Tuesday, June 09, 2009

UA Nanooks Considering WCHA Move

Thanks to this posting on USCHO by 'Wondering' and 'AKJD' from Fairbanks, I learned today that it appears UAF is indeed giving due consideration to changing it's conference affliation from the CCHA to the WCHA.  In a University forum called "Grapevine", Athletic Director Forrest Karr acknowledged the situation.  

The question posed on May 22nd was;
Rumors have circulated around the Internet, as well as the UAF community, that the Alaska Nanooks hockey team may be moving from the CCHA to the WCHA. Is this true?
Forrest Karr answered the query;

We are working with both conferences to explore affiliation with the WCHA for a number of reasons including the potential to increase revenue, reduce team travel costs, reduce team travel subsidies and the opportunity to play four league games each year against our natural in-state rival.

Chancellor Rogers will be briefed on May 27. If he decides to move forward, students, faculty, staff and the greater Fairbanks community will all be invited to open forums for discussion and input.

This is certainly interesting and adds a dimension to the WCHA's exploration of expanding.  I'm sure wondering what Bruce McLeod thought when he got that phone call.  As I've been saying there are some advantages that UAF brings to the table as a conference member that UNO simply cannot match.  UNO doesn't necessarily even practice on the same rink from day to day. They're mired in a contract with the 15,000 seat Qwest Center that doesn't serve the school particularly well.  Their athletic department is still recovering from the kerfuffle of the only coach they've ever had resigning and the hiring of a somewhat controversial A.D. that admits he knows NOTHING about college hockey.

UAF brings the possibility of maximizing the number of exempt games that WCHA opponents could use to schedule additional home games.  There is a limit on the number of exempted games a school can possess but currently WCHA teams don't reach that.  UAF brings a longstanding rivalry with WCHA member UAA.  Schools visiting Alaska would have the opportunity to schedule back-to-back series and minimize the travel expense.  It's the internet age so student-athletes shouldn't suffer too much from any missed classes on a 10 day road trip. UAA and UAF have managed to make travel and school work out so I'd assume it isn't beyond the capability of other WCHA schools to figure out.  

And finally, UAF is in the WEST ... they belong with UAA in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as opposed to the CENTRAL Collegiate Hockey Association.  UNO is a natural for the CCHA.  That's why the WCHA didn't show any interest when they applied years and years ago. 

I'd hope Steve Cobb is on the phone early and often these days selling this idea to his WCHA peers.  Don't let anyone use the old argument about how horrible it would be to make two Alaska road trips every year Dr. Cobb.  Tell them your school makes at minimum 7 such trips a year.  Don't be afraid to use the word "fairness" eh?


AdamW(CHN) said...

I think the WCHA didn't show interest in UNO back then, because the WCHA figured UNO wasn't good enough at the time. I don't think geography had anything to do with it.

I also think you're being too negative in interpreting what's going on at UNO. Kemp hadn't been doing all that great, and got "bumped" upstairs. That's normal. Alberts may be new and not know much about college hockey - but lots of ADs don't know much about college hockey when they start. Most D-I ADs don't have college hockey backgrounds.

Finally ... UAA may be a good fit for the WCHA, from their perspective, but there's also a reason the two Alaska schools were split up in the first place. And I think if UAA does move, the exemptions will be eliminated. But that's just speculation. And either way, the WCHA may not want UAA because of the financial ramifications.

Anonymous said...

UNO and Bemidji will be the next two WCHA teams. The hockey powers of the WCHA (DU,Minn,Wisc. ) are not making two trips a year to Alaska. Also having the footprint of UNO in the middle of the USHL is to valuable to miss.

Donald Dunlop said...

The Alaska/Hawaii exemption is in place to ensure that schools in Alaska and Hawaii can participate in sports more fairly. I don't think anyone would deny that both places are at a disadvantage geographically. The exemption came into being to help level that playing field. It applies to all sports ... not just hockey. It won't go away. The NCAA (unlike the WCHA) is interested in fairness.

