What's in a Name?
a new conference. It has a new name – Atlantic Hockey –
and a new commissioner in former Merrimack director of athletics
Bob DeGregorio, who served as Hockey East boss in the ’90s
and is currently that league’s treasurer. On the surface,
it’s just the nine schools from the Metro Atlantic Athletic
Conference hockey league – American International, Army,
Bentley, Canisius, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Quinnipiac
and Sacred Heart – extracting themselves from the aegis
of the MAAC’s oversight.
there have already been a number of questions asked about this
new league. Does it bring from the MAAC the automatic bid to the
NCAA Tournament for its playoff champion? Yes. Will the 2004 conference
tournament still be held at West Point in March? You got it. Any
chance they’ll lure Miami and Virginia Tech into the fold?
I think you’re on the wrong page, buddy.
we could argue about what the league’s letterhead might
look like, or discuss the merits of Atlantic Hockey officiating.
But that would be a waste of time.
only one question out there, a question that hasn’t been
answered, and one that determines the on-ice future of this fledgling
confederation of hockey-playing institutions:
Will the league
permit its schools to award the maximum number of scholarships
allotted by the NCAA?
being part of a hockey-only league should lead to a stronger commitment
to the sport from its members. You’d think a conference
like Atlantic Hockey that has its own leadership structure –
and not one that’s splitting its time in an effort to legislate
the operation of 25 sports, like the MAAC – would be able
to forge ahead with a directive that was heretofore impossible
under the previous arrangement.
said, Atlantic Hockey is arguably the weakest of the six conferences
from top to bottom. College Hockey America isn’t exactly
the Smythe Division, but it is to college hockey what the Mid-American
Conference is to football. The league boasts some solid programs
(such as Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State and Wayne State) that
can beat just about anyone in the nation, much like a Bowling
Green or a Toledo can jump up to topple an Iowa or North Carolina
on a given football Saturday.
The same is
not true about Atlantic Hockey, and a big reason was the MAAC's
limit of 11 scholarships per school (as opposed to the NCAA's
limit of 18). The former MAAC schools have been the iceberg lettuce
of college hockey when it comes to non-conference play –
there’s really no nutritional value to them, but they’ll
fill you up until the main course arrives. They’ve traditionally
been good for opposing coaches looking to rack up confidence-building
wins at home and maybe get the second goaltender or a seventh
defenseman into the mix for a couple games.
Through the Years
members: American International, Canisius, Connecticut, Fairfield,
Holy Cross, Iona, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart
Nine remaining schools split from MAAC and form Atlantic Hockey
Throw in a
full complement of scholarships, however, and while the playing
field doesn’t become level, it’s not like trying to
scale Kilimanjaro any more. Maybe the kid who would’ve been
a fourth-liner at New Hampshire would rather earn a free ride
to Quinnipiac, where he’d be a second-line guy. A walk-on
defenseman at Providence could instead be a star on the power
play at Holy Cross, if he had school paid in full. And perhaps
the goalie that committed to Northeastern would head to Mercyhurst
on the school’s tab because he thinks he’s got a better
chance of getting to the NCAA Tournament with the Lakers.
are not as far-fetched as one might think. Our theory posits that
kids will go anywhere they can get a scholarship. Don’t
believe it? If players are willing to go to Fairbanks or Grand
Forks free of charge, they’ll be willing to go to Erie and
order for such a change to happen, most of the Atlantic Hockey
members would have to do some juggling to free up money for scholarships,
not an easy task given the budget constraints facing the majority
of colleges and universities. But now is the time for these schools
to push the edge of the envelope.
taken one big step today, Atlantic Hockey teams. Adding scholarships
will allow you to run to catch up with the pack. Use this momentum
to your advantage, or risk being left behind.