August 26, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Lake Superior, Alaska Accept WCHA Invite; WMU Waits

CHN Staff Report

[[Lake Superior State]] and Alaska became the first, among the five CCHA schools invited, to officially accept entrance into the WCHA, releasing a statement to that effect Thursday evening.

“Without fully knowing the final outcome, if everything realigns as we have it on paper today, I think this will be a better conference for Lake Superior State Hockey long-term than the CCHA was, and I thought the CCHA was pretty good,” LSSU president Tony McLain.

School athletic director Kris Dunbar added, “This will be a great step for our program – to find a league with teams that are similar to ours. We will be in a conference with similar schools and good hockey traditions. This should be appealing to fans, alumni and recruits. Our fans will continue to see good college hockey played in Taffy Abel Arena for years to come.”

The WCHA's invitation to the five CCHA schools — LSSU, Ferris State, Alaska, Western Michigan and Bowling Green — came after two rounds of talks between the leagues. (See the complete story here.)

Ferris State is expected to soon follow.

Western Michigan and Bowling Green will spend more time debating, and perhaps awaiting Notre Dame's decision on its new conference. Western Michigan released a statement Thursday as well, praising the proceedings, by stopping short of accepting the invitation.

“As we have been communicating for several months, Western Michigan University remains engaged in exploring all potential membership opportunities, having had significant and ongoing conversations with hockey schools across the country," WMU athletic director Kathy Beauregard said in the statement. "Our stated goals of competing at the highest level of Division I Ice hockey and of winning a national championship this decade have not changed; these goals will guide us to the best fit for our hockey program for the future.

“As identified earlier today in a joint release by the CCHA and WCHA, we have recently been engaged in discussions with those institutions who will remain members of their respective leagues at the conclusion of the 2012-13 hockey season. The description of the recent Chicago meeting as creating synergy is absolutely true as evidenced by the WCHA’s membership invitation. We, at Western Michigan, are very appreciative of this invitation and are equally appreciative of the stability this combined league will provide for the changing landscape of college hockey.”

Meanwhile, while this all means the CCHA will officially dissolve in 2013-14, after 42 years, the schools hope to still maintain some old rivalries.

“We hope for the chance to still play teams like Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State,” McLain said. “We’re expecting that to be part of our future.”

Dunbar said that Dr. McLain’s role in the negotiations was to contact college presidents of CCHA and WCHA schools and help find LSSU a stable home for its hockey program.

“I spoke to eight different university presidents over the last three weeks trying to position Lake Superior State so that no matter what happened around us, we felt we had a strong conference in which to play,” McLain said. “But most of the work was really done by our athletics director, Kris Dunbar. In my mind, she positioned us well to be in this realignment. Her role was 90 percent of the positioning, the negotiations, selling Lake Superior State’s hockey tradition. She talked to other ADs and representatives from the CCHA and WCHA.”

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