All Quiet on the Western Front

So what is the status of Arizona State’s move to a new conference?

Several months ago, the College Hockey News reported in an article that the Sun Devils were finalizing their agreement to enter the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). This report came on the heels of Notre Dame leaving the Big East and joining the Big 10 Conference. Many initially thought that this move would be followed by ASU’s move to the B1G. However, ultimately the Big 10 did not want to add Pac-12 member ASU to the party. So, logically, the next best second option for Arizona State is the NCHC based on league quality, geography, and fit. 

With ASU’s move to the NCHC, there are two barriers that come into play. First, the NCHC will look to ‘balance’ the conference membership (from 8 to 10) at the same time ASU enters the league by adding an additional member. Second, the league will need assurances from Arizona State that they have a firm plan in place to build a suitable arena for DI hockey. Their current facility, Oceanside Arena, is not suitable for DI play.

Within the last month, it was reported that Minnesota State had made a public plea to jump from the WCHA to the NCHC to fill the second open slot.

But not so fast Mavericks.

One of the founding schools of the NCHC is Miami of Ohio. The formation of the conference was engineered with the cooperation of head coaches Enrico Blasi and George Gwozdecky. While the Redhawks started out in the fast lane, their last several years in the NCHC have been largely mediocre. While there were a number of established rivalries in the newly formed league, the Redhawks do not have natural regional rivalries in the NCHC. As a result, even though this is unlikely, I, 5BWest, believe the league will try to mollify Miami by adding Bowling Green State University from the WCHA. Bowling Green is another quality Ohio public university, on a par with Miami of Ohio and would make for a logical regional rival for the Redhawks. Bowling Green refuses to comment on the NCHC interest but you can bet they would make the jump if they got the invitation.

That leaves the Mavericks out in the snow.

SB Nation came out with an article this summer regarding the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes plans to build a new arena with several sites in close proximity to ASU. According to the article, one of the sites is actually on ASU’s campus. We wrote an article about this site recently – a large parcel of land adjacent to the University which will be exclusively developed as an income engine and site for ASU athletics. However, the article warns, “Even if this deal goes through, it would likely still be some time before Arizona State had a new home. The Coyotes have one more year on their lease in Glendale, and are looking to extend for two more years beyond that to bridge the gap until an arena is done, meaning the new arena might not open until the 2019-2020 season.

This still leaves the Sun Devils without a suitable home rink until a firm plan is in place.

Like most NCHC fans, winter road trips to Arizona can’t come soon enough.

2 thoughts on “All Quiet on the Western Front”

  1. I’m not sure ASU would be a good fit for the NCHC. The conference was started by schools who have a “hockey first” priority. I’m sure some Pios fans in the know might argue that over the recent years, lacrosse and men’s basketball are (or have already) superseded hockey. That said, hockey, at best, would be a middle of the pack sport in terms of priority of the ASU athletic department behind football, basketball, baseball among others. Plus, would admitting a new D-I program like ASU water down the overall strength of the conference, thereby hurting the RPI’s of all member schools, resulting in fewer NCHC schools from making the National Tournament? I’d rather have schools such as Bowling Green (to appease Miami and Western who are already complaining about the travel and geography) and Minnesota State join if we’re looking to expand. I guess I’m wondering if DU and UND’s original intent of forming the NCHC, a conference that’s dedicated to hockey, is evolving?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don, I think you make some great points. I still think that once they get a new facility, when a 18-22 year old hockey prospect gets asked if they want to play in Tempe Arizona, possibly in an NHL rink, they are going to be excited. On the other hand, taking Bowling Green over Minnesota State has the potential to create a bigger RPI issue over time. But you are right, there are risks that hockey will take second position to other sports as well as the great outdoors in Arizona. Time will tell.

    Like

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