Monday, April 24, 2006

College Hockey America: A Simple Approach

The planned defection of the Air Force Academy from the College Hockey America conference to the Atlantic Hockey Conference presents a problem for all of D-1 hockey. Leastwise that's the word from various sources in the CHA and a few administrators in the rest of D-1 hockey. The problem is that without the minimum number of teams in their conference the CHA will lose their autobid to the NCAA playoffs. Nobody will want to play for a team that doesn't have a hope in hell of winning a championship. So the word out of the CHA that they'll likely fold at the end of this coming season. That will leave 5 teams without a conference to play in. With only 54 teams eligible for playoffs the possibility exists that the NCAA could force the current 16 team playoff format back to 12. That hurts everyone. So the consensus (among rational people) is that the other D-1 conferences need to step up and absorb those five programs. How the other conferences can make that happen without substantial pain is a difficult question.

Upon first examination it might look to be an easy problem. Just slide each of the remaining schools into conferences that fit geographically. But just about any combination of creates an unfair burden on one conference or another. The CCHA and ECACHL both already have 12 teams while the WCHA and Hockey East have 10. The CHA is geographically diverse ... Wayne State in Michigan, Bemidji in Minnesota, Niagra in NY, Robert Morris in PA, and then of course Alabama-Huntsville down in Dixieland. These schools have all committed themselves to D-1 hockey and they deserve an equal chance via some sort of arrangement with the existing conferences. And just about any idea for absorbing geographically is difficult to accomplish because of the widely varying dynamics of each scenario. Folding these teams into existing conferences is far from easy. It's almost impossible.

These are not dissimilar issues that faced UAA and UAF before they were granted membership into the WCHA and CCHA. The primary difference though is that UAA and UAF were well supported by their communities and CHA attendance averages this past season range from 531 (yes there's only 3 digits .. I didn't mistype) at Wayne State to a high of 1939 at Huntsville who have the biggest arena at 7,000 seats (the second biggest arena is Bemidji at 2,500). What to do? What to do? Losing even one school out of the 59 D-1 schools hurts everyone but any school unable to find it's way into a conference is ultimately just a corpse waiting to be buried. Nobody wants to see that happen that's why UAA and UAF are in their respective leagues now. So everybody wants to know what to do about the CHA.

There's been a lot of discussion on USCHO (some well thought out and some not so) as well as an article by Scott Brown at USCHO which are worth a look if you're interested (combined they prompted me to write this). In all that I've read there's one thing I haven't heard anyone say. Tell Air Force they can't go. Send them a note ... "Um ... Dear Air Force Academy ... Who said you could fuck up the rest of College Hockey? NOT US; so don't bother. OK? ... Signed D-1 Hockey" Take their fly-boy asses to court if you have to in order to stop them from moving. Prevent it. Bomb them first. Make em an offer they can't refuse. They are responsible not only for bringing the BTHC trolls out but making two or three other conferences have to absorb the conference they are so rudely leaving? Fuck that. Stop them from going to Atlantic Hockey and the problem is solved.

It doesn't solve it permanently. But it solves it for this coming season during which some sort of arrangement can be developed without an impending doom affecting the process. Letting the Air Force academy dictate changes because of their precipitous jump isn't in the interest of 58 other teams.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And quite a nice solution, NO.
Close to the simplest of all things to type in your reply of the request to either move or join.

Post a Comment