So far in the year 2011, college hockey has been shaken up more than the Shake Weight. The conference hit hardest was the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). It had members Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State announce plans to depart the conference in 2013-14 to form the Big Ten hockey conference with Minnesota, Wisconsin and 2012-13 newcomer Penn State.
That in itself set off a domino effect with members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and CCHA getting together and forming the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) in July. That conference will also begin play in 2013 and consist of North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, Miami (Ohio), Denver, and Colorado College. Every school with the exception of Miami are members of the WCHA while Miami is a member of the CCHA. The seven teams who have departed the conference finished in the top seven in the 2010-11 WCHA regular season standings.
The WCHA had to do something to add to the five remaining schools and what they did was raid the CCHA cabinet and extend invitations to Ferris State, Alaska, Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, and Bowling Green. Northern Michigan accepted the invitation to join the WCHA last month while Ferris State, Alaska, and Lake Superior State accepted and will join the conference in 2013 in the last week. Bowling Green has not made a final decision and will make one before the 30-day acceptance deadline according to an August 25 press release by the WCHA. The only school still in conference limbo is Notre Dame, and it is speculated they could either join Hockey East or NCHC if invited, or become an Independent like Alabama-Huntsville. The “new” WCHA will have 10 teams and can move up to 11 depending on Bowling Green. The NCHC will have six teams, the same number as the Big Ten.
It looks like the CCHA as we know it could cease to exist. Every conference member (sans Bowling Green and Notre Dame) will depart to a new league in 2013. The CCHA could remain and expand to smaller schools out east, including members of Atlantic Hockey and ECAC. That could happen but it is still to be determined. The CCHA is headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. And without any Michigan-based schools in the conference, it will be difficult to attract schools in states such as Pennsylvania, New York, etc. The CCHA and WCHA had a series of meetings last week in Chicago. The leagues will continue to meet and discuss logistical issues such as by-laws, scheduling, tournament scenarios, finances and adding additional members.