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Big 10 Hockey, Here We Come

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?

By Mitchell Bragg

Despite the struggles the teams from his hometown face on a yearly basis, Mitch still roots for all teams Buffalo. Outside of SAB Mitch is an attorney in Massachusetts & New York. You can follow him on Twitter via @mitch_bragg.

3 replies on “Big 10 Hockey, Here We Come”

I’m torn on this a) because as a BU alum I’m completely biased and think Hockey East is the best thing going in college hockey (best rivalry, a lot of history, Jack Parker, Jerry York, etc), b) I think if I were one of the other divisions, I’d be pissed if one of my teams got snatched. Within the divisions, you create a lot of history between teams. You play each other more and you get to know them. For example, say BC moved to a different division – even though I hate them with a passion, I’d be pissed if they left. Heck, I’d even miss Northeastern or Maine.

That said, having a big 10 is kinda cool. It has potential to bring more visibility to college hockey. We’ll see.

I know exactly what you mean Amanda. I went to an ECAC school and worked at a Hockey East school, so I feel your bias when it comes to thinking our leagues in the northeast are the better ones. Could you imagine Hockey East without BC or BU in it to beat up on other teams? I do think that Big10 hockey will be very competitive right way because of the money these programs have behind them for facilities, equipment, recruiting, etc. At many of these schools (i.e. Michigan, Michigan St., Wisconsin), hockey plays second fiddle to other money making sports like football and basketball. My guess is Penn St. will make the NCAA tournament within their first 5 years, easily.

Mitch you are insane if you think that Penn State will be in the NCAA tournament in its first five years. I wouldn’t bet on them making it into the tournament in their first 8 years unless they win the Big Ten tournament. This is a HUGE jump from the club level. Maine’s first game at the DI level was against Minnesota and they lost 16-1, it takes time to become competitive no matter how much money you put into it. It’s going to take a lot of time for them to recruit against schools like Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. I think you’re really under estimating how good those schools are, Minnesota and Wisconsin are coming from the WCHA (definitely the best and deepest conference in college hockey) and are in the top hockey region in all of America. Sure Penn State is putting a lot of money in it, but I wish you could compare that with the money that Minnesota, North Dakota, etc. put into it, because I guarantee you it is much more than 5 million. Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota are tops in the nation in attendance every year in that order, and for a good reason. They are 3 of the 4 most storied programs in college hockey history. I’m willing to bet that Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan win 9 of the first 10 Big 10 titles, with Michigan State having a shot at one and MAYBE 2 in there.

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