The NCHC Should Proceed Slowly When Considering Expansion

Last month, USCHO and College Hockey News reported that the National Colligate Hockey Conference was set to add the Arizona State Sun Devils as a member.

NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton quickly took to Twitter and released a statement refuting that claim. It would appear that someone had jumped the gun on breaking this story. That being said, there’s probably a very good chance

“Although we will continue to discuss expansion, the reports made earlier regarding an impending change of membership within our conference are inaccurate,” Fenton said in the statement. “We remain guided by a keen focus to strengthen the NCHC and helping to grow the game of college hockey.”

The NCHC should proceed slowly when considering expansion. They hold all of the cards. There’s no need to jump at the first team that wants to join the NCHC. Here’s why. The NCHC is a relatively new league and is still trying to form their own identity. Why not continue to concentrate on the leagues branding first?

Adding another team immediately gives the league an unbalanced number of teams. Adding ASU also screws up the current playoff system that’s currently working. The NCHC would probably have to find another team to join ASU in the NCHC.

There’s another reoccurring issue that needs to be addressed. Some of the conference teams are already complaining about travel costs. Adding another team will only increase these travel cost concerns. Before adding any more teams, the league needs to address the concerns of their existing members first.

ASU Needs an Arena to Call Home
Adding ASU creates some immediate concerns. First, the Sun Devils currently don’t have their own arena. Second, there aren’t any concrete plans in place to build a new arena. Currently, the Sun Devils play in Oceanside Ice Arena which seats 747 fans. That arena isn’t big enough for NCHC play or most division I conferences. This appears to be the major sticking point for the conferences that are considering ASU.

The Sun Devils will probably need to get their arena plans solidified before they can move forward.

During the Sun Devils inaugural season, they played three of their home games in Gila Arena and drew 9952 fans. That’s an average of 3317. That’s a pretty good start for a first year team.

Currently, the Sun Devils arena situation may be tied to the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes arena. There are a number of stories that have linked the two teams to a future home.

Scott Burnside of ESPN reports that the Coyotes are working on plans for a new arena. There are a number of options being discussed. One scenario is a partnership with the Sun Devils. That plan includes a new arena being built in Tempe, Arizona.

Whatever happens, the Sun Devils may have to come up with a viable arena solution before they can move forward with joining a conference.