WCHA, CCHA merger could be on the horizon
BEMIDJI — A merger between the remaining teams of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association could be on the horizon for the 2013-14 season.
The presidents of the six remaining WCHA schools for the 2013-14 WCHA season -- Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Michigan Tech, Alaska-Anchorage and Northern Michigan -- extended membership invitations to the five 2013-14 CCHA teams on Tuesday. The news was issued in a press release by the WCHA league office.
The CCHA teams are Alaska-Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan. Notre Dame was not given an invitation. The invitations passed with a unanimous vote from the WCHA and the CCHA schools have 30 days to accept or decline.
Lake Superior State President Tony McLain and Director of Athletics Kris Dunbar confirmed Tuesday that Lake State will accept the invitation.
"These schools bring a proud history and tradition with them from the CCHA that will only serve to enhance the already strong reputation of the WCHA," MSU, Mankato President Richard Davenport said in the press release.
"We are committed to creating stability for the conference and believe by inviting these institutions we will create one of the strongest conferences in the nation. This is one of the main reasons presidents voted (Tuesday) to invite CCHA member institutions to join our conference. Also, as presidents, we are committed to providing the best college hockey opportunities in the country for our student-athletes," Davenport added.
Administrators from the WCHA and CCHA held a joint meeting Tuesday in Chicago.
"During what were very informative and productive meetings in Chicago, and as we worked our way through the agenda, it became clear that all of these great institutions share a commonality in that every one of them is 100 percent committed to the sport of collegiate ice hockey," WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in the release.
"They also share a great deal philosophically both athletically and academically. From there, the idea of coming together was a natural progression."
The Division I college hockey landscape has experienced unprecedented change this offseason with the formation of two new conferences for the 2013-14 season: the Big Ten conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The Big Ten will take Minnesota and Wisconsin from the WCHA to join start-up program Penn State along with CCHA schools Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
In July, the NCHC was formed with WCHA schools North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and CCHA school Miami. The NCHC is seeking potential members and a commissioner.
CCHA program Notre Dame, which was not present at the WCHA-CCHA meetings Tuesday, is exploring its options for a conference. Rumored landing spots for Notre Dame are the NCHC or Hockey East.
Current CCHA program Northern Michigan was approved for WCHA membership in July after the NCHC formed.
"This is truly a significant and quite remarkable twist in what has been a period of great consternation and transition in the college hockey world," McLeod said. "On behalf of the WCHA, we couldn't be more excited and pleased to extend these invitations to Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan."