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LSSU is among five CCHA schools invited to join WCHA

LSSU is among five CCHA schools invited to join WCHA

MADISON, Wis. – The presidents of the six member teams that will comprise Western Collegiate Hockey Association membership following the 2012-13 season today extended invitations to five Central Collegiate Hockey Association member institutions to join the WCHA beginning with the 2013-14 season. Those CCHA institutions that were extended membership invitations are University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University and Western Michigan University.

As it stands currently, the six teams that will constitute the WCHA following the 2012-13 season are University of Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State University, Michigan Technological University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, St. Cloud State University and Northern Michigan University, which accepted an offer on July 20 to join the WCHA beginning in 2013-14.

Lake Superior State President Tony McLain and Director of Athletics Kris Dunbar confirmed today that LSSU will accept the WCHA’s invitation. Conference realignments are the result of the recent formation of the six-team Big Ten Conference for men’s ice hockey and the newly-established National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

“Without fully knowing the final outcome, if everything realigns as we have it on paper today, I think this will be a better conference for Lake Superior State Hockey long-term than the CCHA was, and I thought the CCHA was pretty good,” said McLain.

“This will be a great step for our program – to find a league with teams that are similar to ours,” Dunbar said. “We will be in a conference with similar schools and good hockey traditions. This should be appealing to fans, alumni and recruits. Our fans will continue to see good college hockey played in Taffy Abel Arena for years to come.”

“On behalf of those presidents who remain committed to the WCHA in 2013-14 and beyond, I am excited to announce that we have unanimously voted to invite these five CCHA members to join our conference,” said Dr. Richard Davenport, President of Minnesota State University, Mankato. “These schools bring a proud history and tradition with them from the CCHA that will only serve to enhance the already strong reputation of the WCHA.

“We are committed to creating stability for the conference and believe by inviting these institutions we will create one of the strongest conferences in the nation,” added Dr. Davenport. “This is one of the main reasons presidents voted today to invite CCHA member institutions to join our conference. Also, as presidents, we are committed to providing the best college hockey opportunities in the country for our student-athletes.”

Conference realignments go into effect for the 2013-14 season. Schedule scenarios can’t take shape until all of the Division I hockey programs decide which route they wish to take. Some schools must wait for a vote from their trustees. And other schools, such as BGSU, WMU and Notre Dame of the CCHA, are considering moves to the NCHC.

“We hope for the chance to still play teams like Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State,” Dr. McLain said. “We’re expecting that to be part of our future.”

Dunbar said that Dr. McLain’s role in the negotiations was to contact college presidents of CCHA and WCHA schools and help find LSSU a stable home for its hockey program.

“I spoke to eight different university presidents over the last three weeks trying to position Lake Superior State so that no matter what happened around us, we felt we had a strong conference in which to play,” Dr. McLain said. “But most of the work was really done by our athletics director, Kris Dunbar. In my mind, she positioned us well to be in this realignment. Her role was 90 percent of the positioning, the negotiations, selling Lake Superior State’s hockey tradition. She talked to other ADs and representatives from the CCHA and WCHA.”

“I couldn’t have done this without his support and involvement,” Dunbar added.

McLain, who spent most of his professional career in the Upper Peninsula, looks forward to LSSU continuing a conference rivalry with NMU and building one with Michigan Tech. The Huskies were members of the CCHA for three seasons between 1982 and 1984.

This will be LSSU’s third hockey conference affiliation. Laker Hockey began in 1966-67, and LSSU was part of the International Collegiate Hockey Association with Lakehead, Bemidji State and Wisconsin from 1967 to 1973. LSSU joined the CCHA in 1972-73, which was the league’s second year of existence.

“We’ve caught wind of what people thought was the best option for us, and I think this will be well-received by hockey alumni and fans,” Dr. McLain said. “We found our best avenue to position Laker Hockey was not through the public arena, but through private negotiations. Right from the start, we were committed to remaining a Division I team and positioning us into a conference that would allow us to compete at a high level. Unfortunately we couldn’t always come out and say what we were doing, as we feared that would jeopardize our chances of getting into the new conference.”

“This is truly a significant and quite remarkable twist in what has been a period of great consternation and transition in the college hockey world,” said WCHA Commissioner Bruce M. McLeod. “On behalf of the WCHA, we couldn’t be more excited and pleased to extend these invitations to Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan.”

The WCHA and CCHA held a joint meeting in Chicago earlier this week, working from an agenda that included the sharing of institutional and hockey program information (including financial, facilities, community support, staffing and travel), scheduling and championship scenarios, and membership and league affiliation (including league size, automatic qualifiers, etc).

“This invitation represents a tremendous opportunity for the remaining members of both leagues,” said CCHA Commissioner Fred Pletsch. “Their collective commitment to Division I hockey was evident in Chicago and the synergy created by last Tuesday’s meeting will help all involved chart a course that is right for their respective program and provide further stability to college hockey’s evolving landscape.”

As a condition of this potential membership process moving forward, the WCHA-member presidents set a 30-day response timeline for acceptance. The WCHA and CCHA have also agreed to continue to hold regular talks to address such topics as by-laws, scheduling, tournament scenarios, finances and additional membership.