The marriage between Notre Dame and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association will come to an end beginning with the 2013-14 season.
That's when the Fighting Irish will begin a new chapter, as the 11th member of Hockey East -- joining Boston University, Boston College, Maine, Massachusetts, Massachusetts-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont.
The decision was made official during a Wednesday news conference at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena. The Irish had been part of the CCHA since 1992.
"Going to places like BC and BU, UNH and Vermont … I'll go down the list -- they are all tremendous institutions with tremendous hockey programs," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "This is going to be a great time for us. In the meantime, we have to recognize and respect the great environment we had playing in the CCHA and all the great people who have come through that conference over the years. It'll be very disappointing for me, as kind of a lifetime member of the CCHA, to see it no longer exist in two years. That's where I was groomed as a coach, and that's where I followed hockey."
Additionally, the NBC Sports Network announced it will televise Notre Dame home games beginning with the 2013-14 season. The NBC Sports Network currently is known as Versus, but will change its name on Jan. 2, 2012.
"The details of the television deal will emerge in the coming weeks," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "We have the outlines in place, but a little more work to do and we want to coordinate that announcement with NBC. I can say without reservation that Notre Dame will have a more robust national television platform than any hockey program in the country."
The relationship between the TV network and the school is not new; NBC has broadcast all Notre Dame home football games since 1991.
The realignment of hockey conferences began in April, when the Big Ten announced its own conference for 2012-13 -- due in large part to Penn State fielding a Division I program. The Big Ten will include Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which begins play in 2013-14, will include a mixture of schools from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the CCHA. The eight-team conference will include Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud, North Dakota, Miami and Western Michigan.
"The thing Hockey East will do for us is it will allow our program to become even more national than it has been in the past," Jackson said. "With a national TV deal with NBC Sports; with the ability in which to play more non-conference games with Hockey East's commitment to playing a smaller conference schedule, it will allow us opportunities to play against West and Midwest teams that we've developed long-term rivalries with. My No. 1 objective was to be able to have the ability to schedule more home games and make sure we have the opportunity to bring not just big time Hockey East programs into the new building (Compton Family Ice Arena), but also some of the top programs from the West and Midwest."
Jackson also likes the prospects of gaining an edge in the never-ending college recruiting war.
"Having the national exposure with our home games will allow us to continue to recruit kids across the country," he said. "Recruiting was a big part of this and there are plenty of great players from the West that play in Hockey East, so it's not uncommon for kids because the sport is more national now. This is an exciting time for us and we look forward to new partnership.
"I think it'll create a more national schedule for us and potentially open up new recruiting opportunities out East. There's a few Irish-Catholics in the East, so hopefully we'll be able to compete for a few of those top players."
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