MARQUETTE - The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is ready to amend its bylaws Wednesday via a pair of conference calls to formally accept Northern Michigan University for the 2013-14 season.
The 12 current members of the WCHA will vote on a motion that will allow St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech to conduct league business amongst themselves on matters that will only affect them following the 2012-13 season.
The five remaining school's first order of business in a conference call to follow will be to formally accept NMU into the league. The WCHA issued a press release Friday saying there is unanimous support among the five remaining schools for NMU's induction and the sentiment still holds true, according to WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod.
"We have another conference call of the five remaining schools where we can conduct a formal vote and hopefully, if things all work out right, which I think they will, we can formally announce Northern Michigan's addition to the WCHA," McLeod said.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are departing the league to play in the Big Ten starting in 2013-14. That same year, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College, Denver and Nebraska-Omaha will begin play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Despite those seven school's pending departures, they all still hold voting rights when it comes to WCHA matters.
Currently, league bylaws require a 75-percent approval of the league's 12 teams in order to accept a new member, even if seven of the teams won't be around when the new school joins, as is the case with NMU.
McLeod and attorneys for the WCHA began working on a solution Thursday, but were unable to come up with a resolution in time for Friday's meetings in St. Paul between the five remaining schools.
"It is unanimous support for Northern up to this point both from all the ADs and the presidents, etc.," McLeod said. "It was just a concern about the process to make sure we were doing things the right way."
Besides formally inducting new members like NMU, Wednesday's motion will allow the new-look WCHA to proceed with scheduling, restructuring the postseason tournament and possibly relocating the WCHA Championship in 2013-14.
However, it's tough for those discussions to take place without knowing what the WCHA will look like in two years, McLeod said.
"Really, there is still a lot of fluidity and volatility, whatever you want to call it, in the (college) hockey world," McLeod said. "Some things are going to happen yet. We're not done, that's for sure."
McLeod said several schools have expressed an interest in at least discussing a possible move to the WCHA. In a New York Times article published on Saturday, McLeod said at least two institutions have informally inquired about joining the WCHA.
While McLeod declined to identify either of those schools to the New York Times, he did tell The Mining Journal on Monday he has spoken with the Alaska Nanooks, who like NMU currently play in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
UAA has expressed interest in luring its Fairbanks rivals to the WCHA because like NMU and MTU, the Seawolves and Nanooks want to ignite their rivalry with four conference meetings a year.
UAA and Alaska once played in the Great West Hockey Conference from 1985-1988, but the conference dissolved when its only other two members, Northern Arizona and U.S. International in California, dropped the sport.
"We talked certainly at the AD's level and even at the presidential level," McLeod said about conversations with the Nanooks. "I have a pretty good sense of where they are coming from."
McLeod said two trips a year to the state of Alaska would be a challenge, though schools would then receive an extra four non-conference games via the NCAA exemption.
The biggest concern for McLeod is postseason travel to Alaska and the difficulty in finding plane tickets on short notice. It's something the league currently deals with when Anchorage hosts a first-round series, though the extra leg to Fairbanks makes planning even more difficult, he said.
"Come playoff time, seats available between Denver and Minneapolis at that time are virtually unattainable," McLeod said. "Last minute tickets up to Alaska, I heard horror stories about when Fairbanks hosted Ohio State and most of the week they (OSU) were gone.
"Those are issues you would have to deal with hopefully up front and to be honest we have started those discussions."
Along with hammering out the scheduling and financial details of adding another school from Alaska, McLeod said college hockey's summer of conference realignment will stand still until Notre Dame makes its move.
The Irish have made it known they do not favor remaining in the CCHA and are eyeing a move to Hockey East or the NCHC.
McLeod said he has spoken to Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard, who has stated the Broncos' hockey program would like to go where ever Notre Dame winds up.
McLeod said he's not sure the Broncos and Irish will be able to stick together, plus he's heard rumors of possible defections from Atlantic Hockey and the CCHA's ambitions to expand to the East.
All the conjecture and guessing makes it hard to predict what will happen next, McLeod said.
"There's no much fluidity right now," he said. "It's like a moving target. The next lynch pin to make things happen is Notre Dame's decision."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.