Notre Dame To Join Hockey East In 2013-2014, But Irish Come With Baggage

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 07: Ryan Guentzel #27 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is checked by Wade Bergman #28 of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs during semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Hockey East and the University of Notre Dame made it official on Wednesday, announcing that the Irish's men's ice hockey team will join the conference as its 11th member for the 2013-14 season. Nice things were said by all. Here's Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna:

"It is not an overstatement to say that this is one of the most significant days in the history of our conference," said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. "The addition of new institutions is always exciting but Notre Dame brings a unique set of qualities and circumstances to the continued growth of our league. We are proud to welcome Notre Dame into the fold and we look forward to getting to the many details that come with this announcement."

And Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick: 

"We are excited to be joining Hockey East beginning in the 2013-14 season," said North Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick."Many factors played a role in our decision, but three were of special importance to us. The first two were the critical issues of the student- athlete experience and Notre Dame's fit with the other schools in the conference. But of special importance in this instance was our goal of giving our hockey program an unprecedented level of national exposure through our expanded partnership with the NBC Sports Group. Athletics at Notre Dame has always served as a platform for promoting the University."

The move has been celebrated by some as a great move for both Hockey East and Notre Dame, with some quick to point out that one of the immediate benefits being that the Holy War on Ice will soon heat up. But if you read the fine print, I'm not sure how great a move this is for Boston College and the rest of the league.

"As Notre Dame continued to mull invitations from the NCHC and Hockey East, it was negotiating its own television deal, which it could then bring to the respective leagues to see which would be OK with it.

That deal leverages a longstanding partnership between Notre Dame and NBC, which has exclusively televised the school's football games for years. NBC Sports Network president John Miller chimed into the news conference via telephone.

Notre Dame had a preference for the NCHC because of its Western footprint, but the NCHC ultimately decided it didn't want to accept Notre Dame with its TV deal in tow."

So the Irish's new TV deal with NBC Sports Network was a no-go for the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference, a conference that has yet to play a game and one that doesn't even have a logo, but Hockey East was willing to take on the Irish with their separate TV deal? Why?

Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson states the obvious benefits of the move to HEA combined with a TV contract with NBC Sports Network that will televise all Irish home games starting in 2013-14:

"This is going to be a great time for us. With a national television deal with NBC Sports, it will allow our program to become more national. ... Recruiting was a big part of this. With home games on national television, it will allow us to recruit across the country."

So programs like Boston University, Boston College, Maine and New Hampshire -- with 11 National titles to their names -- are willing to allow Notre Dame to come on in and cash in with their own separate TV deal? Not to mention the addition of the Irish will mean less regular season games between BC and Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire and Northeastern, with the league likely to move to a two-game regular season conference schedule to cater towards the addition of Notre Dame and a likely 12th program. Plus increased travel costs and other quirky scheduling fixes to accommodate the Irish's weekly flights to Logan.

Frankly, none of this adds up. Why would Hockey East's Big Four, all programs with a national reputation, be more than happy to prop up an upstart rival, giving them a platform to capitalize on the special status enjoyed by the Irish football team?

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