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The Speculation That Will Just Not Die

August 12, 2010

Being a Midwesterner and one that grew up here, I’m ingrained with the idea that there is no better conference than the Big Ten. Although my alligence lies with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, the only conference that matters is the Big Ten. If it’s football, basketball, etc, I really only care about the Big Ten.

I guess in the South they’re pretty hyped on their brand of football, that’s nice. Give me Ohio St. v. Michigan. Hell, give me the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Regardless of the trash talking storm I’m sure to be starting, I am a completely biased Midwesterner that loves the Big Ten.

Now we all know that I love hockey. What if there was a Big Ten hockey conference? Well, first I think I would start by doing a little jig. Then I would probably make Big Ten hockey a large focal point of this blog or my upcoming podcast.

Yet, it’s not going to happen. At least not any time soon.

It seems that speculation about Big Ten hockey comes up every year anymore. This year’s talk arose from the news that Penn State will be building a hockey arena and starting NCAA hockey programs.

For those of you that do not follow college hockey, I’ll make a quick designation. A high amount of NCAA Division I universities have hockey teams, but most of them do not play in the NCAA because the standards required by the governing body are too demanding for most programs. Due to this, most schools have club teams that function essentially at a relatively high level of play, but don’t have the NCAA seal of approval. These teams play in the ACHA. Although all 11 Big Ten member schools are represented by a hockey team, only five play in the NCAA.

Penn State would be the sixth Big Ten team in the NCAA and thus, the speculation began.

Let’s first start with the potential conference’s size of six teams. There currently is not a conference in NCAA Men’s Hockey that operates with so few members. It is completely possible for a conference that small to exist, but it seems rather unlikely as the scheduling would become rather repetitive.

Big Ten hockey teams already have their games broadcast on the Big Ten Network. There wouldn’t be any additional money coming in from that source, as things currently stand. In fact, the only way there could be a further gain is from making the network focus on the newly created conference. Furthermore, most of these teams have established fan bases that fill their stadiums. It’s been said that the Big Ten programs in the CCHA control the conference because of their cash cow status. If Big Ten teams flocked together as they are now, I couldn’t foresee enough of a gain as compared to the potential damage they could do to smaller universities.

In fact, as it stands, the only way a Big Ten conference could happen in hockey is by inviting in other established programs.

This would be an interesting dilemma.

While most college hockey fans probably wouldn’t care, I’m sure you’d have some blowhard that needs to fill a column writing about how adding universities like Miami of Ohio hurts the sacred Big Ten name. Then comes the ensuing debate. Hockey fans immediately go on the defensive. People say stupid things, etc, etc.

Well, I suppose that added publicity would be good for getting word out.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe a Big Ten hockey conference would work. The issue is that at its current state, it will not happen.

Another issue comes from trying to sever Minnesota from their natural rivalries they have in the WCHA. Trying to pry the Golden Gophers from frequent contests against in-state schools and the University of North Dakota would be difficult.

I am in love with the concept of a Big Ten hockey conference, but we need to stop talking about it. Every year it comes up in speculation and although I hope it does happen one day, it’s not this year.  It may not be for a while, or ever. So stop getting my hopes and the hopes of every other true blue Midwesterner up. It’s not fair.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Chip Armonaitis permalink
    August 12, 2010 3:33 pm

    While I pretty much agree with your column, I think there is an angle you miss…. there is no rule that says a team cannot belong to two conferences. In fact, in college basketball, prior to the changing of some of the team’s relative status, there was such a thing as the Philly Five – Villlanova, Penn, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joseph’s. The winner of the Philly Five would hang a banner and all. And they all belonged to different conferences.

    Why can’t that happen here? Some extra prestige for the winner of the Big 10 hockey, without anyone having to abandon its current home would be on the line.

    No one suffers, and everyone wins.

    • August 12, 2010 3:37 pm

      If there was a Big Ten hockey tournament or in-season competition like that, I would follow it rather closely and probably buy tickets to it.

      Really great idea, I’m glad you brought it up. That seems like the best solution.

      • August 12, 2010 6:07 pm

        Hey thanks for the link.

        Right now I don’t think a Big 10 Hockey conference would work simply because Minnesota wouldn’t want to leave and lose their natural rivalries with 6 of the other 11 teams in their conference

      • August 12, 2010 6:09 pm

        and also, the Ivy League teams have sort of a separate thing even though there is no Ivy League conference: schools get an Ivy League champions banner (I think, I know it’s officially recorded) and there’s Ivy League player of the year, etc. Although all the Ivy League teams are in the ECAC so it is a different situation.

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