As for financial implications ... UAF is used to subsidizing travel for opponents. They been giving a minimum of 20 airline tickets to every opponent since gaining a conference affiliation. UAA did so as well for 10 years. Finances may be used as an excuse ... but by getting the maximum number of exemptions allowable (whatever that is ... something like 3 every 2 years IIRC) and having their travel subsidized WCHA schools stand to make plenty of money.

If WCHA schools aren't willing to make either one extended (10 day) road trip OR two separate trips to Alaska in a season then those WCHA schools aren't really interested in competing fairly are they? UAA and UAF make a minimum of 7 such road trips every year (usually 8). The schools UAA and UAF compete with won't do so 2 times (or one trip that last 5 more days than they already do)?

Sounds like the rest of the WCHA schools could be reasonably labeled as pussies if that is going to be their position.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Donald that UAF belongs in the WCHA. It adds to a great rivalry, and is good for the Alaskan fans. It is only fair, but I've heard it said that life isn't fair.

P.S.- Does anyone know of anyone wanting to sell a L or XL size UAA jersey? My email is: ecfromak@hotmail.com Thanks.


Donald Dunlop said...

The phrase "life isn't fair" certainly entered my mind when using the fairness argument as I was typing it. I stayed with it because I didn't want to have to make the same argument I usually make ... which is that 6 hours on a bus or 6 hours on a plane is about the same thing.

Personally, I'd rather sit on a plane for 6 hours than ride in a bus for 6 hours so aside from the travel expense there really isn't that much of a difference.

I also knew in advance that one of the arguments against UAF joining the WCHA would be that other WCHA teams wouldn't want the additional burden. So using the "fairness" argument is justified I felt. Even though as we agree ... life isn't fair.

I think the one thing that I'm proudest of is that nobody in the UAA program ever mentions travel as any sort of issue. It's never been an excuse. And I don't mean to imply in any way that travel has anything to do with UAA's performance in the league. I don't think it does. Which is of course, another reason to call any WCHA school that uses travel as an excuse for not allowing UAF into the league a pussy school.

If UAF wants in and gets turned away for that reason ... I'll go off. If they want in and get turned away because UNO will make the WCHA teams more money in the long run ... I've got no beef. If UAF doesn't want in then the whole thing is moot.

Anonymous said...

being a hockey player and UAF alumni I am drawn to this subject. I was also a UAA season ticket holder.

It does make sense financially for UAA and UAF but it sounds like a hard sell to the WCHA. It sounds like UAF is interested but I just doubt it will happen. Hockey people are weird that way. That's why it's less popular than women's golf.

Anonymous said...

new recruit coming in

Donald Dunlop said...

His name is Drew Darwitz from the NAHL Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Offensive/Defenseman - led the NAHL in blueliner scoring last season and was named Defensive Player of the Year by the league.

I'm not going to do a post because frankly that all can feel like work and it's the offseason. Expect to see full analysis when I start writing again sometime in August.

For now I'll say the most interesting thing is that he is coming for 09-10 and we appear to have a BOATLOAD of defenseman. Is this perhaps a sign that Shyiak will move Curtis Leinweber to the wing permanently?

Could we see a Clark, Leinweber and Aiken on a line together? That would be three really dynamic players who can all motor on a line together. They could be EPIC i'm sayin .... EPIC.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean that someone is not coming back or someone committed is not coming in

Anonymous said...

Put clark with 2 rookies is a waste of time, clark and grant need a big center to clear the lanes. They will be up against the top 2 lines on every team in the wcha. We have the depth up front with lunden and others. Let's not mess up the lines like we did all last year. Crowder and bales were top end players, Clark, grant and lunden don't have to prove anything. Let's not screw them around by playing them with sophomores or rookies. This is clark and lunden senior year, they deserve better than playing with rookies. They will be playing against the top 2 lines on every wcha team in the league plus powerplay. Let the rookies and sophomores earn there stripes like they had to.


