Top Five Offseason Stories in Hockey East

Jeff Jackson will lead his gold helmet clad Notre Dame Fighting Irish into Hockey East this October. - Elsa

Although UMass-Lowell fell short at the 2013 Frozen Four, Hockey East can still boast to being owners of four of the last six NCAA Championships.

1. Hockey East welcomed Notre Dame this summer, the first addition to the conference since Vermont joined before the 2005 season. Notre Dame expands the Hockey East brand outside of New England and brings a marquee, nationally recognized name in college athletics to the conference.

The arrival of Notre Dame also means a change in how Hockey East operates as well. Each league team will go from playing each other three times to two times, which means 20 league games instead of 27.

The league will also switch its playoff format. All 11 teams will make the postseason tournament with the top five teams earning a first round bye. The sixth seed plays the 11th seed, the seventh plays the 10th and the eighth plays the ninth. The teams will then be re-seeded for the quarterfinals.

2. For the first time in 40 years Jack Parker will not be the head coach of the Boston University Terriers. The 2013-2014 BU hockey team will usher in a new era with David Quinn leading the charge. Assistant coach and former Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers was retained, but former associate coach Mike Bavis was replaced by another alum. Los Angeles Kings scout Steve Greeley, who played at BU from 2000-2004, was named the new assistant coach this summer.

Quinn was a key part of the staff when the Terriers won the 2009 NCAA Championship before he headed to the pro coaching ranks. Since the magical NCAA championship night in Washington, D.C., he has been in the Colorado Avalanche organization, first as the AHL head coach in Lake Erie and then an assistant with the parent club.

Replacing Parker will be no easy task, but Quinn should be up for it. He has a wealth of experience and an extensive foundation to build on. Not to undermine any recruiting accomplishment of the past regime or the challenges of the new regime, but selling a youngster on playing hockey at BU is easier than at many schools. Five national championship banners, countless league and Beanpot championships, playing in an amazing state-of-the-art facility and being able to point to tons of alums who have gone on to NHL and Olympic success are just some of things BU coaches can point out to potential recruits.

3. Red Gendron is the other new head coach in the league. The former Maine, UMass and most recently Yale assistant is charged with returning the Black Bears hockey program to glory. He replaces Tim Whitehead who was fired in April after 12 seasons behind the bench.

Like Quinn, Gendron has coaching experience at the professional level as well as college hockey, having spent over a decade with the New Jersey Devils franchise. Gendron is one of the few men who can say he has multiple Stanley Cup Championship rings and NCAA Championship trophies. The New England College grad was one of Shawn Walsh's assistants when Maine won the 1993 NCAA Championship and was Keith Allain's right hand man when Yale won it all this past April.

Gendron cleaned house completely, bringing in an entirely new staff. Former Maine player Ben Guite and former Maine assistant Jay Leach will be Gendron's two new assistants. Guite knows what it is like to win a championship, being a member of the 1999 team that won college hockey's ultimate prize in Anaheim over archrival New Hampshire.

4. Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna also announced the return of Frozen Fenway. There will be four games over two weekends. Merrimack and Providence will kick things off with a game Saturday, January 4th followed by the marquee game of the outdoor series when Notre Dame and Boston College renew acquaintances.

A week later Northeastern will play UMass-Lowell, the defending Hockey East regular season and tournament champions. The nightcap on the second Saturday will be Maine and Boston University.

Some people love the outdoor games and some despise it. While the ice surface might not be as good as it is indoors and the views for the fans aren't ideal, playing outdoors is special for the players and coaches. Ask any coach or player and they will tell you how excited they are to play at historic Fenway Park, especially those who grew up in the region.

While some hockey purists might elect to stay at home and watch on television, there will be plenty of casual fans that will come out for these games. And until people stop showing up, outdoor games will continue.

5. There were six players that could have been on a Hockey East roster this fall that instead chose to turn pro, forgoing college eligibility. Five teams were affected, including league newcomer Notre Dame. Boston University was the only conference school to lose two players, having both Matt Nieto and Sahir Gill leave school for the pro ranks. Conor Allen (UMass), Chad Ruhwedel (UMass-Lowell), Ludwig Karlsson (Northeastern) and Anders Lee (Notre Dame) were the other four players to leave eligibility on the table.

UMass-Amherst, Northeastern and Vermont did some house cleaning over the summer as the three programs try to re-establish themselves in the conference. All three teams finished near or at the bottom of the league last winter. Each school cut at least three players. Most surprising was UMass-Amherst parting ways with goaltender Kevin Boyle and forward KJ Tiefenwerth who transferred to UMass-Lowell and Quinnipiac, respectively.

More from Western College Hockey Blog:

Jeff Cox is a hockey reporter for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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