Schedules, playoff formats and league championship sites for the revamped Western Collegiate Hockey Association are expected to finalized next week.
|File photo. BGSU Athletic Director Greg Christopher. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Bowling Green is one of nine schools that will be in the WCHA starting with the 2013-14 season when all of college hockey's realignment takes effect.
Joining BG will be Central Collegiate Hockey Association members Alaska (Fairbanks), Ferris State, Lake Superior and Northern Michigan.
The league will be completed by WCHA members Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State (Mankato).
League coaches, athletic directors and presidents will meet in Detroit June 12-14.
The revamped WCHA will even adopt new by-laws.
The meetings will start with discussions among the coaches and the ADs. The ADs then will meet, and forward their recommendations to the presidents, who then will vote on each proposal.
"Most everything is expected to be decided at the meetings in Detroit," BG athletics director Greg Christopher said.
Following is a look at the major items to be addressed:
The league is expected to play an 24- or 28-game league schedule.
Currently the CCHA and the WCHA both play 28 league games.
A 28-game schedule means teams would play six opponents four times each, and two opponents twice each.
A 24-game schedule means teams would play four opponents four times each, and four opponents twice each.
The major difference is a 24-game schedule means four more non-conference games.
The NCAA allows a maximum of 34 games, but teams can play an extra game for each contest they play in Alaska.
If the league were to play a balanced 32-game league schedule, four games against each opponent, that would leave room for only two non-league games.
"Everything we do, schedule-wise, post-season wise, should be driven by what's best for the conference and positioning our top teams for potential NCAA berths," Christopher said.
The schools have asked an expert on college hockey's Ratings Percentage Index, one of the criteria used in the NCAA selection process, to analyze how 24- and 28-game schedules would impact the league.
In terms of the non-league schedule, Christopher believes BG can make a six- or 10-game non-conference schedule work.
BG is hoping to play current CCHA members Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Western Michigan in non-league series.
"There are enough teams around here that non-conference scheduling is not going to be an issue for us," Christopher said.
The league is considering proposals that include every team making the playoffs and formats that don't include every team.
The 11-team CCHA and 12-team WCHA both have an all-in playoff format.
By having fewer teams in the playoffs, the regular season would be worth more.
"I, personally, am a person, this doesn't matter whether it's hockey, basketball, baseball, I fall into the camp of favoring the regular season," Christopher said. "I'm not a huge tournament fan, in general, and would be fine if most if not all tournaments for all sports got weaned down to the top half or maybe even fewer.
"I realize in some sports that just isn't going to happen. I'm probably in the minority with that. Whether that means we take everybody or a majority, that's probably where it will end up. I just think, we as a society, like to reward the instantaneous, this is the hot team at the moment, versus sometimes the team that wins over the long haul. The regular season, a team has proven, (it is) the best team in the league."
The league is looking for a home for its championship weekend. The weekend usually includes the semifinals and championship game.
The CCHA plays a consolation game, but the WCHA does not.
The CCHA holds its Final Four in Detroit. The WCHA takes six teams to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
The Big Ten Hockey Conference will hold its league playoffs at the Xcel Energy Center in 2014 and 2016, and at Joe Louis Arena in 2015 and 2017.
Christopher said the league's discussions have centered around playing at those two sites in opposite years - JLA in 2014 and 2016 and the Xcel Energy Center in 2015 and 2017.
"That sounds like a decent plan, again, just philosophically I would prefer to be in a smaller venue where a good sized crowd actually means something," Christopher said.
Christopher said he's encouraged the league to explore playing at the Huntington Center in Toledo and the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., among others.
The Huntington Center has a capacity of approximately of about 7,500, while the Resch Center's capacity is about 8,800.
That's in contrast to Joe Louis Arena at approximately 21,000 and the XCel Energy Center at 18,000. Both arenas are home to NHL teams.
The CCHA semifinals in March drew a combined total of only 10,421 for games between BG and Michigan, and Western and Miami. BG sold the most tickets for Friday's games.
"That was the thing at Joe Louis that surprised me the most. Those crowds were really disappointing, even with Michigan," Christopher said.
But the site selection will be influenced, in part, by what each arena offers the league financially, Christopher said.
Trips to Alaska also will be discussed.
Based on the scheduling model he's seen, Christopher said some teams will make play one two-game series in Alaska and others will play two.
Christopher hopes the schools that have to play two series in Alaska will be able to play those games on the same trip.
The league is considering scheduling those series over fall break, Thanksgiving break and Christmas break.
The cost of the travel to the Alaska also is being discussed.
Alaska and Anchorage both provide financial assistance to league members traveling there, although the packages aren't the same.
Alaska pays CCHA schools for approximately 25 plane tickets, and the cost of hotels and ground transportation.
CCHA director of communications and events Phil Colvin declined to reveal how many plane tickets Alaska pays for, adding the information is part of a confidential agreement between Alaska and the league's schools.
Anchorage pays less than Alaska, with its share believed to be approximately 50 percent.
"The goal is to (have those two schools) get together and come up with something that looks the same," Christopher said. "Right now, it's not quite apples and oranges, but they're not identical."
Expansion also will be discussed at the meeting, Christopher said.
"I don't want to expand for expansion sake, but for the concept of an even number," Christopher said. "From the beginning, I've preferred 12 (schools in the league). We've proven in the CCHA any number can work. An even number makes scheduling easier."
Alabama-Huntsville, an NCAA Division I independent, continues to be mentioned as the 10th member. The Chargers were rejected as a CCHA member three years ago.
"We supported them a couple of years ago," Christopher said. "We would once again support them, assuming everything is in order."
The new-look WCHA still wants to make sure UAH has funding in place for its scholarships and hockey budget.
Christopher also said UAH is prepared to assist league members with the cost of travel, like the Alaska schools already do.
One issue regarding UAH is the Chargers share their arena with a minor league hockey team. As a result, some UAH games are played on Saturday afternoon. The CCHA and WCHA play their games on Friday and Saturday nights at 7.
Current CCHA coaches are concerned with a quick turnaround with games played at 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 or 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Minnesota State-Moorhead, the University at Buffalo and Air Force also have been rumored for WCHA membership.
But Minnesota State-Moorhead said in March it was no longer considering starting a Division I program.
Christopher said Air Force, a member of Atlantic Hockey, likes "being in Atlantic Hockey, it makes it an easier path to the NCAAs."
Christopher said Buffalo, BG's rival in the Mid-American Conference, "hasn't moved" on starting a program. The program was going to be privately funded.
"I got a sense this was going to be donor driven and the donor decided it was something they didn't want to do right then and there," Christopher said.