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Big Ten hockey conference talks heat up

Big Ten schools draw most fans to Northern Michigan University hockey games

March 16, 2011
By MATT WELLENS Journal Sports Editor executive editor Todd D. Milewski is reporting that the Big Ten is pushing forward with a plan to sponsor hockey beginning with the 2013-14 season after WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod was contacted by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and representatives from Wisconsin and Penn State.

College Hockey News (@chnews) also tweeted that Big Ten officials are discussing their plans with the WCHA and Northern Michigan University's conference, the CCHA, after last week's Big Ten meetings.

For years the Big Ten Hockey Conference (BTHC) was as taboo of a subject on the USCHO fan forum as talk about EA Sports making a college hockey video game.

Both were absurd until this summer when Penn State announced it would start a NCAA Division I college hockey program to begin competition in 2012-2013. The Nittany Lions' brand new arena is set to open in 2013.

Penn State's entrance into NCAA college hockey is relevant because the Big Ten now has enough schools to start a college hockey conference - six.

(Ten schools are not necessary for a conference with 10 in it's name, just look at basketball and football.)

The WCHA seems to have a plan in place as detailed by Milewseki, who is also the multimedia editor for of the Capitol Newspaper Group. The WCHA is attempting to set up a scheduling relationship with its two Big Ten schools - Wisconsin and Minnesota - and plans to drop to 10 teams with the departure of the Badgers and Gophers.

CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said the league has created a number of models, but failed to disclose anything further than that.

The departure of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State would leave the CCHA with only eight teams and the Wildcats would lose three of its largest attendance draws at the Berry Events Center.

Here were the Wildcats top six draws in 2010-11 at home:

Michigan Tech 10/83,823

Michigan 2/263,516

Ohio State 10/303,198

Ohio State 10/292,958

Michigan 2/252,882

Minn.-Duluth 10/92,849

Northern did not host Michigan State in 2010-11, but when the Spartans did visit last season, they brought in 3,433 fans on Dec. 4 and 3,802 on Dec. 5, the Wildcats biggest nights at the BEC all year.

The loss of Big Ten schools from NMU's schedule goes beyond home attendance as the school uses trips to Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Columbus as promotional events for the university.

The Big Ten schools also attract the most attention from the league's television partners - Fox Sports Detroit and the Big Ten Network.

The BTN is the driving force behind a BTHC while FSD could cut back on its coverage of the CCHA minus the state's two marquee hockey schools.

The Mining Journal will have more as information becomes available, including comment from university officials once news of the Big Ten league becomes official.

Currently, the Big Ten has only one of its five schools still alive in the CCHA and WCHA conference tournaments - Michigan. According to current projections in the USCHO PairWise rankings, Michigan is the only Big Ten school that would make the NCAA tournament.



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