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Eric Peterson, Published July 01 2009

MSUM's focus shifts from WCHA to CCHA, independent status for potential hockey program

While it appears the door to its dream conference has closed, Minnesota State Moorhead is still exploring its dream to start Division I ice hockey.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association voted last Friday to add Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha to the conference for the 2010-11 season, growing the league to an even 12 teams.

“I think it clarifies what our options are for us and allows us to focus a little bit more on our decision-making process in trying to determine costs and all those sorts of things,” MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said.

Now that it appears the WCHA is locked in at an even 12 teams for the foreseeable future, MSUM may have to shift its focus if the school is to start a Division I program.

The Dragons could start

as an independent or there could be an opportunity

to join the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, which will shrink to 11 teams when Nebraska-Omaha leaves for the WCHA.

“At this point, those are the two apparent options,” Peters said.

Alabama-Huntsville had already applied to join the CCHA before Nebraska-Omaha decided to bolt for the WCHA.

Prior to Nebraska-Omaha leaving the CCHA, league commissioner Tom Anastos said it wasn’t for certain the CCHA would be forced to add a 12th team.

“It’s not just the number of teams. It’s the location of teams, the philosophy and commitment of teams,” Anastos said. “So it’s as much about the right teams in the right footprint with a common commitment, than it is about the number of teams.

“On the surface just to say there’s ‘X’ number is the right number, I wouldn’t say that’s the case. I will say, it’s certainly easier to schedule an even amount of teams than an odd number of teams. But that’s not insurmountable. There are ways to do that, too.”

Peters said he plans to keep in touch with both Anastos and WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod as MSUM works through its D-I hockey decision.

MSUM President Edna Szymanski said she wants to make a decision one way or the other in December.

“I think there will be ongoing conversations with both the CCHA and WCHA based on the fact that we’re looking to expand college hockey,” Peters said. “Whether it might only be advice or suggestions … it would be good to have ongoing conversations.”

Peters said geography could help MSUM if it decides to start hockey as an independent.

“It’s a difficult thing to go the independent route, but it is doable,” Peters said. “Especially when there are so many colleges within … a 500-mile radius that are going to be looking for games and there are equal numbers of schools in the next 500 miles.

“If there is a place in the country where you might be able to make a strong go of it independently, the Moorhead area is one of those places.”

Peters said the school is continuing to try to raise money as it decides whether starting hockey is viable or not.

“We’re just still in the fundraising process and there are people that are very interested in this enterprise,” Peters said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com