Anonymous said...

"Sounds like the rest of the WCHA schools could be reasonably labeled as pussies if that is going to be their position."

Great for us we all know the spoiled, weak other teams in our conference are going to take the position, and sadly the Commish. is gonna side with them, cuz there are the powerhouses right now.

I'm assuming Bales isn't returning:


Lunden, Clark, Grant
Selby, Parkinson, Moir
Aiken, Tuton, Portwood
Wiles, Haddad, Bailey

Backstrom, Leinweber
McLeod, Lafrachise
Hunt, Baldwin/Vidmar

Look good? Man we got a huge number of lineups we could use, the element of suprise is sweet yes?

Anonymous said...

Man just, thinking 'bout the lineup possiblities is making me giddy, we could have a:

speed/skating lineup

shutdown defensive lineup

experinced veterans lineup

rookie or not yet enough experinced lineup for the beg. of the season

a mix of all.........

oh the possibilties

Anonymous said...

Former rival in the WCHA in the near future?


Anonymous said...

I hear Bales is graduating at the end of summer (which is a really good thing) and moving on to play for pay.

Donald Dunlop said...

I think that Clark, Leinweber and Aiken would be a dynamic line that would put up a lot of points. I know Leinweber has the skill to play on the off-wing (they're all three left handed) and be successful. They all have playmaking skills and a nose for the net.

Yes they'd be playing against the other teams top line. I just think most of their time would be spent in the other teams end. I think it's worth an early season experiment. Line those 3 guys up together and give them 8 games to show whether they can be productive.

Yes, Leinweber and Aiken are underclassmen. Ryan Duncan played on a line with two underclassmen last year for UND. A line that looked much like the one I'm proposing. I think quickly discounting it as a possibility is unwise.

Donald Dunlop said...

Oh yeah ...

I don't envy Shyiak one bit at having to select a forward lineup ...

I think after Clark, Lunden, Grant, Parkinson ... that who is going to skate and who isn't going to skate is completely up in the air.

And the backline? OMG ...
How do you choose amongst that bunch who sits? You've got three guys coming in ALL of which seem to have pretty damn good resumes added to an already solid lineup.

Backstrom, Lafranchise, Leinweber and Hunt are all guaranteed starters in my book. I've got no reason to put Luka Vidmar on the bench. So as it is now we'll have 4 guys competing for one spot on the blueline.

Who knows? I suppose it's best to see EXACTLY how the roster looks when school starts.

Anonymous said...


Donald Dunlop said...

Daniel Naslund - 6'3" 201lbs right winger.

Hard to find anything about him. He finished 4th in scoring on his J20 SuperElite league team which was good enough for 22nd overall in the league.

Are you saying he'll be coming to UAA? Could you email me with your source?

Anonymous said...

It's pretty exciting to think that UAA might have a team to be feared in the WCHA in 2009-10. I really believe that everything is coming together at the right time. The talent and depth, along with the strong coaching equals great success. Speed, toughness, and intelligence wins championships..


Anonymous said...

So did Drew Darwitz play with McCabe last season?

akhockeyfanatic said...

yes, he played with both McCabes: Andrew McCabe who will be playing at UNO and also Brad McCabe

Anonymous said...

YOu want to tick off clark put him with a bunch of rookies, crowder, bourne and other seniors want to showcase there last year. Gregorie for und played with clark in winnipeg. Gregoire will be there top player next year. Clark and grant with a strong center, we need a power play unit and penalty kill unit this year. Play 8 games together donald, 1/4 of the season is over. This team has to have a strong first half and be a presence in the league. Clark, lunden and grant would like to play pro hockey not baby sit first year players. Last years leadership from the captain assistants costs us a higher playoff spot. Let's run a top end program this year.

