Men’s hockey to leave NCHA


Story by Steve Fruehauf, Copy Editor

After much deliberation, it has been decided that five teams sponsoring men’s ice hockey in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association will be departing the conference after the completion of the 2012-2013 season, a year earlier than planned.

UW-Eau Claire along with UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout, and UW-Superior are all currently affiliated with both the NCHA and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. Following the completion of this year, all five teams will solely be a part of
the WIAC.

A press release from the WIAC said the reason for the early departure is to prevent scheduling issues that would have occurred if still affiliated with the NCHA after the 2013-2014 season. WIAC Commissioner Gary Karner said there are a few other reasons that led to the expedited separation
as well.

One was the overlap of rules and regulations that each respective conference enforced. Karner said it became very difficult to come to an agreement about which policies each school had to abide by since there were so many. He said this way, being under just the WIAC, all of the teams affiliated can now have a concise set of regulations that won’t change.

“We also, as a conference, have a full time commissioner, myself, and a full-time staff whereas the NCHA had a part-time commissioner and a part-time sports information director,” Karner said. “So we just see it being administratively much cleaner and a much simpler model than what we had under the NCHA.”

Among other things, Karner also said the conference’s finances will be better because of the move. He said that with the new set up, teams can now begin to save some money on traveling expenses. For example, in the past, teams would have to travel down to Southern Michigan to compete in the NCHA and he said the expenses started to add up.

While Karner is looking at this change as a positive, that’s not to say all affiliated with the move are as excited.

Eau Claire Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Matt Loen and Captain Andrew McCabe both said the move was a surprise and a somber departure.

“The NCHA had so much tradition,” Leon said. “I played in it as a player. There are a lot of really good coaches that have coached in the NCHA so I’m just going to miss that
traditional part.”

McCabe said that his first reaction was mostly negative as well because of the rivalries the team will be losing. He said games against St. Norbert and St. Scholastica (Minn.) will lose some meaning since they won’t be competing within the same conference anymore. Although he also said that departing the NCHA will definitely increase rivalries amongst in-state teams Eau Claire will be competing against.

Blugold Athletics Director Scott Kilgallon said that the move will benefit Eau Claire when it comes to recruiting players; something he said hasn’t been particularly equal among teams affiliated with the NCHA.

“(Departing the NCHA) puts our coaches on a level recruiting field, which hasn’t happened when you have a conference like the NCHA that was made up from a number of conferences,” Kilgallon said. “There was no question we had more stringent recruiting rules and restrictions so I think this is going to be really, really good.”

He said that affiliating with just the one conference will help flow well with other sports at Eau Claire who are solely under the WIAC as well.

Along with that, he said that since the conference is so strong and so well organized, he thinks other teams will come join in a couple of years, making for more competition.

“At the end of the day, you have to take care of your family,” Kilgallon said. “This is a good move for us and it’s going to ultimately be a good move for our student athletes.”