January 8, 2004
Vermont to Join Hockey East in 2005-06

By Nate Ewell

Vermont will join Hockey East for the 2005-06 season, the conference and the university announced today. Athletic directors from the nine Hockey East schools met on Tuesday to discuss the matter, and decided to accept Vermont less than a month after the university's first official letter of inquiry.

"We’re very appreciative of the way Hockey East handled the process," said Vermont athletic director Bob Corran, who attended the Tuesday meeting along with former Catamount coach Mike Gilligan, "and very excited about competing in Hockey East starting in the 2005-06 season."

Vermont pursued the move because it felt like Hockey East was a natural fit for the school's premier athletic program.

"We looked at the fact that four of the nine current Hockey East teams are in our multi-sport conference (America East), while none of the ECAC teams are," Corran told Inside College Hockey. "We looked at the fact that we are a public land-grant university, and we're the only public land-grant university in the ECAC, while public schools are more common in Hockey East. Taking factors like those into account, we felt that there was a real institutional fit and a real athletic fit."

Hockey East membership enthusiastically embraced the addition of Vermont, commissioner Joe Bertagna said in a press release.

"We are thrilled that the University of Vermont is joining the Hockey East family," Bertagna said. "It is rare that such an opportunity is met without the slightest trace of reservation. I can say with all sincerity that everyone associated with Hockey East has embraced this development with unusual enthusiasm and a sense of anticipation. The great tradition of UVM Hockey will fit perfectly within our own record of success."

The addition of Vermont could present scheduling hurdles for Hockey East, in which teams currently play each other three times in the conference schedule. Adding games to the conference schedule would reduce the number of non-conference games teams could play.

The loss of Vermont leaves the ECAC with 11 teams and scheduling troubles of its own.

ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco said that his conference's Development and Legislative Committee will hold a conference call on Wednesday to begin evaluating whether the ECAC should add a team (or teams), and how that process would take place.

Related Stories

Dec. 18: Vermont Pursues Hockey East Membership
June 25: Vermont Turns to Sneddon
May 6: Vermont Names Corran A.D.

"Although several schools already have contacted us, the league will work through its committee structure to review the membership criteria and the philosophical and institutional fit of any prospective member," Buttafuoco said. "It is our goal that this initial process will be concluded prior to the ECAC Championship in March, and that any decisions regarding membership are made not later than the conclusion of the spring meetings."

Union head coach Nate Leaman, who succeeded first-year Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon in Schenectady, wished the Catamounts well in the move.

"A lot of us at this stage are just wishing Vermont the best of luck," Leaman said. "Kevin's a great guy and everyone realizes it may be a struggle for them at first but we're all hoping to see them do well."

Three other ECAC schools – Clarkson, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence – have questions about their futures which could be answered as early as next week. Those three schools, plus Colorado College in the WCHA, could have their ability to offer athletic scholarships eliminated by an NCAA Division III reform proposal that will be voted on at the NCAA Convention on Monday, Jan. 12.

Hockey East Membership Through the Years


Boston College, Boston University, Lowell, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Providence break from the ECAC and form Hockey East


Merrimack joins Hockey East


Massachusetts joins Hockey East


Vermont will join Hockey East

That uncertainly, plus Findlay's decision earlier this week to drop hockey after this season, could lead to significant shake-ups in the college hockey conference landscape, even beyond Vermont's move.

The Catamounts are the first team to join Hockey East since 1994-95, when the revived program at Massachusetts joined the league.

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 had been a member of the ECAC in men's hockey since 1974-75.

Corran, who began exploring the move shortly after he was hired as A.D. in May, appreciated Hockey East's quickness in coming to a decision.

"We wanted it done as quickly as possible," Corran said. "We didn't want this to be a distraction all season long. We wanted it handled in a way where if the answer was yes, it would be a smooth transition, and if the answer was no, there wouldn't be lingering bad feelings for anyone."

Corran also expressed hope that the timing would allow the ECAC to pursue alternative members, if it chooses to do so.

"This gives the ECAC time for an orderly transition," Corran said. "We look forward to playing ECAC teams and continuing the rivalries we've established with teams like Dartmouth."

Vermont hasn’t posted a winning record since 1996-97, but boasts enthusiastic crowds at Gutterson Fieldhouse and a tradition that includes an ECAC regular-season title and a trip to the Frozen Four in 1996. University President Daniel Mark Fogel has also expressed interest in building a new arena in Burlington, a further sign for optimism. Low points in recent years included a 3-26-2 mark in 2001-02 and the 1999-2000 season that was canceled midway through the year due to a hazing scandal.

This year's Catamount team has struggled under first-year head coach Kevin Sneddon, posting an 2-13-3 record (0-7-0 and in last place in the ECAC). They were the nation's last team to post a win and stand 0-5-2 against Hockey East opponents.

INCH's Jess Myers and Joe Gladziszewski contributed to this report.

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