The CCHA is as much a part of Michigan hockey as the Red Wings are to the local community. The sight of Joe Louis Arena split between Michigan and Michigan State fans is unparalleled. While the CCHA also includes five of its 11 teams from beyond the Great Lake State, there was something special about watching schools like Ferris State and Lake Superior State play on the same ice as some of their bigger school counterparts. Now, it looks like big money and big conference are changing the college hockey landscape for good.
The Big Ten hockey league is scheduled to kick off in 2013 with six teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State (all CCHA), Minnesota (WCHA), Wisconsin (WCHA) and Penn State (new team in 2012). While the Big Ten promises to have their respective teams play their out of conference schedules against previous fellow in-conference rivals, it just won’t have that same feeling.
Much like the way the CCHA used games with Michigan or Michigan State as its marquee games to showcase its talent to large alumni fan bases, the Big Ten will likely take these pre-established rivalries as its top games. Penn State hockey seems out of place from day one, and it will likely take at least a decade before they can be considered competitive.
If there’s one person to blame for this situation, it might be Farmington Hills-based CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos, who can only blame himself. Anastos created a league that was suitable for made-for-television events. He was the brainchild behind the Frozen Four in Detroit, and used his influence in both “Cold War” games. This time though, it might take more than an outdoor hockey game to help out this future league of eight schools.