While any news out of college athletics is likely to revolve around the NCAA Basketball Tournament, there is still plenty of action going on in other sports. Back in September 2010 when it was announced that Terry Pegula had donated $88 million to Penn State to form a D-I hockey team, college hockey was abuzz with news that the next big move would be the creation of the Big 10 hockey league. To this point, that news has been nothing more than rumors, until over the weekend when sources indicated that a formal announcement could come as early as today that Big 10 hockey will arrive for the 2012-2013 season, one season earlier than initial expectations.
The newest college hockey league will initially be composed of six of the current Big 10 members, including Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. None of the schools left out, including Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Northwestern, currently have D-I hockey teams. Theoretically this means that the door could now be opened for five new teams to enter the D-I ranks. Considering that each of the schools without hockey teams currently have either, or in some cases both, a competitive D-I football team or D-I basketball team, and that these programs generally end up “funding” less prominent hockey programs, it is not unreasonable to think these schools could add a sheet of ice to their athletic facilities. Even in a tight economy, technically it wouldn’t be that hard for a school to come up with the roughly $5 million it takes to fund a complete D-I hockey program for a year.
What does this mean for college hockey as a whole?
A Big 10 hockey league could spell trouble for other NCAA hockey leagues, as several of them will be cherry-picked to create the new league. For example, the WCHA would lose Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, the CCHA could be dealt the biggest blow as Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State would all be departing to join the new league. Certainly none of these leagues would necessarily want competitive teams to leave, but both will still have enough teams left to sustain a decent schedule with both leagues having more than eight teams left after the various teams leave.
On the other hand, a Big 10 hockey league would almost surely be one of the most competitive on the market. While this year seems to be down year in the national polls for the future Big 10 teams, as only two of the five teams currently in existence are in the top 25, many of these schools are perennial powerhouses in college hockey. Collectively the teams will have won 23 NCAA men’s championships, including Michigan with 9 (tops in the NCAA), Michigan State with 3, Minnesota with 5, and Wisconsin with 6. When it comes to recruiting, there is no doubt the success of the league will play a role in a player’s decision to attend one of these schools.
What are your thoughts? Will Big 10 hockey be more competitive than any other league in college hockey?