College hockey’s ever-changing landscape this summer had another shoe fall today as Notre Dame announced they’ll be leaving the CCHA and joining Hockey East starting in the 2013-2014 season.
Notre Dame’s move doesn’t come as a surprise as the CCHA was losing schools in 2013-2014 thanks to the development of both the Big Ten Hockey Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in that season. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Miami University, and Western Michigan are all headed for new homes in those conferences while Bowling Green will be going to the rebuilt WCHA.
The NCHC announced the other day that they would be starting their season in 2013 with just eight teams and not expanding any further, shutting the door on the Fighting Irish. Hockey East was also in pursuit of Notre Dame and won out. The payoff for Hockey East is that Notre Dame will be arriving with a television deal in place with NBC Sports Network to carry Notre Dame home games beginning in that season. Getting a national television deal in college hockey is a game-changer as there’s not much in the way of national cable TV coverage for the sport (ESPN and CBS College Sports also have smaller deals). Notre Dame being able to bring the NBC name to college hockey helps in a big way.
Hockey East is now set to have 11 teams starting in the 2013-2014 season. A conference with an odd number of teams is rare (the CCHA is currently at 11) which means that Hockey East is likely on the prowl for a 12th team. There are a number of candidates ranging from Rensselaer and Quinnipiac in the ECAC to Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey Association. For more thoughts on that, Rensselaer hockey fan blog Without A Peer has that discussion covered.
For now, Notre Dame joining Hockey East is the last huge move to be made after seeing the carnage that’s happened this offseason. Notre Dame with coach Jeff Jackson brings a lot of clout to an already loaded conference and bringing the national stage courtesy of NBC Sports Network helps make Hockey East perhaps the preeminent college hockey conference starting in 20