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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Time to realign. Wayne State, currently a member of the five-team CHA, has made an official application to join the CCHA:

“We have officially made a proposal to join the league for the 2008-09 season and sent a letter of application,” said coach Bill Wilkinson. “We have not gotten any reaction or been given a timetable, but I expect it will be on the agenda for the spring meetings in Florida — at least I hope so. I don’t expect anything until then."
This is a precarious time for college hockey, as a wave of expansion that spawned a couple extra conferences and a larger NCAA tournament now teeters on the brink of dissolution. CHA teams keep popping up and folding, popping up and folding. Air Force recently bolted for Atlantic Hockey, where they get more guaranteed home games and compete against Army, dragging the CHA's membership under the minimum of six required to maintain a tournament autobid. They've managed to maintain it thanks to some rules hijinks facilitated by the college hockey powers that be, but that extension is a short-lived one.

The problem: the west sports two major conferences, neither of which wants to expand. Teams considering adding a D-I hockey program are given the unappealing prospect of going independent -- virtual suicide in the current landscape of megaconferences and sparse inter-regional play -- or joining the CHA, an unstable league with exactly zero name power. To grow the sport someone's going to have to sacrifice, but whenever you consider busting the WCHA up along a Minnesota-UW/UND-CC-DU axis, the WCHA fans start threatening to throw themselves off a bridge. The only real alternative appears to be a CCHA split, which I'm fine with. I care about exactly one rival: Michigan State. Splitting the CCHA like so...

Michigan-ishNot Michigan-ish

(CHA leftovers Robert Morris and Bemjidi are hereby remanded into the custody of the WCHA and ECAC/HE.)

...would create two conferences of reasonable strength now that Miami has a new arena and ND has Jeff Jackson, open up attractive places for teams like Penn State, Iowa State, and Syracuse to go, and finally allow some interesting nonconference games. Keeping the CHA teams around is key to maintaining the 16-team tournament.

PS: Week-old Johnson article.