By now, I'm sure everyone has heard that the Big Ten will form a hockey conference for the 2013-14 season. I'm really mixed how I feel about this.
On the one hand, you've got added exposure for the sport, Michigan will play Wisconsin and Minnesota more often (which I love), State is going to get destroyed, I won't have to hear about how great the WCHA is all the time, and it opens the game up to further expansion.
On the other hand, it would be a tragedy if teams like Bowling Green, Lake State, Michigan Tech, etc. struggled to survive in a BTHC world, there's the thought that we'll lose out on some traditional rivalries, etc.
The Big Ten is a name, and a well-recognized one to boot. It adds a little extra credibility that maybe you don't get with the "Central Collegiate Hockey Association". The fact that these teams can now play for a "Big Ten Championship" is kind of cool. But the real exposure is going to come in the form of the Big Ten Network. Brian posted a ton of links, one of which mentioned that they were committing to "at least 40 games" per season. That's huge for the fans, because we'll get to see our team a lot more. It's also huge for recruiting to be able to tell a kid that he'll play on national TV 10-15 times per season minimum. Plus, as my buddy Kevin texted me when it was announced: "HD, yo!"
Additionally, the selfish part of me is really excited to get to play Wisconsin and Minnesota more often. Quite honestly, I hate Minnesota more than I hate any other team in the country. I'd absolutely take a win over Minnesota over a win against FYS any day. Living in Madison, I've grown to hate the Badgers as well. The BTHC won't start until after I'm likely living back in Michigan, but still, four games a year against these teams instead of one? Big fan. Especially if the Gophers keep sucking. (Yes, I know they killed us this year.) And it'll be a good opportunity to get back out to Madison and visit after I move back home eventually. Tie it in to the Michigan road weekend? That's good times.
State will keep getting destroyed. That's fun too. If you didn't hear, they hired the former commish of the CCHA, Tom Anastos as their new head coach. He's never been a head coach outside of U-M Dearborn's club team and hasn't coached period in 20-or-so years. MGoBlog is pointing and laughing. Spartan fans are "absolutely crushed". I kind of wonder how they're going to recruit, having been as bad as they've been for the last few years. Now they're bringing in a guy with no track record of developing players, putting guys into the NHL, or, you know, coaching. At least they'll have the Big Ten Network recruiting bump.
The other thing is that it opens the sport up to further expansion. As it is right now, Atlantic Hockey has 12 teams, the CCHA has 11, the WCHA has 12, Hockey East has 10, and the EZAC has 12. Where are you going to put anyone? The CCHA could take one, and Hockey East could take a couple if they really wanted to.
After B1G hockey comes about, the WCHA will be back down to 10, the CCHA will have 8, and the Big Ten will have 6. That's at least eight spots that are open for non-Big Ten teams (including Hockey East taking two) and that's a good thing.
I agree with Brian that there will probably be some realignment. This is a completely uneducated opinion, but back when we went through this with Omaha, Bemidji, and Huntsville, I thought that the two Alaska schools should end up in the same conference for a lot of reasons and I'm sticking to that now. You lose the Minnesota/Wisconsin/Michigan draw (I have a hard time believing that OSU or FYS are drawing crowds) but you could add some additional importance to a rivalry series, teams from the conference could just go up for 2 weeks at a time and knock out both of them, and you'd lower the number of teams that have to make the trek up to Alaska in the first place. (I did the math on that awhile back.)
Again, completely uneducated opinion, but I could see Tech in the CCHA or NMU back in the WCHA. There have been rumblings about Notre Dame flirting with Hockey East or Miami going to the WCHA. This is going to get interesting.
I agree with the points that MGoBlog made about the conferences being okay. Denver and NoDak are the teams to beat in the WCHA more often than not. CC and Omaha are both solid. Duluth is usually pretty good. St. Cloud is pretty good. They're still alright. The CCHA is alright as long as Miami and Notre Dame stay in the conference and stay good. The smaller schools lose the Michigan gate, but Michigan'll still end up playing them sometimes, given that a 20-game conference schedule means 16-or-so non-conference games.
My enthusiasm drops significantly if it results in some of the smaller schools dropping their program, but it doesn't seem that that's the plan for any of them--at least not yet. Also, despite what they're currently saying, I bet we see Iowa go D-1 in hockey at some point. There are so many USHL teams there....they could recruit. People in the state clearly are at least aware of hockey. I think it makes a lot of sense.
Right now, though, my immediate reaction was a positive one: More games on TV, more games in HD, more games against Minnesota and Wisconsin, at least some semblance of a recruiting bump, more exposure for this awesome sport. I know my team is one of the "haves" in this scenario, but I see a lot to like.