By Mike McMahon
Notre Dame will join Hockey East beginning in the 2013 season, according to multiple sources. An announcement could come from the league as early as today and the Irish have scheduled an announcement for Wednesday.
Notre Dame was choosing between Hockey East and the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference after the Big 10, which will sponsor hockey beginning in 2013, took teams from the CCHA (Notre Dame's former conference) leaving the Irish affiliated with smaller schools.
Earlier yesterday, the NCHC released a statement saying that it chose to move forward with eight teams.
"We are very confident with our decision and excited to move forward as a strong eight-team conference," said Brian Faison, North Dakota athletic director and the AD committee spokesman. "As we have stated many times, it is our goal to establish the National Collegiate Hockey Conference as the premier conference in men's hockey and there's no question in our minds that we are well positioned to do so with our membership."
Notre Dame's decision was based largely on television. Soon, each conference in the country will announce its own television deal with NBC Sports Network (what Versus will turn into in January) to air college hockey games nationally. Notre Dame has reached its own agreement with NBC Sports to air its games, separately from the conference contract.
The NCHC, according to sources, was reluctant to go along with Notre Dame's television wishes.
Hockey East will also start the process of considering schools for a 12th program to the league. Candidates include RPI and UConn, but a decision has not been made.
"I think every league would prefer an even number," Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna told The Eagle Tribune on Tuesday at Hockey East's media day. "You don't want to go into the stretch drive of your schedule with one team not playing on a particular Saturday."
If the league expands to 12, it's expected that it would drop the number of conference games to 22, meaning each team would play conference opponents twice per season instead of the current three times.
"We wouldn't ever get to 12 just for the sake of getting to 12," Bertagna said. "Certain schools make a good match and certain schools won't. The desire to get to 12 is not going to lead us to making a hasty decision just for the sake of having 12 teams. It's about what schools can bring us value."