As reported earlier today by friend of the site Shane Frederick, Minnesota State has announced it has applied for membership to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The NCHC is widely considered one of the strongest conferences in college hockey, featuring teams like national champion North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud, Miami, and others. At this point, you’re probably wondering what this means.
First, this is by no means a rubber stamp or instantaneous process. As Shane reports sources have told him the earliest the Mavs would join their new conference would be the 2018-2019 season. It’ll take time for the NCHC and MSU to get through the application process (as anyone who has ever dealt with higher education can tell you). But, from an outsider’s perspective, the road to membership doesn’t seem too rocky for Minnesota State.
The Mavs play in a very nice arena in downtown Mankato. The arena features a renovated locker room area, new video board, and recently replaced seating. The Mavs are also considered the primary tenants despite the city owning the arena. The Verizon Wireless Center seats over 5,000 for hockey and has a very nice “arena district” around it featuring bars, restaurants, and an attached hotel to the arena. Coaches like being able to park the bus for the weekend to limit distractions. Mankato is also really easy to get to for teams like Miami and Western Michigan, as the arena is about 90-miute drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
Team-wise, MSU is a strong candidate as well. It has a history with its old WCHA brethren, has been a Top 20 program for the last three seasons, and has made a financial commitment to the program. These are all traits that are highly attractive to the NCHC which is proud of its standing in the college hockey world.
In other words? I’d be surprised if Minnesota State gets denied.
The other wildcard at play is Arizona State. The Sun Devils were supposed to have made an announcement months ago about what conference they would be joining, but as of now they’ve yet to hold that press conference. Rumors have indicated ASU will be joining the NCHC. But, there have been concerns about their arena situation that will probably delay any official announcement until that dust has settled.
What’s this mean for BG? It’s not really a secret that while the Falcons are content with the WCHA, they’re probably open to taking a look around if a situation presented itself. Miami and Western Michigan would probably push for another “eastern” member if Mankato and/or Arizona State joins the fold. Adding a bus trip would be beneficial to athletic department budgets that have to support MAC football programs. BG would also find itself playing in the best conference available to it, albeit with similar travel headaches to what it’s experiencing now.
The next few years will probably see another game of musical chairs in college hockey. The one thing that is certain, however, is that Bowling Green is in a much better position than it was five years ago.