MARQUETTE - The Central Collegiate Hockey Association announced the removal of the interim tag from commissioner Fred Pletsch following last week's league meetings in Naples, Fla., making him the fifth commissioner in the league's 40-year history.
Pletsch, who first joined the CCHA in 2001 as director of communications before being promoted to associate commissioner in 2008, has been serving as interim commissioner since March 23 when Tom Anastos stepped down after 13 seasons with the CCHA to become the head coach at Michigan State.
Pletsch agreed a two-year deal that expires after the 2012-13 season when three of the league's flagship schools - Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State - join Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State in the new Big Ten hockey conference.
For now it's business as usual for the 11-team league, but Pletsch admitted there are plenty of challenges awaiting the remaining eight CCHA schools with the ever-changing landscape of NCAA Division I college hockey, he said.
"I think everyone acknowledges that the landscape has changed and its going to change in a big way for everyone," said Pletsch from the league offices in Farmington Hills on Monday. "It's not just the CCHA. You get a sense that it's nationwide, that most Division I (hockey) playing institutions are using this as an opportunity to assess their own situation in terms of many variables and parameters and to see where they fit into that changing landscape."
Last week's CCHA meetings in Florida coincided with the American Hockey Coaches Association convention held annually in Naples. In separate membership meetings minus the Big Ten institutions, the remaining eight CCHA schools took a look at the future of the league by discussing everything from expansion to the site of future league championships.
Fred Pletsch resume
- CCHA Associate Commissioner from 2008-2011.
- CCHA Director of Communications from 2001-2008
- When Tom Anastos became CCHA commissioner in 1998, Pletsch succeeded him as commissioner of the NAHL from 1998-2001.
- Has worked as an analyst and play-by-play broadcaster for Fox Sports Detroit, Comcast, Big Ten Network, ESPN, and the NHL's Ottawa Senators.
- Native of Chatham, Ontario, and 1980 graduate and hockey team captain at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Pletsch characterized the discussions as open, frank and honest with a plethora of good information, ideas and concepts.
No decisions were made by the league on any of those topics, however, and none of the eight universities were asked to sign on the dotted line to compete in the CCHA for the 2013-14 season.
"We're trying to figure out as a conference where we are going moving forward," said Bridget Berube, Northern Michigan University's Assistant Athletic Director of Sports Information and Compliance. "How is any conference going to compete with an entity like the Big Ten on recruits, TV time, on your venues for championships and that kind of stuff? Are we going to chase that and be where the bar is raised to, or operate at a lower level? That's what we have to decide as a conference."
The puck is now in the zone of the league office and CCHA's executive committee to answer the questions posed by the league's members in Naples. The league is set to hold a conference call at the end of the month to address those issues.
There's no rush, however, from Pletsch, the league or the leadership at NMU to make any rash decisions in the immediate wake of the Big Ten's announcement to sponsor a hockey league.
"We discussed a lot of very good topics and again it comes down to the league office and others in the executive committee group to come up with answers to the questions that people have," said Steve Reed, NMU's Associate Athletic Director of Operations and acting Athletic Director. "That will help guide people on where they chose to go at some point in the future. Until you get that information together, it wouldn't make sense for anyone to make any move until they had a chance to review it, think about it, get those answers and consult with others to make that decision."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.