The WCHA may be coming to a computer screen near you this fall.
Following two days of meetings in Bemidji, Jack Hittinger of the Bemidji Pioneer reports that the league is looking to stream its games online beginning next year.
Bemidji State president Richard Hanson described the package as an internet-based streaming service similar to ESPN3. At the moment, he said, it doesn't involve a league-wide television deal and it's still in the early stages. On Monday the presidents sat through a presentation outlining how such a package would work.
"It'll be a web feed from all of our schools, and while that's not as good as television it's still useful," he said. "So today we took the first couple of steps. We got the model explained to us."
Hanson said the league would be working with Fox, which is launching a new streaming service called Fox Sports Go.
The WCHA, which will have 10 teams next fall stretching from Alaska to Michigan, has never had its rights bundled together outside of the Final Five. Previously teams have had local deals producing games with stations ranging from public television to regional sports networks. Those deals will still be in place. However, people across the country will be able to see their team play.
On the surface, it is a great idea. College hockey continues to expand its presence on television. Where only a few years ago you would be lucky to see 1 or 2 games per weekend, there are 6-7 with the right cable package. Add media companies like ESPN making more and more live events available online for streaming and there is no excuse for an event to not have a web feed. Other teams and conferences hopefully will follow suit.
Hanson stated that the WCHA, which lost 8 of its 12 teams last year to other conferences, isn't "the discards from the super-league," and he is right. There is talent. Ferris State was in the national championship game in 2012. Minnesota State reached its first NCAA Tournament in ten years last season.
At the same time, their exposure cannot be guaranteed. The WCHA web feeds are competing out west with TV.
The Big Ten and NCHC, both of whom begin their inaugural hockey seasons this fall, have signed television deals with the Big Ten Network and CBS Sports Network, respectively. Over in New England, Hockey East is shown on NESN with national appearances on the home of the NHL - NBC Sports Network. As much as live sports streaming has grown, it still has a long way to go to compete with television and casual fans stumbling across a game.
But the more chances to watch college hockey the better. If the streams work properly and don't constantly freeze (as they have been known to do in my experience), then the WCHA's deal with Fox Sports Go is a win for fans.
You can follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.