If you follow college hockey, you’ve no doubt heard that the NCHC has added Western Michigan and St. Cloud as it’s 7th and 8th members. Unless Notre Dame joins, the NCHC is essentially closed for expansion for the near term. This adds yet another wrinkle to the already ridiculous offseason this year. Western Michigan puled out all the stops to join the NCHC, but St. Cloud doesn’t seem to gain a whole lot from this equation.
All of this has put a lot of pressure on Bowling Green State. BGSU, a member of the MAC, would be the only D-I school in the WCHA, and being in Ohio, would mean their travel costs would be significantly higher than they are now. As a school which just a few years ago discussed folding entirely, their prospects look poor. They seem almost destined to lose a lot of money unless something in the equation changes.
Now, there seems to be a new chance. Bruce Siskie is reporting Bowling Green is meeting with the 4 AHA schools discussed about in realignment talk (Robert Morris, Mercyhurst, Cansius, and Niagara), and Buffalo, which has a D-I club team and is also from the MAC. Air Force and RIT were invited as well. RIT wasn’t interested, and Air Force couldn’t get a representative there in time.
This seems to be a pretty good solution if it could actually be finagled. Form a small, 6 or 8 team conference, with most teams driving distance away (add Air Force would add a flight a year, which is doable for most teams). This also allows the 4 AHA teams to increase their scholarships to be more competitive, which they’ve been trying to do so for a while. If Air Force comes, Army is likely to come along, forming an 8 team conference. Moreover, that will make the AHA a true cost-containment league, as just about every team pushing for more scholarships will have departed. The addition of Buffalo will also be a good thing, they are another full-fledged D-I school.
If BGSU can form this new league, this will be a ray of good news in a mostly gloomy offseason. There will be a league that has room for possible further expansion, and can form a competitive league that doesn’t hemmorage money. Fingers crossed.