December 18, 2003
Vermont Pursues Hockey East Membership

By Nate Ewell

University of Vermont President Daniel Mark Fogel sent a letter Thursday to Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna expressing his university's interest in joining the Hockey East Association, the school announced today.

Bertagna confirmed that he had received the letter, but said that no process had been determined for considering Vermont's membership.

"I've been here for seven years, and I was at the ECAC for 15 years," said Bertagna, who was the ECAC commissioner prior to assuming his current post. "There's no handbook for this sort of thing. We'll consult with our schools and give [Vermont] an opportunity to make a formal presentation in person."

No timetable has been set for when that presentation might take place. The Hockey East championship weekend or the American Hockey Coaches' Association annual meeting in Naples, Fla., would be the two most logical possibilities.

ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco released a statement saying that his league respected Vermont's right to explore other options.

"Vermont has been a valued member of the ECAC and has contributed to the development of the history and tradition of the League," said Buttafuoco. "We respect Vermont's decision to explore its options with respect to possible membership in Hockey East. We understand that every institution has the right and the duty to continually review its athletics programs and make decisions it deems in its best interests.

"As for the ECAC, we shall continue to thoroughly examine all facets of the league and be very proactive in evaluating the needs of the league. We shall consider all options available to us to ensure that any action taken is in the best interests of the member institutions."

Hockey East was formed prior to the 1984-85 season when its members left the ECAC. Since then, ECAC membership has been remarkably stable, subtracting only Army and adding Union.

Vermont has been a member of the ECAC in men's hockey since 1974-75. Adding Vermont would give Hockey East 10 men's hockey teams and seven in women's hockey. The ECAC currently has 12 men's hockey teams.

Fogel, who has held his post at Vermont for a year and a half, is one of several new faces in the Burlington administration who would play a role the decision to pursue Hockey East membership. The Catamounts' athletic director, Bob Corran, was hired last summer, as was head coach Kevin Sneddon. In the past, Fogel has discussed the possibility of building a new rink in the community.

Vermont has long been rumored as a possible 10th team in Hockey East. Its state-school status would seem to fit with other Hockey East members, which include four other New England state universities (Maine, Massachusetts, UMass Lowell, New Hampshire). The Catamounts' fan base and relatively successful tradition would seem to make them an attractive addition to Hockey East.

This year's Catamount team has struggled, posting an 0-11-2 record (0-6-0 ECAC). They are the nation's only winless team and stand 0-4-1 against Hockey East opponents.

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