COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth
and five other top hockey programs will make up the new National
Collegiate Hockey Conference at the start of the 2013-14 season,
the schools announced Wednesday.
Minnesota Duluth, Colorado College, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha and
North Dakota of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association will join
current Central Collegiate Hockey Association member Miami of Ohio
in the new league.
The upstart conference hopes to also add Notre Dame, but an
agreement with the Fighting Irish hasn't been made yet.
"Notre Dame is in conversations with us," North Dakota
athletic director Brian Faison said. "They're certainly a program
that meets our core values of our conference and we have an
interest in them, but we'll continue to explore other options."
The conference laid out its immediate priorities, which include
hiring a commissioner and adding other schools.
"I don't think there's a magic number. It still needs to be
discussed," Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said of how many
teams would eventually make up the conference.
"We all feel there are going to be other expressions of
interest," Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph said. "I
don't think you'll see us stay at six. We'll grow to seven, maybe
The landscape of college hockey changed this year when the Big
Ten announced a plan to form a hockey conference in two seasons.
The new Big Ten hockey league will take Minnesota and Wisconsin
from the 50-year-old WCHA to play with Michigan, Michigan State and
Ohio State of the CCHA and the startup program at Penn State. That
shake up led to the formation of the NCHC.
"Talks of Big Ten hockey go back 15 years," Denver athletic
director Peg Bradley-Doppes said. "When Big Ten hockey was formed,
it created a tipping point. That tipping point created more
The WCHA will have only five teams remaining when the National
Collegiate Hockey Conference begins - Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji
State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State in Mankato and St. Cloud
"Obviously, it's a tough day for the WCHA and a sad one for me
personally, and it's one that is not easy to put into
perspective," WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in a statement.
"We wish everyone well, but make no mistake, the Western
Collegiate Hockey Association is not going away.
"The league will proudly mark its 60th season this fall and we
will continue to operate as a full-fledged association and continue
to do business."
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference boasts a strong
contingent of teams. In the past 12 seasons the schools account for
14 Frozen Four appearances and four national championships. Besides
Minnesota Duluth's title this spring, Denver won back-to-back
titles in 2004-05, and North Dakota won the championship in 2000.
All six teams in the new conference competed in the NCAA
tournament this year.
"This type of conference, where you have the best playing each
other every weekend starting in October is a daunting task,"
Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. "We want to play the best. We
understand it's going to be difficult."
The competitiveness of the teams was a big draw for
"We've made a huge commitment to hockey," athletic director
Trev Alberts said. "This is exactly what we envisioned two and a
half years ago, aligning with programs that have really competed at
the highest level of hockey."
Keeping rivalries intact was also important to Denver and
Colorado College, which are located 75 miles apart.
"For our fan bases and college hockey on the front range, it
was important to keep us together," Ralph said. "It's a happening
event and we wanted to make sure it continued."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)