Arizona State Finalizing Deal to Join NCHC
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Arizona State is completing a deal with the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) to join as a member, beginning as early as 2017-18 but possibly 2018-19, College Hockey News has learned.
The deal is expected to be finalized over the next couple of weeks, though still must be approved by the school presidents of the NCHC members.
Meanwhile, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton released a statement denying that a deal was imminent. "Although we will continue to discuss expansion, the reports made earlier regarding an impending change of membership within our conference are inaccurate," Fenton said in the statement. "We remain guided by a keen focus to strengthen the NCHC and helping to grow the game of college hockey."
Arizona State began playing as a Division I program this season, with an independent schedule. It will also be an independent this year, as it continues to ramp up its program.
ASU would be the ninth member of the NCHC.
The NCHC was formed in the aftermath of the creation of Big Ten hockey. When the five Big Ten schools left what was then the WCHA and CCHA, a number of remaining stronger hockey schools from those conferences decided to form a new conference of their own. In the three years since, the NCHC has proven to be a formidable league, and brought home its first national championship this year with North Dakota.
Arizona State had discussions with the Big Ten, but the Big Ten ultimately balked, mainly over geographical reasons, sources said.
Arizona State was a long-standing strong club program, but decided to take the leap to varsity status after an infusion of more than $35 million in donations, even though it had not yet had plans for a new arena. The team has played some home games in Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., home of the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL, but both teams are seeking a new deal, perhaps together. Glendale is about 12 miles northwest of Phoenix, while ASU's main campus in Tempe is on the southeast side.