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CCHA alums support move to Big Ten

by Jeff Sanford / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – College hockey is on the verge of being significantly reshaped as athletic directors throughout the Big Ten Conference have put into motion plans to establish men’s ice hockey as an official league-sponsored sport.

This new hockey conference would include six programs: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Penn State. The Penn State ice hockey program, which was just announced last September, pushed the number of Big Ten schools with men’s ice hockey programs to six, the conference’s minimum for a conference championship.

Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, who played for MSU from 2005-08, seemed pleased with the news.

“I think it’s exciting,” he said. “You’re bringing some really big-time hockey programs all together in one conference. Obviously the Big Ten television network is picking up the games so that will be big, too.”

Another former Spartan, Wings forward Drew Miller, was enthusiastic as well.

“It’d be a big adjustment, a big change,” he said. “The teams that’d be in it, the big schools, means bigger rinks, bigger crowd, maybe a bigger following … It’s an exciting change, and I hope it helps hockey grow.”

Still, adding another conference to NCAA hockey not only impacts the Big Ten programs involved, but also the programs that they are leaving behind. The Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), which would lose the Wolverines, Spartans and Buckeyes to the new conference, would certainly feel lasting effects from the departure of three of its largest programs. 

“I feel bad,” Abdelkader said. “It’s tough for the CCHA, losing two big schools in Michigan.”

However, Abdelkader did express faith in the resilience of the CCHA, which could still hang on to strong programs like Notre Dame, Western Michigan, and Alaska-Fairbanks.

“I still think they’ll be all right,” he said. “They still have some really good hockey programs and I think they’ll still be able to pick up games versus Michigan and Michigan State. I think they’ll still play a lot of the teams and hopefully they’ll be able to have a league still survive without the (three) teams. Like I said, there still are some really teams in (the CCHA).”

Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler, who spent his college days playing at Ohio State, would like to see his former league live on, despite the Big Ten teams’ exodus.

“You never want to see a league fold,” he said. “It was a good league when I played in it, and there’s still good teams that play in it. So I’d still like to see that stick around.”
Kesler, however, did still support the idea of a Big Ten hockey conference, saying he thought that “it’s a good idea” and “they’re doing the right thing.” 

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) will also be impacted by the Big Ten conference, losing two major programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

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