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Q&A with Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna

Last week, as part of a story I was working on regarding the addition to the Big 10 conference to college hockey, I spoke with Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. 

Mike McMahon: What does the addition of the Big 10 mean, at least on the outset, to Hockey East
Joe Bertagna: “Well I hope it would create some opportunities for us to schedule some of their teams in a more formal sense than just the schools doing it on their own. We’ve all seen the ACC, Big East and other basketball conferences do things like a challenge matches, so from a scheduling point of view, I hope they would reach out to us and we would be able to collaborate on events like that. I think from their point of view they’re still defining their administrative structure, who is going to speak for them and what their own schedule is going to look like so it’s a little premature but that’s one of the first things that came to mind.

“When you get a big school like Penn State to come to the table with college hockey it’s good for everyone. So many of our schools are smaller Division 3 or Division 2 schools so to have a big school like Penn State come to the table it’s a good thing.”

McMahon: Obviously the WCHA and the CCHA are going to be losing some teams to the Big 10. That is going to lead to some sort of restructuring among conferences. Is it clear how that might play out and if it could potentially affect Hockey East at all?
Bertagna: “I just came back from the coaches convention in Florida and thought that that very question would surface and perhaps some clarity would happen. But if anything, it’s more confusing now than it was before.

“Anyone immediately affected are teams in CCHA and WCHA and I think those teams are looking at what their options are because those leagues could take a hit in terms of their profile by losing those five schools. Also, when you have coaches together without their presidents or administrators, the rumors start flying and after a while you don’t know what to believe. I came home and certainly nothing was clarified. It seems more confusing as every other day seemed to bring another scenario.”

McMahon: If an opportunity were to present itself to expand Hockey East as part of this potential restructuring, is that something the league would be open to?
Bertagna: “I think we’ve always been open to (potentially expanding the league). The last time it happened was when Vermont came to us and they had a new president and wanted to talk to us and that was a seamless process as both sides saw value in the other. We’re always looking to make our league even more than what it is but there is an awful lot that would have to happen in this current conversation. There are programs in the northeast, if we got to a point where we wanted to talk to other programs, but we’ve never approached anyone in another league, that’s not appropriate, certainly not to initiate that conversation, but we’re always open to improving what we already are.”



  1. Dan in Cincy

    May 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Mike – Great interview. I say that HE should move to add the top tier CCHA schools (Notre Dame, Miami). The Big East has already set the “eastern” boundaries out to the Midwest.

  2. […] Hockey East commish talks about the Big […]

  3. RandHall

    May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    So who are the “other programs” other than URI in New England?

  4. warrior3

    May 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    URI is only a club level team. The other programs in New England that are D1 would be Quinnipiac, UCONN, Bentley, AIC… then there are a bunch of programs that are in NY. I don't think that it would be good for Hockey East to bring in a new team that is coming from an unestablished athletic department such as URI. The league is finally showing signs of parity, they would not want to bring in a new team that will struggle for years to come

  5. Mike McMahon

    May 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    I think you'll see them target some larger schools in the Midwest not going to the Big 10. Maybe target isn't the right word – I think you'll see a bigger school from the Midwest approach them and they'll accept. Might be more than one. That's what makes sense to me.

    There really isn't another eastern school that right now makes sense.

    And it's more than just competitiveness.

    It's about what a potential program could add to the league.

    I'm sure, if UConn decided to really invest in hockey, then Hockey East would love to have them join as a men's program.

    Same goes for URI, QU, etc.

    UConn wouldn't be competitive right away but has a lot to offer, including bringing the league into a market it isn't.

    Same goes for Syracuse, if they were to ever add hockey.

  6. Mike A.

    May 20, 2011 at 2:44 am

    I go to URI and have talked with coach Augustine. They were invited to join Hockey Easy years ago and have been asked to join the Atlantic for years. They have the student and community base to thrive in Hockey East, and the land to build and on campus arena. The URI-PC rivalry would be huge, and it would add another big state school to the league. However, until money and certain people fall into alignment, the team will remain a club power though people I've talked to have said the club could be varsity, or in the transition process, within five or ten years.

  7. Mike Salvucci

    May 20, 2011 at 9:58 am

    As far as rivalry goes Bentley would be fun to expand the lacrosse/football rivalry between the two schools onto the ice – but they are in no way shape or form ready for hockey east play…. never mind that they play in the Watertown municipal rink.

    Holy cross and Quinnipiac are options as well.

    I'm not so sure Hockey East would be quick to go beyond bussing distance to add to their conference. Not sure who foots the bill for flying out to South Bend financially but while it may not be a big deal for the Irish to charter a flight to Lawrence Regional it is for Merrimack going the other way.

  8. Mike McMahon

    May 20, 2011 at 10:06 am

    From a league standpoint, if they have the opportunity to add a team with the prestige of Notre Dame, they would do it in a split second (in my opinion).

    And, I think that every school in the league would be in favor of that decision.

    The schools pay for their own travel, but adding Notre Dame – one of the most influential Universities in the world – to your league is something you don't say no to.

    It gives you more visibility and marketability. It makes you more national. It enhances your “brand” perhaps more than any other college hockey school can.

    From a Merrimack standpoint, sure it's a flight travel that you have to do every year. But you also bring Notre Dame on to your campus every year. Don't overlook the value in that. The little D2 school in North Andover is now associated with Notre Dame. That's a big deal.

    Of course that's all speculation on my part whether or not ND is a school that would even move. But, with realignment pending, I think you're going to see some big changes to the landscape.

  9. Mike McMahon

    May 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    James – I think if they add one team, they will add another. Again, just speculation on my part, but if you take two teams, the ones that seem to make the most sense would be Notre Dame and Miami. If I were HE, those are the two “leftover” programs from the CCHA/WCHA in the Big 10 mix that I would target.

  10. Dan in Cincy

    May 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    As an MC grad in Cincinnati and with Miami only 30 minutes away, having the Redhawks in HE would be great. Having a steady flow of the established HE teams coming to Oxford, including the Warriors, would be fantastic! Not to mention that adding ND and Miami would reinforce HE as the premiere conference in college hockey.

  11. James A.

    May 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I know USHR mentioned last month there was a lot of talk about Miami and Notre Dame joining Hockey East as well. I'd imagine with a 12 team league they would drop to 22 conference games and 12 non-conference games, which would be fantastic.

  12. yuppiescum

    May 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Granted, ME is as far away as NYC, but I really don't like the idea of adding super-far-flung programs to our lyric little league. I love being able to visit almost every conference opponent and knowing a lot of people who are alums of those schools. I'd much rather see them bring up a D2 school, Bentley, or Qpiac. UConn is a no-brainer if they open their pockets for the schollarships.

    Some fun long-shots to think about might be SNHU, Brandeis, Assumption, or Tufts.

    I know that the dollar rules the NCAA though and sadly I think you guys are all right, they would go after those two big midwestern programs in a heartbeat once the big 10 fallout goes through.

  13. Don

    May 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    No idea why you'd want to diminish the prestige of HE by adding no name schools. ND and Miami would be awesome!

  14. yuppiescum

    May 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Don, Merrimack could very much be considered a “no-name school”, at least until the revolution of the past few years. I believe that schools could be added with the hope that their program (and thus prestige) rises with them. I know everyone's very excited by the possibility to add two tourney teams to our division, but I maintain that HEA has a LOT of growth potential in its current configuration, before expanding the league. Getting more coverage in the local sports media should really be priority number one for Bertagna right now, the way I see it, that would hopefully lead to better TV coverage and then to further alumni involvement.

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