By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Last Thursday, St. Cloud State University and Western Michigan University officially accepted invitations to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference when the conference begins play in 2013-14. St. Cloud State is the sixth member of the WCHA to make the move, while Western Michigan becomes the second team from the CCHA.
Though neither team has the same kind of history as fellow National members North Dakota or Denver, they place the same level of importance on hockey as the rest of the schools in the conference. Plus, they come to the National from the tradition-rich hockey states of Minnesota and Michigan.
Though St. Cloud has only been a Division I program since 1987, the Huskies have been playing hockey since 1931. They’ve made eight appearances in the NCAA tournament and won the WCHA tournament once in 2001 with a 31-9-1 record.
Western Michigan has had a hockey program since 1973 and played at the Divison I level since 1975. Last year’s appearance in the NCAA tournament was the Bronco’s first since 1996.
In a press release, Brian Faison, Athletic Director at North Dakota and the spokesperson for the National’s Conference Athletic Director’s Committee trumpeted the addition of the two schools.
“This is a great day for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to have these two outstanding institutions accept the invitations to become members of what we believe will be the premier college hockey conference in the United States,” said Faison. “St. Cloud State and Western Michigan will add a great deal to The National, and we are very pleased to welcome them.”
Though much speculation has surrounded a possible invitation to Notre Dame, it continues to be just speculation. The search for a commissioner to The National is ongoing and expected to be concluded before the end of the calendar year.
“With the launch of the inaugural season for The National just two years away, and with greater clarity regarding membership, we are confident the strength of our schedules and the success of our teams will produce outstanding hockey with regional and national appeal and strong contenders for the national championship on an annual basis,” Faison said.