a logo or a television deal, and it still needs to be officially incorporated. But the NCHC does have a Twitter feed and Facebook page, and what had been dubbed the "Super League" by some, now has a real name, too.

The athletic directors and coaches of the six schools were on hand. They said the first priority was incorporating, then finding a commissioner.

When asked why the decision was made to form the new conference, the general response focused on the need and desire to keep their hockey programs strong and competing for national championships on a regular basis. When asked why this wasn't possible anymore in the WCHA, the response generally focused on the possibility of declining revenue.

The reasons for possible declining revenue? In the eyes of the six NCHC schools, particularly the five leaving the WCHA, it started with Minnesota's and Wisconsin's decision to depart for the Big Ten. This, it is believed, will lead to declining revenue for the league, and leave the five breakaway schools with fewer home dates against "big names."

All NCHC administrators bristled when asked about hard feelings being left behind, and whether meetings on the formation of the new conference were done in secret.

The WCHA is left obviously stung, and in two years, will consist of only five teams pending other changes.

"Obviously it's a tough day for the WCHA and a sad one for me personally," said McLeod, "and it's one that is not easy to put into perspective. We wish everyone well, but make no mistake, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is not going away. The league will proudly mark it's 60th season this fall and we will continue to operate as a full-fledged Association and continue to do business the way we always have – in a first-class and forward-thinking manner.

"We remain firm in our belief both that the game of college hockey is the best there is and that the WCHA will always be at the forefront of doing what is in the best interests of our sport. ... The WCHA has a short-term plan that we will implement immediately. In the long-term, we will continue to formulate a strategic approach that will ensure the well-being of this Association and it's member teams for the long run. As a group, we remain committed and we are 100 percent confident our future remains bright."

The CCHA will have seven teams, but expects further departures, such as Notre Dame and Western Michigan; and perhaps Northern Michigan and/or Alaska to the WCHA.

"Today’s announcement does not come as a surprise as we have been engaged in discussing this topic with Miami, and other CCHA schools, for several months now," CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch said. "The league respects the right of all members to examine institutional and geographic similarities with other schools, and ultimately determine their own place within college hockey. The conference continues to work closely with the remaining membership to ensure there is a place for them, and the CCHA, in the evolving landscape."

A key component for the NCHC going forward will be a television contract, although most of the six schools involved have television exposure already to some degree or another.

Some, especially coaches, expressed varying degrees of remorse or mixed feelings for leaving their old friends behind, and know there might be varying degrees of hard feelings. But all were nonetheless excited to be moving forward.

Check back with CHN throughout the week for more coverage.

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