Notre Dame Moves Again – What does it mean for DU?

Notre Dame is departing Hockey East for the Big 10. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have submitted paperwork to Hockey East advising them of their intention to leave the conference. The only thorny outstanding issue was the Notre Dame TV network but that has likely been resolved. College Hockey News’ article further speculates that this move opens the door for  Arizona State to move to the Big 10 as well. The only issue to be resolved is the split of PAC 12 – Big 10 TV money.

In another article in the same College Hockey News edition, the author stated in Arizona State Close to Final Conference Decision that ASU was going to be attending meetings at the Frozen Four and making a final conference decision shortly thereafter. According to coach Gary Powers, “We’re basing our decision (on what is) best for our program in 10 years,” Powers said. “Not 3 or 4 or 5, but 10. We’re approaching building our program in every way and not short-sighted. Hockey is going to be at ASU long after everyone making this decision here is gone.” Between the lines, that says Big 10 to this writer.

So what does that mean for DU?

Short term, very little. Even with this move, the NCHC remains stable. Long term, there are potential impacts on the DU hockey program:

  • ASU is going to be operating out of a major western media market, an NHL city with big city appeal. Sound familiar? Recruits are likely to look at both ASU and DU when making their playing decisions if they either are from the west or looking to play west.
  • ASU is going to have new, top-notch facilities. DU’s facilities are very nice but some of the current facilities are ‘tired.’ Coach Montgomery wants a new locker room to compete within the NCHC. Now, they will be competing with a shiny new facility to the southwest. While many criticize a recruit for wanting top-notch facilities, it is a reality. As we have said before, friends of the DU Hockey program need to step up and get this project done.
  • With Notre Dame leaving Hockey East, does the college hockey conference arms race begin anew? Could Miami go to Hockey East? – (Probably not – Quinnipiac University is the early favorite bus option for HE). If ASU does not go to the Big 10 (unlikely now), would North Dakota go to the Big 10 to battle Minnesota and Wisconsin – some of their biggest historical rivals? Still, as it stands now, it is still extremely unlikely that the Hockey East shakeup will have any impact at all on the NCHC.
  • The Big 10 is still a college hockey behemoth (in terms of money, not talent). Adding ASU and Notre Dame is going to make a splash and the Big 10 will likely start making a bigger impact at least on recruiting and maybe championships. With coaching changes at Wisconsin and possibly (though extremely unlikely) Minnesota, some of the lagging power programs are likely to become PairWise powers again. While the NCHC is still the premier hockey conference today, it theoretically could be passed in the future by the Big 10 if the NCHC doesn’t keep up. That being said, the NCHC as currently configured will remain a top-tier (#1 or #2) conference and annually in the hunt for national championships.

Over the short term, these changes should have a negligible impact on DU. However, if ASU throws a curve-ball and comes to the NCHC, expect the conference realignment chips to potentially fall in Hockey East and the Big 10 which may further impact DU as well as the NCHC.