College Hockey News is reporting that Hockey East officials are taking a site visit to the University of Connecticut and Hartford's XL Center today. The purpose of the visit is to explore the possibility of adding the UConn men's hockey program to Hockey East in time for the 2013-14 season.
Notre Dame will become the 11th Hockey East program in time for 2013-14 and the conference has expressed an interest in balancing out its membership with a 12th team if possible. UConn is believed to be the top choice for a majority of the conference's athletic directors, as the school's women's program already plays in Hockey East and it fits the mold of New England
safety state school a la Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and UMass.
The report indicates that UConn will soon apply for membership in Hockey East so long as they can work out where the Huskies men's team will play its home games. UConn's current on-campus arena, Freitas Arena, is too small for Hockey East.
UConn officials are leaning towards building a new on-campus arena even though Freitas Arena was built a little over a decade ago. Our boy, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, prefers for UConn to play at Hartford's XL Center, which, yeesh.
There's also the issue of scholarships, of which UConn does not currently offer as a member of Atlantic Hockey.
I don't like this addition for two reasons.
For one thing, if any conference can make a go of it as an odd numbered, 11-program association, it's Hockey East. Even with the addition of Notre Dame and the travel headaches adding the Irish to the fold will cause, HEA member schools are close enough geographically that the league can work out an alternate arrangement to the traditional weekend home-and-home or two game series. Adding UConn to the conference will likely mean two more conference games against a non-competitive league member for the foreseeable future and two less opportunities to schedule marquee opponents in non-conference play.
The advantage of the conference moving to a 22-game regular season schedule (down five from 27) is that it affords programs more opportunities to schedule non-conference games. The downside is that a club like BC will be giving up nine conference games a year against more traditional rivals like BU, Maine, New Hampshire and Northeastern for four games against Notre Dame and UConn, a program the Eagles have never faced. Given the alternative -- 20 league games or 22 with two against UConn -- I prefer the 20-game option.
The other reason I don't like this move is that existing Hockey East members are getting little in return for adding UConn to the conference. Just like the Notre Dame add, where the Irish's hockey program needed Hockey East a whole lot more than Hockey East needed the Irish, UConn offers little to nothing to Hockey East in return for a seat at the table in a big boy college hockey conference.
Two games a year against a basement dweller like the Huskies will kill HEA's National title contenders' PairWise rankings. Plus how good can fan support be for a program that, being extremely generous, is the fourth most popular sport on campus behind women's basketball ... [significant drop off] ... men's basketball and football? And then the governor wants to put home games in a shopping mall in downtown Hartford, 20+ miles from campus?
I didn't really care for the Notre Dame add -- especially with the Irish bringing their own separate TV contract along with them, decreasing the rest of HEA's leverage to land a national TV deal with either NBC Sports Net or CBS Sports Net -- and I REALLY don't like the UConn add if this move comes to pass.
The best move here was for Hockey East to not expand at all. But since there's no going back on Notre Dame's addition to HEA in time for the 2013-14 season, the second best move was to stand pat at 11 programs; not add a fledgling college hockey program that adds little to no value to the conference.
If you were to tell me that Hockey East could land the third most successful college hockey program in the state of Connecticut, sorry but I'm passing every time.