Well, this sure is interesting.
According to a report from our friend Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan are going to get invites to the newly-formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Western Michigan is no surprise. The school has been rumored to be potentially involved in the new league from the start, and it's nice to see minds finally made up.
As for St. Cloud State, well ... you might remember comments from school president Earl Potter, where he talked about the school not accepting an invitation that never came. He quickly backed off the remarks, which simply weren't very smart. From the day the NCHC was made official, I had heard talk that SCSU could be involved at some point.
In the last month, I heard more of that. Obviously, my first reaction was laughter.
Not laughter at the thought of SCSU getting in the league. It's been a good program for a long time, and this will help them in terms of attendance (presumably, at least, the fans there will be more amped to see UMD and North Dakota than they would Ferris State or Bowling Green). I don't doubt that St. Cloud State fits in this structure and can compete in the NCHC.
The laughter comes at the thought of some very loyal SCSU people backing off their criticisms and hatchet jobs at the NCHC and its founding teams. Will they still be more worried about the future of the WCHA than they are their own program? Will they still crab that the Big Ten and NCHC have conspired to ruin college hockey? Doubtful.
Perhaps I should answer with one of the many shots St. Cloud fans took at me via e-mail and Twitter.
Would you be saying this if your team wasn't involved?
Of course, we know the answer is "Yes" in this case, because these things were being said.
And there is school president Potter, who has egg all over his face after basically saying the school was invited when it wasn't, and intimating the school wanted nothing to do with the new group. Now they're invited, and it sounds like they'll accept. Potter gave his program's supporters the fuel to trash the NCHC and Big Ten, then turned around and joined the NCHC. Makes him look silly, quite frankly, even though this is a good solution for everyone involved.
This is a positive, especially for the NCHC and UMD. The Bulldogs were looking the potential of an eight-team league where they would fly to play all but one conference opponent (North Dakota).
(You could bus to Omaha, but it's not something that sounds like fun.)
Now, at least UMD has another close rival they'll be playing regularly in the new league. Fans here can identify with St. Cloud State and North Dakota, and games with Colorado College and Denver have always been fun. Rivalries with the rest of the league will grow, but it'll be easier for UMD fans to get excited to play St. Cloud State because of the history the two programs have, and the fact that they are league rivals in every sport the two play.
For the NCHC, it allows for the growth of a three-headed regional rivalry in and around Minnesota, with UMD, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State already with plenty of disdain for one another. You have Denver and Colorado College (UNO will presumably be "grouped" with them), and Miami has a natural rival in Western Michigan. If Notre Dame joins, it's all the better.
In the end, the NCHC should not stop trying to get Notre Dame. We don't know what is going to happen to the Irish football program, and we all know that is what is driving everything else at the school. But backing away from the chance to add that program to this league would be silly and counter-productive.
Welcome aboard, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. Now, can someone tell us again why we didn't just add Miami and Western Michigan to the WCHA that already existed?