Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tsunami Watch: The Flood Recedes

This is our final edition of Tsunami Watch. Why? Because the radical changes in the college hockey world caused by the advent of varsity hockey at Penn State are over.

But, you say, the most exciting part of all could be just around the corner for RPI! Perhaps. But it will be a secondary reaction if it happens.

Here is where we currently stand for 2013-14.

* There will essentially be one new conference: the Big Ten. Thus, at the end of the day, we're back to six conferences, where we were when the CHA was still around.

* The CCHA membership will disperse into four of those six conferences - Notre Dame to Hockey East, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State to the Big Ten, Miami and Western Michigan to the NCHC, and the balance to the WCHA.

* The WCHA, while it will continue to exist, will look radically different, with three less teams than they currently stand and, really, no programs that would be considered power programs. We could be talking about a WCHA that moves to the level of the ECAC.

* The only thing left to shake out will be autobids, which may not be back to six until 2015-16 under the rules. NCAA regulations say six teams of any league must have been playing together for two full seasons before they can have the autobid conferred upon them. That would seem to leave out the Big Ten off the bat since the rule applies to specific sports, but it could also leave the NCHC and the WCHA high and dry.

The NCHC might have the excuse that six of their teams have been playing together in the WCHA. The new-look WCHA, however, has only 4 teams that have played together in the previous incarnation of the league, and only 5 that played together in the CCHA.

That leaves us with four scenarios.
1) The WCHA, as the previously existing league, gets an autobid, while the NCHC has to wait two years.
2) The NCHC, as the league with six previously existing league members, gets an autobid, while the WCHA has to do without for a couple of seasons.
3) Both leagues get an autobid.
4) Neither league gets an autobid.

And, of course, the Big Ten could somehow manage to get a waiver for a supposedly unwaiverable rule.

Anyway, here's what the college hockey landscape looks like after the tsunami. The only potential secondary changes are a 12th team for Hockey East and, if that team comes from the ECAC, a move by an Atlantic Hockey team into the ECAC. Any further discussions by the discontented programs of Atlantic Hockey at a new conference would be on its own track.

Big Ten
Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

NCHC
Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.

WCHA
Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan.

Hockey East
Boston College, Boston University, Maine, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Notre Dame, Providence, UMass, UMass-Lowell and Vermont.

ECAC & Atlantic Hockey
Unchanged

Independents
Alabama-Huntsville

Recently discussed potential new programs
Buffalo and MSU-Moorhead

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