The addition of Penn State to the Division 1 NCAA hockey ranks in 2012-13 will dramatically alter the landscape of the sport at the collegiate level. On Monday, we learned that it'll be much more than just the addition of PSU that will change the game.
According to a press release from the Big Ten, the athletic directors at the six conference schools that sponsor ice hockey programs have made the recommendation to establish men's hockey as an official Big Ten sport in 2012-13. The NCAA requires that each conference must have at least six teams, so the addition of Penn State allows this action to take place.
The recommendation includes the establishment of a Big Ten Hockey Tournament, complete with auto-bid to the NCAA tournament, and a full 20-game conference schedule, with each team playing a home and road game against each of the other five schools.
The establishment of a Big Ten Hockey Conference will no doubt rock the entire collegiate hockey landscape, and the schools left in the CCHA and WCHA would certainly be impacted most. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State would leave the CCHA an eight team league, while Minnesota and Wisconsin would leave the WCHA a 10-team league.
As American college hockey continues to grow into a legitimate alternative to the Canadian Major Junior ranks, the advent of a Big Ten conference will certainly help spread the message. Just think about the resources of the Big Ten, including the Big Ten Network, which according to them is available in 75 million households. It could dramatically raise the scope of collegiate hockey in the United States.
At the same time, it could also hurt some of the smaller schools left in the WCHA and CCHA. Sure, some of those schools will be able to assert themselves in place of those larger Big Ten schools, which could lead to a renaissance in some of the smaller programs.
But when you take out the largest schools in a conference -- as the five Big Ten schools currently are -- you leave schools like Western Michigan and Bowling Green without the big money those teams bring to the table.If you're weakening a ton of teams to form the Big Ten Hockey Conference, does it really result in a net gain for collegiate hockey on the whole?
We don't have the answer to that question just yet, but it looks as though we'll find out in just a few short years.