Seven schools that are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced Friday they are forming a new NCAA Division I college mens hockey conference, which will launch in the 2021-22 season.
The new division has left out the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska hockey teams, as well as one from Alabama, leaving those three teams without a conference to play in.
The move could signal the end of the mens hockey program for both Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses, as players will likely transfer to schools that are part of a conference.
The spokesman for the new conference indicated that travel costs to play in Alaska were a consideration.
Athletics consultant Morris Kurtz, speaking for the group, said, “the group is comprised of institutions rich in history and tradition with a strong commitment to academic and athletic excellence. They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.”
The seven schools include Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State Mankato and Northern Michigan. Each has independently submitted formal notices to the WCHA that they are initiating the withdrawal process in from the WCHA, but they will will play in the WCHA during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association President and Men’s League Commissioner Bill Robertson issued a response on Friday:
“Late this afternoon, the WCHA office received communication from several of our Men’s League institutions that they intend to explore the creation of a new Division I men’s hockey conference that would begin play in 2021-22 … While this news is disappointing, the WCHA will work to assure that any members that do withdraw do so in accordance with WCHA Bylaws.”
Those bylaws require a 25-month waiting period to withdraw.