TWICH: College Hockey Westward Expansion?
Friday night was a good night for College Hockey.
Some of you were lucky enough to have NESN, and had the chance to watch a top ten matchup between Boston College and New Hampshire, while others watched Union take on Princeton on NBC Sportsnet. On Big Ten Network, No. 1 Minnesota faced off against Alaska-Anchorage in a thrilling ending that almost saw the Seawolves pull off the upset.
Nebraksa-Omaha faced off against Denver. This game is a fantastic game on paper. However, UNO has been on NBCSN three times already this season. I have seen each of their games, and while they are a fun team to watch, I wanted something new. I don’t blame the Mavericks and I don’t blame NBC for showing them so much. The problem is with the NCAA and the huge amount of teams out east and very small number out west. We need Westward Expansion.
The way college hockey is set up is different from any other NCAA sport. There are four different levels of college hockey. There is Division-1 NCAA and than there are three separate levels of something called ACHA. The ACHA is a governing body of college hockey that oversees all other levels, mainly including club. Most schools who do not want or cannot afford a D-1 NCAA team choose this route. These teams are very competitive and have some quality hockey players. However, we need these schools to boost up their programs in order to further broaden the sport. There are so many schools that can play at a D-1 level, especially out west.
Early this year, ESPN’s John Buccigross took a stand on this issue as well after a non conference exhibition between NCAA D-1 Independent (Future Big Ten school) and ACHA D-1 Arizona State. ASU split the series with Penn State. Regardless of the fact that Penn State is brand new to the college hockey world, they got beat by a ACHA school. The Sun Devils have been dominating the ACHA scene for years now. Arizona State is so good that they do not even compete against other Pac-12 schools. So why not move up to the NCAA level?
Speaking of the Pac-12, let’s talk about those schools. The success of the NHL has caused a huge increase in popularity for hockey in the west over the past decade. The LA Kings currently are the reigning Stanley Cup Champs. The San Jose Sharks have been one of the leagues best teams for years. Bettman has been talking about putting a team in Seattle forever. Heck, the Mighty Ducks were so popular they made an NHL team about it! The west coast is full of prospects and instead of letting these kids go out and play in the WHL, let them play for a school and earn an education.
I’m not saying we need 50 more college hockey teams or to expand the Frozen Four to be the size of the 68 team basketball tournament (Is that even how many teams are in there anymore?). All I’m saying is, there is no reason why we cannot have more Division-1 NCAA college hockey programs in the western part of the United States. Arizona State, What more do you have to prove at the ACHA level? Oregon, Ask Uncle Phil to pony up some cash and boost your program because nobody wants to see you go undefeated in the Pac-8. USC, You can afford to have Ice Girls, but not to move up to a Division-1 level?
The NHL wants to keep locking out every six years? Fine, hockey isn’t going to die and kids are still going to love the sport. Add that with the excitement and passion of college sports and there is no reason why you shouldn’t improve your program. I could keep going on for days about what schools should move up to a Division-1 level. Again, every ACHA school in the Mountain Time Zone doesn’t need to move up, I just refuse to watch another Nebraska-Omaha or Denver game because they are the only west coast teams. I would much rather watch a Washington-Oklahoma game or UCLA-San Diego State than another repeat of Minnesota-Colorado College.