We have an interesting topic brimming ripe for discussion, jumping ship from the CCHA to the WCHA. Donald Dunlop's UAA Hockey blog (see http://uaafan.blogspot.com) made a nice, long post advocating UAF AD Forrest Karr to at least ponder the move. Based on this reading, I submitted an (not so) "anonymous" question to the now-permanent UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers' Grapevine about the change. Karr had this to say in response: "We are working with both conferences to explore affiliation with the WCHA for a number of reasons including the potential to increase revenue, reduce team travel costs, reduce team travel subsidies and the opportunity to play four league games each year against our natural in-state rival.
Chancellor Rogers will be briefed on May 27. If he decides to move forward, students, faculty, staff and the greater Fairbanks community will all be invited to open forums for discussion and input."
Now you really start to mull over the differences of the two conferences. In one hand, you have the big name schools (not so much in college hockey, but well known in other sports) such as Ohio State, Michigan, Bowling Green, Miami, Notre Dame, etc., all of which have made a name for themselves and are really big name schools outside of hockey, which really grabs peoples' attention, who may be none the wiser in the world of hockey. This fan base is pretty important, and I think switching may hurt ticket sales in this respect.
But, in the WCHA, you've got the big teams in the world of hockey, such as Denver, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, etc., who have proven themselves to be truly elite teams. 8 WCHA teams were represented in the top 25, compared to the 6 CCHA teams represented (our Nanooks were one of them, placed 24th). So in terms of this, you have to start seeing the WCHA as having a bit of an advantage in this respect. So this could have a bit of an advantage for the Nanooks in terms of recruiting, and there is no argument against the fact that the WCHA is a better regional fit. Not to mention an instant 4 game series with our natural rivals to the south, who finished in 2nd to last place in the WCHA standings and still blanked us this past 2 game Governor's Cup series.
Travel costs, from my perspective appear to be negligible. I know that some of the Nanooks travel plans have been somewhat whacked, such as going to Ohio State, we flew into Chicago and bussed the rest of the journey. Where as locations like Denver are more frequented stops by our Alaska Airline friends, where we could simply fly into the city. Similar story for Notre Dame in South Bend. We flew into Indianapolis and bussed the rest of the way. But, in our case, this could be simpler where we could fly into Denver, play them, then bus it up to play Colorado college. So I can see the potential cost savings here.
More to come from Forrest Karr about the move in the coming weeks. If there is in fact a public session, I hope its marketed, because I will surely be there and in on the conversation.
Sounds like some of the Nanooks are sticking around the 'Banks for the summer to work. Rumor has it that Joe Sova is still in town. I usually run into Lance West at Safeway once in a while, so next time I bump into him, I'll have to prod him for some knowledge. But hopefully those that stuck around will get a chance to hit the weight room and get some ice time to stay fresh for next season.
September can't get here soon enough it seems....