Fall is approaching and that means that college hockey is just around the corner. Of course, if you look at the thermometer, the weather right now isn’t all that conducive with making ice. As of today, there are 45 days until the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) kicks off its conference play.
The inaugural season for the NCHC, is set to begin conference play on October 18, 2013. The NCHC will also kick off its inaugural season with a double header on CBS Sports Network.
Programming note: You might want to check your local cable listings now, to make sure that you’re not left out in the cold when the college hockey season begins. CBS Sports Network is usually available on “most” cable system’s higher end packages.
With anything new, there’s a few issues surrounding the new league, here’s some of the news items that have been a topic for discussion this past summer leading up to the NCHC’s inaugural season.
NCHC Television Deal not Popular with UND’s Fans
One group of fans that’s not happy with the NCHC television deal is the University of North Dakota fan base. The University of North Dakota fans base, has fans all over the USA and Canada, and these fans pack opposition arenas when UND travels on the road. The UND fan base tunes in, en masse, to watch UND hockey games on television as well.
Last season, UND fans were able to watch “most” of UND’s home hockey games on Fox College Sports. However, with the NCHC’s exclusivity deal, UND’s home games will no longer be Fox College Sports. The only way these UND fans will be able to watch the games that are not on CBS Sports Network, will be via webcast, provided by UND.
Not all is lost, the current NCHC television deal is better than the deal that the WCHA has. The WCHA was set to announce a deal with Fox Sports, and they were going to stream all of the WCHA’s conference games online, but that deal has since fallen through and been delayed for this season.
NCHC Forges New Standards for Officiating
In May, the NCHC announced that they were pioneering an innovative standard for their on-ice officials. Of course, NCHC fans are going to be skeptical. On the surface, what the new league has been saying about its new officiating standards sounds really appealing. But, the league is going to have to prove on the ice, that they have changed the officiating standards. NCHC fans are not interested in keeping with the status quo. The reason the NCHC fans are skeptical, the new league hired many of the same old on-ice officials from the WCHA. This has been a bone of contention for many NCHC fans, but also a running joke for fans of other college hockey leagues.
Now, the league’s new plan does look good, on paper, when you read it. The NCHC’s leaders have been saying all of the right things. This is what the Director of hockey operations had to say about the new standards.
“One of the key goals for our conference is to develop one of the best officiating programs in the country,” Director of Hockey Operations Joe Novak said.
The NCHC head of officials Don Adam, also had this to say on the new officiating standards.
“We will extend our expectations to the officials before they come to camp and then provide them with very detailed and focused sessions once they do arrive,” Head of officials Don Adam said. “We want to educate our officials in every way possible which includes, but is not limited to: skating, positioning, rules and interpretations, and the mental aspect of officiating. We will be utilizing video as a teaching tool throughout the season, while communicating with our officials on a regular basis. Our training program is a culmination of our collective officiating experience, which includes the collegiate, professional and international hockey levels. We will always strive to develop one of the best staffs in the country.”
There’s an old saying, talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whisky. The NCHC is going to have to prove to its fan that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Fans of the NCHC will be watching the on-ice officials very closely.
NCHC Will Use the Shootouts to Settle Regular Season games
Whether hockey fans want to admit it or not, shootouts are a part of the hockey landscape. This past August, the NCHC also announced that it would use the shootout to break ties. So, if the game is still tied after five-minutes of overtime, conference games will then go to a shootout. The NCHC will not use the shootout during their conference playoffs.
At the same time, the NCHC also announced that they were going to use a points system that is “similar” to the one that NHL uses during the regular season to award points for conference wins and ties. However, there were two exceptions to their new points system. One; teams that lose during the sudden-death overtime period will not receive a single point, like teams in the NHL currently do. Also, NHL teams do not get three points for a win in regulation.
So far, there’s been a mixed reception to the league’s new overtime rules. Some fans have been very vocal in their opposition. I believe that eventually, the league’s fans will warm up to the NCHC’s use of the shootout – to break ties – during conference games. That being said, the hockey purists may never warm up to the shootout.
In conclusion, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has experienced a few stumbles, coming out of the blocks, before they have ever played a hockey game. However, it appears that the league is heading in the right direction leading up to the season. The time for talking is over; the season starts in roughly 45 days. That inaugural weekend can’t come fast enough for NCHC some fans.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.