NCHC Happy With 8
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
While Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna seems ready to accept Notre Dame, if that's what Notre Dame wants, the power brokers in the new NCHC are not so sure.
Bertagna didn't come right out and say so, but the whole deal, all along, hinged on whether Notre Dame's TV plans were compatible with what the two conferences would accept.
Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph, a main mover in the NCHC, hasn't come right out and said anything either. But it seems clear that the NCHC is more resistant to Notre Dame's plans.
Consequently, now with eight teams in the league — with St. Cloud State and Western Michigan accepting recent invitations — Ralph said things are stable, but allows some wiggle room for a possible ninth.
"We really wanted to be at eight. We won't go beyond nine," Ralph said.
"One of the things fans like about eight is, it gets everyone in your building every year," Ralph said. "Fans are vocal about wanting to see that. This year, we don't have Minnesota or North Dakota in our building. That's a significant revenue loss for us. And our fans want to see the best teams, future NHL players, the best coaches."
At this point, the only possible ninth team is Notre Dame, under the right terms. The league won't go beyond eight for anyone except Notre Dame at this point.
Ralph said that Notre Dame has been given a deadline, but he wouldn't disclose what that date was.
But if eight was a good number, why didn't that happen from the beginning? Ralph said that the recent addition of two schools was part of a natural process, that was forced to start earlier.
"We started out with a small number and schools have been added in," Ralph said. "We were found out by the media and it forced our hand earlier than we wanted, and pushed our process (of identifying additional schools to invite) back. But what came out of it was the result we wanted initially."
College hockey has been far from the only NCAA sport affected by change. In fact, football has been the prime mover in shakeups of numerous all-sport conferences. But Ralph believes the college hockey changes are unrelated to the larger picture.
"If there was no shifting of conferences nationwide, this still would've occurred," Ralph said of the NCHC's formation. "This was a few years in the making. Even if the Big Ten didn't happen, it would've been interesting to see if this would've happened."
Meanwhile, the search continues for a commissioner. Ralph said the hope is to have someone picked by some time in November, with that person starting the job on Jan. 1, 2012. Ralph also said that the selection will not be himself.