April 24, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bemidji and UAH Make Their Pitches

CHN Staff Report

Both Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville were set to make presentations at the annual coaches' convention and league meetings in Florida, taking place this week, to prospective new conferences.

Each school is looking for a new home, with the dissolution of College Hockey America imminent.

The CCHA has at least given Huntsville an opportunity to make a presentation, but no formal plans to expand have been announced by the league, and are not expected to be. That makes Huntsville's bid a longshot.

Bemidji State has been riding high on the momentum of a Frozen Four bid, and groundbreaking on its new arena. But it still faces an uphill climb to gain entry in the WCHA.

Restricting its chances is the inability to find another team to go into the league together. Despite strong support for Bemidji's bid, particularly among the Minnesota schools, the obstacles of an 11-team league have proven too great, according to league sources.

"Even those who have been heavily in favor, saw the problems with making 11 teams works," said a source.

The WCHA, because of its wider geographic footprint, does not have the luxury of, say, midweek games, like Hockey East did when it was a nine-team league. This makes scheduling extremely difficult, if not cost prohibitive.

Despite Bemidji's presentation, the WCHA is not expected to take a formal vote on its acceptance. Instead, it will likely delay a vote for a few months, in the hopes something more definitive occurs that informs a decision.

The prospects of getting another team to make a bid with Bemidji State is proving as fruitless as the hopes of getting a new program to join College Hockey America did.

Rumors that Northern Michigan was interested in switching back to the WCHA were silenced when the school did not submit an application by the March 31 deadline date.

Minnesota State-Moorhead made news during the Frozen Four week by holding a news conference to suggest it was considering launching a men's Division I program. But despite the splashy headlines the announcement made in the Fargo-Moorhead area, the idea was met with extreme skepticism, at best, in the hockey community.

Moorhead's athletic director Doug Peters said the chance of a program starting was 50 percent, and said it needs to raise $10 million and find a conference affiliation. But there is no chance the WCHA would admit MSU-Moorhead without that program first playing for a number of years to prove its viability, making the "50 percent" statement dubious.

The presence of the Urban Plains Center, a newer arena in the area which is home to the USHL's Fargo Force, does make the possibility attractive down the road, but doesn't help Bemidji State now.

Operators of the UP Center have also approached North Dakota State University, located in Fargo, and Concordia College, which currently plays D-III hockey, about playing D-I hockey at their facility. But neither institution has given any indication it wants to go that route.

Consequently, the bottom line remains for Huntsville and Bemidji: They each need a new home, and neither has one.

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