WCHA, Northern Michigan Make Move Official
CHN Staff Report
SAINT PAUL, Minn. The WCHA and Northern Michigan announced today the Wildcats' official acceptance into the conference for 2013-14.
The move is part of a massive re-structuring in college hockey that started this spring, all centered around the 2013-14 season. That's the year the Big Ten will begin play, a move that has led to a variety of others, particularly the formation of the NCHC, in which five WCHA schools will leave for the new league.
Between those two new conferences, the WCHA would be left with five teams in 2013-14, one short of the required minimuim for an automatic NCAA bid. Meanwhile, NMU's current conference, the CCHA, is expected to be left in a similar boat. That spurred this decision between the two parties.
Beyond that, Northern Michigan will get to renew an intra-conference rivalry with fellow Upper Peninsula team Michigan Tech. NMU was once a member of the WCHA from 1984-97.
“We couldn’t be more excited about welcoming back Northern Michigan University to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association family,” said WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod. “We were naturally disappointed when the Wildcats left the WCHA in 1997 after a successful 13-year partnership but it’s wonderful to again have them on board as a sixth Association member beginning with the 2013-14 season.
“Northern Michigan is a first-class institution with a great college hockey tradition, enthusiastic fans and a supportive community in Marquette. This is a great fit for both of us – again – and we all look forward to NMU’s highly-skilled, tenacious style of hockey further enhancing an already-great brand of WCHA Hockey.”
The WCHA had announced a commitment to add Northern Michigan last week, following approval by NMU's Board of Trustees to allow the athletic department to pursue the move. But the WCHA had to clear up legal issues first, having to do with voting rights. The WCHA moved to amend its by-laws so that only the five remaining schools could vote to approve measures that would affect them as of 2013-14.
Said Northern Michigan president Les Wong, “NMU is honored that the WCHA approached us with the idea of rejoining its hockey conference. The schools that will be in the WCHA in 2013-14 share many similarities with Northern. We all have similar locations with hometowns that passionately support their hockey programs. We also all offer similar academic offerings and have similar student bodies. We all have strong NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs but a Division I hockey program. Having our hockey team travel west also compliments our recruiting footprint for not just athletics, but the university as a whole.”
Northern Michigan head hockey coach Walt Kyle, no stranger to the WCHA, said, “This is a time of change for college hockey and that doesn’t worry me. I think when the dust settles, college hockey will be in as good, if not better shape – it will just look a little different.
“I’ve been saying all along that I know NMU will be in a great hockey conference over the next two years – in the CCHA and then in the WCHA. It’s important that people know that we value our current CCHA members and hope to continue strong relationships with them in the future as part of our non-conference schedule. However, playing in the same conference as Michigan Tech, our next-door U.P. neighbor, will boost that ongoing rivalry. It’s always special to play the Huskies and I know the Upper Peninsula hockey fans will be excited that NMU-MTU battles will take on even greater importance being league games. Our recent history with St. Cloud State – going into double overtime in the NCAA Tournament against them two years ago – is also something we can build into a good rivalry. We do a lot of recruiting west of the U.P., so increasing our playing exposure in that direction is a plus.”