Big Ten hockey could drastically alter college game
Creating a Big Ten hockey conference would alter the landscape in college hockey and benefit bigger schools such as MSU.
The athletic directors of conference schools that sponsor hockey announced their decision to recommend to the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors that hockey become an official conference sport beginning in the 2013-14 academic year,. With the change members of the six-team league would reap the benefits of playing tough competition and receiving increased exposure.
The conference’s six teams would make for a power league thanks to the successes of WCHA teams Wisconsin and Minnesota and CCHA powerhouses MSU, Michigan and Ohio State, and Penn State, which announced it would create a program beginning in 2012-13 , also would add to the appeal.
The most obvious benefit would seem to come in the form of increased exposure on the Big Ten Network, which reportedly will broadcast at least 40 games per season and would be able to televise multiple games every weekend.
MSU, Michigan and Ohio State appeared on TV often this season in the CCHA. Regular appearances on the Big Ten Network as opposed to various of channels such as CBS College Sports Network, Comcast and others should provide more exposure.
Beyond that, the head-to-head matchups between conference heavyweights should benefit hockey fans, with Michigan and MSU having won 18 combined CCHA regular season titles since 1985. Wisconsin and Minnesota also are strong, with the Badgers having won six national titles and the Golden Gophers having won five.
The Spartans have matched up with the Badgers and Gophers once a year for nonconference games, but playing a Big Ten schedule of 20 games would allow for four games apiece against the powerhouse programs. Having four multiple national championship winners in the same conference would make for ultra-competitive play and perhaps steal NCAA Tournament bids away from smaller conferences.
For MSU, facing U-M, Minnesota, and Wisconsin week in and week out will increase the pressure to win to be in position for an NCAA Tournament bid at season’s end and would decrease the likelihood of creating winning streaks.
The obvious drawback to a potential Big Ten hockey conference would be the weakening of the CCHA and WCHA conferences. Those five teams have won 23 combined National Championships since 1948.
Commissioners from both conferences said in statements Monday they are looking for ways to ensure the long-term well-being of their respective leagues, but if the Big Ten adds hockey, the CCHA will be without three major teams, which surely will impact recruiting and other facets of the game.
The Big Ten announced in its news release Monday the conference would work to create nonconference games against CCHA and WCHA opponents, which would become possible because the Big Ten schedule would call for 20 games instead of the CCHA’s 28-game conference season, but the move ultimately would create separation.
The move creates a lot of positives for MSU, but greatly changes the landscape in college hockey and leaves question marks for the smaller schools.
Jeff Kanan is a State News sports reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.