Since the weather makes it feel like it could be January or February instead of late March, let's talk Gopher and college hockey on a Friday, shall we? Mmmmm we shall.
The NCAA tourney starts today, but that was overshadowed this week with the official announcement of the Big Ten Conference starting in 2013-14. GPL has an excellent comment thread on the Big Ten Hockey Conference that at last check was 23 pages and about 1107 posts long, so if you're looking for a LOT of thoughts from some thoughful Gopher hockey fans on the U moving to the B1G, check that out. The general consensus is about what you'd figure- Gopher hockey fans are NOT real happy about leaving the WCHA, the best college hockey conference in the country for the Big Ten. Especially with word from WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod that they already have a tentative schedule in place that would rotate all 10 teams remaining WCHA teams in Minnesota's non-conference schedule with no protected annual games against North Dakota or Duluth. The fans are going to go kicking and screaming out of the WCHA, and if the team doesn't start regaining its past glory in a hurry, it's only going to get worse- as in you'll have less fans in the stands and the people that do stick around won't be happy.
The consensus outside of Gopherdom seems to be that folks in the WCHA, CCHA, and basically any other school that's not Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State don't like the new B1G conference and see it as a combo of the Wicked Witch of the West, the Big Bad Wolf, Darth Vader, and Hannibal Lecter. You get the idea; the B1G is the Death Star and it's coming to blow up lots of little college hockey program planets. Ferris State? Boom! Lake Superior? Bang! Bowling Green? D-O-N-E. And it's all the B1G's fault.
Here's what I haven't seen a very good explanation of though: just exactly HOW the B1G is going to kill college hockey and all of these small programs. No really, I'm just asking. Bigger programs like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State always have and always will have more advantages than the Ferris', Lake Superiors' Alaska's, and Michigan Tech's of the world. That's not going to change no matter what conference all of those schools are in. Is the argument that some of the little school in the CCHA will go under because they won't get Michigan or State coming into their rinks one weekend a year? Really? If that's the case, those programs are already in trouble and barely treading water as it is. I want to see the game of college hockey grow and expand, and I wouldn't want to see anyone lose their program, but if that's all the argument is, it doesn't hold water. The B1G shouldn't be blamed for taking Michigan and Michigan State out of the CCHA because they won't be able to prop up some of their members anymore. The Atlantic Hockey conference doesn't have one marquee program in it, yet you hear nothing about how this move will effect them or shut down any of their programs.
SB Nation Boston College blog BC Interruption says the new B1G is bad for college hockey. Honestly, BC complaining about anything right now is like the Yankees complaining about the revenue system in baseball as BC is dominating the sport right now the way Minnesota used to. Also interesting is that while the folks at BC Interruption think that this pretty much closes the door on expansion possibilities for the sport, while the guys at the Michigan blog "The House that Yost Built" think this helps.
Also interesting is how much the author of that "post on Yost" if you will (and I will!) hates the Gophers, and loves that we're sucking. For me, that just shows despite what Don Lucia and Joel Maturi are trying to do to the beloved Gopher Hockey program, it still carries a big name and a big target. Not sure how much longer that lasts when the team continues missing the NCAA's and finishing middle of the pack in whatever conference they're in, but it still shows people love to hate Gopher hockey.
As for the NCAA tourney College Hockey News has bracket analysis, as well as previews for the West Regional, East Regional, and Northeast Regional. They also provide matchup previews in the Midwest Reginonal of North Dakota vs. Rensselaer and Denver vs. Western Michigan. If you're looking for the games on TV here's a channel guide.
Finally, USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor has announced the first seven players to make the U-17 team for next year for kids with a 1995 birthdate (WOW does that make me feel old!). Among the seven were three Boston College recruits, one kid from Sconnie, and one kid who will be squarely on the Golden Gophers radar, Apple Valley's Hudson Fasching. Minnesota high school hockey fans won't like that Fasching is leaving for the NTDP, but it's hard to argue with the success rate that program has had getting kids drafted in the NHL and ready for the pros and college hockey. Fasching has the potential to be the #1 pick overall pick when he's eligible for the NHL draft in a year or two, and he's certainly at the top of the list for Gopher recruiting, even if he'd probably only play one season of college hockey.