Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ND to Hockey East; Loop wants RPI next

The University of Notre Dame will officially join the Hockey East conference on Wednesday and begin play in the New England-based league next season.
The addition of the Fighting Irish, currently ranked No. 1 in USCHO poll, brings Hockey East's total entries to 11. Since the loop has never used a travel-partner scheduling format, it doesn't necessarily need an even number of teams. However, HE coaches and ADs complained for several years about having nine teams before Vermont was added as the 10th member six years ago.
Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, Maine, New Hampshire and Providence are the other Hockey East members.
Notre Dame was a member of the Central Collegiate Athletic Conference, which was disolved by the formation of the Big Ten Hockey league and other college hockey relalighment. The Irish were turned down by the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which already had committed to eight schools -- Miami, Western Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, Denver and Colorado College -- and wanted to begin play with an even number of teams
Talk has been rampant that Hockey East will seek to add RPI to bring the conference back. That call for a major committment to upgrade from both the administration of Rensselaer President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson and the school's Board of Trustees.
The board firmly opposed RPI's proposed move to Hockey East on two occasions decades ago. Those in RPI's academic community loved being aligned with the six Ivy League schools that field hockey teams.
Could their minds be changed?
That's the major question -- as well as, would the administration be willing to further renovate Houston Field House and increase the hockey budget significantly.
Until recently, the answers to those questions were a resounding 'no.'
Now there appears to be gray area.
Of course -- especially at this time of year -- both RPI head coach Seth Appert and Athletic Director Jim Knowlton -- declined to comment on the matter. They're focused on beginning the 2011-12 season and competing for the ECAC Hockey championship.
Stayed tuned.


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