It’s a tough day for the Big Ten conference, having lost legendary college football coach Joe Paterno to lung cancer. I am in no mood to discuss his tarnished legacy over the recent allegations affecting the University, especially on a hockey website. Instead, with the Big Ten in the news, I thought I would discuss the Big Ten’s move to create a college hockey conference, to begin in the 2013-2014 season.
The Big Ten will be the first major conference to support hockey, as they now have 6 teams fielding a division 1 program, the minimum for a conference by NCAA standards. The conference will immediately become a money maker, with a television network already established to air their games and some of the most successful programs in the history of college hockey.
Of course, the Big Ten has 12 members, and to make things more confusing, only 6 of them will be playing hockey. The most successful team in NCAA hockey history will be joining the conference. That would be the Michigan Wolverines with 9. Historically, their greatest hockey rival has been Michigan State, who has a strong history of their own. The Spartans have 3 national titles to their credit.
Another pair of historically strong programs played across from each other in the WCHA, which was historically the strongest NCAA hockey conference. Minnesota and Wisconsin managed 11 national titles between the schools, with Wisconsin having the overall edge 6-5.
These two rivalries will be expanded in what is a very strong conference. Outside of the 23 national titles between the four programs, they have also netted 14 runners up. Somehow, Ohio State, a large, popular university, is the only school who has fielded a team that will be joining the Big Ten that hasn’t finished in the top two, but are usually competitive. The final piece to the puzzle, Penn State, will just be starting their Division 1 program, but have had a club team and are in a very rich hockey environment, and will almost certainly be strong from the outset.
With the way college hockey works, the beckoning call of a paycheck for the best players whenever they want it and the ability to leave school to a job in the NHL mid-season, it’s hard to say which of these teams will be competing for the Big Ten Championship in 2014, but you can rest assured, that team will also be competing for the National Title.