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Realignment Talks Move Forward

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Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald wrote a pretty big article over the weekend--a holiday weekend, no less. Not like any of us needed a vacation--saying that North Dakota has held formal discussions about moving out of the WCHA and creating a new conference that have "progressed beyond preliminary stages".

The driving force behind these discussions is to create a conference composed primarily of larger programs that are willing to put a serious investment into their hockey program. Part of the reason for that is to stay competitive with the new Big Ten Hockey Conference. The other reason is that there seems to be dissatisfaction among certain teams with their current conference, and with college realigning the near future, now might be the best time to make a move.

As for the teams involved, North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College all seem to be pretty closely aligned. Minnesota-Duluth has reportedly been offered a spot.(Pause for the irony of trying to form a conference for TV purposes and inviting a team that couldn't draw enough interest to make a TV deal work with its own local TV station.) Nebraska-Omaha recently cut the schools football program to help move up to Division I in all sports, and is likely going to make hockey its cornerstone program. They would also be a very natural fit. As for the CCHA, Miami, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green are all pretty closely aligned. Miami and Western Michigan have both put a lot of money into their program recently and seem like natural fits. Bowling Green has had well-documented money troubles in recent years. It has always been unlikely those three MAC schools would end up in different conferences, but this may be a situation that breaks those schools up. Finally, there is Notre Dame. The Irish have flirted with Hockey East, but this new conference would seem to satisfy what they're looking for, namely, getting on TV more often, and is slightly less illogical from a geographical standpoint.

If this deal ends up getting worked out with the teams involved, it would be pretty devastating to the world of college hockey. It most likely leaves Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, possibly Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan, and St. Cloud State in pretty serious jeopardy without a conference. It would be a very sad day for college hockey if things came to that, especially if all that was gained was forming a conference that seems to make very little logical sense.