Hockey East Officially Welcomes Notre Dame
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
After a lengthy process, Notre Dame and Hockey East finally made their union official today at a news conference at the Irish's new Compton Arena.
Notre Dame becomes the 17th team to announce a change in conference affiliation as of the 2013-14 season.
It was also revealed that Notre Dame has a deal with NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) to televise its home games nationally.
The conference change was prompted by a series of moves that came before, starting with the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference, which pulled five teams out of the CCHA and WCHA. Once that happened, it was presumed Notre Dame would be looking elsewhere instead of playing in watered down CCHA. But the issue was propelled further when the formation of the NCHC was announced, ultimately pulling two more CCHA and six more WCHA teams out.
"We felt a pressure to get it right," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "We considered Independence, the newly formed (NCHC) and we considered Hockey East. ... The scheduling challenges of an independent model wasn't going to work."
As Notre Dame continued to mull invitations from the NCHC and Hockey East, it was negotiating its own television deal, which it could then bring to the respective leagues to see which would be OK with it.
That deal leverages a longstanding partnership between Notre Dame and NBC, which has exclusively televised the school's football games for years. NBC Sports Network president John Miller chimed into the news conference via telephone.
Notre Dame had a preference for the NCHC because of its Western footprint, but the NCHC ultimately decided it didn't want to accept Notre Dame with its TV deal in tow.
Hockey East was the remaining option, but it's hardly a bad one.
"This is going to be a great time for us," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "With a national television deal with NBC Sports, it will allow our program to become more national. ... Recruiting was a big part of this. With home games on national television, it will allow us to recruit across the country."
Swarbrick said, "We use sport to promote the university. We believe our affiliation with HEA allows us to do that. ... We hope we bring to Hockey East as much as we know it will bring to us."
That brings Hockey East to 11 teams as of 2013-14, and could set off further chain reaction. Commissioner Joe Bertagna has already stated a preference for the league to finalize at 12 teams. But the process of finding that team hasn't really begun.
"We've been internally, as a league, looking for a way to make the league better for quite some time." Boston University athletic director Mike Lynch, who chaired an expansion committee, said. But for a 12th team, Lynch said, "We're not quite there yet."