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.”