Minnesota State announced on Wednesday that they have applied to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, known variously as “the National”, the “NCHC”, or the “NaCHo”, both in terms of hoping for tasty, fatty calories or regret that it’s “nacho league”. Either way, it was a bit of a surprise unless you’re an enterprising reporter who bet that he saw it coming and sniffed around and outed the truth. It certainly seems that everyone knew that this (leak-cum-)-announcement was coming, because both the WCHA and NCHC had prepared statements: the WCHA sounded pretty disappointed and the NCHC’s public response was, I think, responsibly tepid. Lastly, a public records request has elicited the publication of Mankato’s letter of interest.
Both Shane Frederick of The Free Press (Mankato) and Jack Hittinger of the Bemidji Pioneer have weighed in over the last couple of days. Shane is predictably and responsibly sanguine about the Mavericks’ chances, noting that it is a benefit for the program. Jack is a bit more phlegmatic, and he rightly points out that there are a lot of steps left to take for everyone.
But what does all of this mean for UAH?
We’re on the outside looking in, again. UAH tried to jump to the CCHA when the CHA diaspora happened and Bemidji grabbed a hold of a Maverick tail and rode along with Omaha into the WCHA. We all know that the CCHA told UAH no, leading to three independent seasons that very nearly killed the program. The Chargers knocked on the WCHA’s door only after the NCHC was fully realized.
The best thing out of the Big Ten expansion mess may have been that the NCHC formed, as I think that it was far less likely that the other nine teams in the WCHA would want the Chargers’ blood on their hands than, say, the remaining eight CCHA schools who might have been okay with that number and would have been unlikely to jump at the chance to add a flight/long bus trip to a bus league that already had an Alaska problem.
Make no mistake: the 2013 mess showed us that extant league structures mean nothing when conference plates shift violently. Will our folks be talking to people? Sure. But we’re at the mercy of the winds and tides here along with a number of other WCHA schools.
I’ve got a lot of thoughts about realignment options and how UAH would fit into these plans, but those are for another day. Bring on Realignment 2016.