NMU Hockey Pursues Return to WCHA
The NMU Board of Trustees today endorsed the administration’s recommendation that NMU’s Division I Wildcat hockey program pursue membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, beginning with the 2013-14 season. Membership in the WCHA would require a formal invitation and vote by that league’s institutions, which has not yet taken place. Northern currently competes in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).
This summer’s announcement of two new college hockey leagues—the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conferences—will drastically change both the CCHA and the WCHA in 2013-14. The 11-team CCHA will possibly lose five teams (Miami, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State and possibly Notre Dame), while the 12-team WCHA will lose seven teams (Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Wisconsin).
With the shakeup to the CCHA and WCHA conferences, NMU President Les Wong said he asked Wildcat intercollegiate athletics staff and the hockey coaches to consider the benefits of membership in each league, especially since NMU hockey has been a member of both at some point.
“I felt the schools that will be in the WCHA in 2013-14 share many similarities with Northern,” said Wong. “We all have similar locations with hometowns that passionately support their hockey programs. We also all offer similar academic offerings and have similar student bodies. We all have strong NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs but a Division I hockey program. Having our hockey team travel west also compliments our recruiting footprint for not just athletics, but the university as a whole.”
Members of the WCHA moving forward in 2013-14 will be Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Mankato and St. Cloud State. Members of the CCHA moving forward are Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan.
"We share many natural rivalries with the new WCHA programs and the league offers geographical balance for us," Interim Athletic Director Steve Reed told the board. "With the changing landscape in college hockey in 2013-14, it is important for us to consider all options and choose the one we feel works best for NMU hockey at this time."
NMU hockey was in the WCHA from 1984-97 and in the CCHA from 1977-84 and again beginning with the 1997-98 season. As a WCHA member, NMU won the 1991 NCAA Championship and regular season conference title, along with three league tournament titles (1989, ’91 and ’92).