Players produce or sit.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Jay Beagle in Hereshy for winning the calder cup.
Also congrats to Shyiak for recruiting players of this caliber.
Let's see more of our top end players go on to successful ahl/nhl hockey carears. Uaa program will be sucessfull with top end talent.

All the best beagle, and great recruiting Shyiak and assistants.


Anonymous said...

Next year we have experienced seniors and juniors, let's not give the players and coaches excuses. These players and coaches have been together 3years now.
This team should be a 5th to 6th place team, no worse. Gregoire played with hextall and duncan and 2 strong defesman. Shroeder played with stoa and other top forwards. Let's not mix up our lines. Put two strong goal scoring lines together, and go out and bury some teams early. We have strong defese now, good enough goaltending to win games. We have 17 to 18 proven players, no bs this year. Just play a full 60 minutes each nite.
No excuses, let the marketing team bring in the fans, win games and fill the sully. Make uaa a feared team in the wcha this year.

No excuses.
Clark, grant and lunden up front.
Backstrom will lead our defense.
2 proven goalies.
Shyiak will not let this group slide this year.
Rookies and sophomores must be discipined and work out in the off season.

Suze said...

They ALL must be disciplined and work out in the off season! No excuses.

Anonymous said...

I dont know if we have two "proven goalies"..But we now have a bonide WCHA starter.

Anonymous said...

Beagle was recruited before Shyiak got to Alaska

Anonymous said...

People tend to spend to much time worrying about what other peoples commentents are, let's just worry about having a successful hockey season next year. We are judged by the competition we play against not what we thing locally.


Anonymous said...

Drew Darwitz is from Minnesoda, and played Juniors in Fairbanks....

Love that

He's gonna hear it from there fans allright

So now we have roughly 8/9 recruits coming in this year?

Leinweber, Clark, Aiken
so then
Lunden, Parkinson, Grant

Our top line would defintely be top speed, top skill, top dynamic play, the only problem (hate to say it as I'm only 5-5) is that there all under 6-foot, if we keep that line up all year, there's eventually gonna be some serious tiredness, or injury. So like you said DD, first 6-8 games, then we could put that very fun to just think about line together when we need a shot in the arm. Serouisly October can't come fast enough.

With all our Blue Liners, Leinweber must be moving to wing, like you said. Great depth up front, blueline, and goal..........

matthew said...

It looks like UNO to WCHA?

Let's Play Hockey Blog

Sources tell Let's Play Hockey that as a part of Blais' negotiations with UNO for the position, the Mavericks will accept the WCHA's offer to switch conferences from the CCHA. The earliest UNO could join the WCHA would be in 2011-12, giving the league 12 teams with the expected addition of Bemidji State.

Donald Dunlop said...

When asked about that ridiculous report Dean Blais laughed --- see College Hockey News. There is no offer from the WCHA to accept. The WCHA is encouraging them to apply. UNO's AD said yesterday that they are happy to stay in the CCHA but now that they've hired a coach he'll begin to look into the WCHA.

If you look in the comments section of that blog you'll see where I provided the author a link to a "jump to conclusions mat" not too long after he made the original post.

matthew said...

ah, i see your comment there.

for anyone too lazy to look, here's the quote from Dean at CHN:
"I'm not that powerful, come on," Blais said, chuckling. "No, I feel lucky to have a job sometimes. I didn't put any demands on that."
"We never broached that topic," [new AD] Alberts said.


Anonymous said...

See DG's post in the next blog post. UAF is not going to be in the WCHA. While your blog posts were informative, this is a done deal, you will see an announcement very soon saying UNO is now a member of the WCHA.

Anonymous said...

did you see the team action shots on AllSportsOnePlace.com

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Anonymous said...

I think that this Baldwin kid is going to be a pleasant surprise. He is a smart player, passes the puck extremely well and has some very good scoot.
While he will indeed be an asset on the power play, his defensive play is superior.

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