The first puck has yet to drop in the newly-formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference, but the league's first official off-season was an eventful one. Here's a look at five of the biggest stories from over the summer in the NCHC.
1. Scherr Quits, Fenton Hired as League Commissioner
In early May, reports surfaced that NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr had been offered, and had accepted a position as Chief Operating Officer of the inaugural European Games, which will take place in Azerbaijan. Scherr and the league confirmed that he had been approached with the offer, but had not yet accepted. Later that month, Scherr officially accepted the position, forcing him to resign his duties as commissioner, and leaving the NCHC looking for their second commissioner before the league had played their first game.
The league chose to look internally with their second hire, naming Miami administrator Josh Fenton as the league's second commissioner. Fenton played a key role in the creation of the league, allowing him to jump into duties relatively quickly.
2. NCHC Adopts the Shootout
Last week, the NCHC announced that they will use a shootout to settle ties in league games, joining the Big Ten as the second conference to do so. All league games will be worth three points. If the two teams are tied after regulation, and a 5-minute overtime, the game goes into the official books as a tie, and a three player shootout will determine which team gets the extra league point.
For CCHA ex-pats Western Michigan and Miami, the system will be exactly the same as the one they used in the CCHA. The league's other six teams will have to adjust, but ultimately, the change should have relatively little impact, given that it doesn't affect national computer rankings.
3. McCarron Is League's First Draft Pick, But Signs with Habs
Western Michigan recruit Michael McCarron became the NCHC's first ever NHL draft pick this past June when the Montreal Canadiens selected him at 25th overall, making him the only potential NCAA player selected in the first round of the draft. But almost immediately after McCarron was selected, speculation began that he would never make it to Western Michigan's campus. Two weeks after being selected, McCarron signed an entry-level deal with the Canadiens, with the intent of spending the upcoming season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Despite the letdown of losing McCarron, it was still a successful NHL Draft day for the NCHC, with 19 other players with ties to the league being selected, and at least one player from every team in the league being selected.
4. A New Face in Denver
Last year's college hockey season ended with a shock when Denver chose to fire long-time head coach. and one of the NCHC's architects in George Gwozdecky. The Pioneers moved quickly to hire a replacement, hiring Dubuque(USHL) head coach Jim Montgomery in mid-April, snagging him away from his alma mater of Maine.
Montgomery's first summer on the job included being in the middle of the summer's biggest recruiting drama. Northeastern recruit Mike Szmatula, one of the USHL's top scorers last year, tried to get released from his signed letter of intent with the Huskies in order to follow his junior head coach to Denver. Northeastern refused to grant him his release, meaning Szmatula would have had to sit out a year at Denver in order to play for them. Eventually, Szmatula relented, and agreed to play for Northeastern.
5. TV Schedule Released to Mixed Reviews
One of the reasons given for the founding of the NCHC was the potential for a league-wide television deal. The league signed an exclusive deal with CBS Sports Network in hopes of getting their teams featured on television more often. In mid-July, CBS Sports Network released their television schedule for the season, which featured just 18 games in a heavily backloaded schedule.
Teams like Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Nebraska-Omaha will each be televised two or fewer times. North Dakota led the way with six televised games, but the league's exclusivity contract means North Dakota fans living out-of-area won't be able to watch games on Fox Sports networks like they have been able to in the past, meaning they will have fewer nationally televised games than they did last year.