By Karl Henkel/at the CCHA Championship
DETROIT - Saturday morning, CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos hosted a 'State of the Game' brunch at the Renaissance Marriott and delved into such topics as television exposure and solutions to both how to solve the growing number of ties as well as the recent trend of underclassmen forgoing eligibility to take a shot at the NHL.
One of the first topics was discussed was that of televised contests. With Comcast Local, who had picked up a good number of games this past season slowly fading on the way to shutting their operation down, Anastos stated how negotiations between the newly created Big Ten Network and the CCHA have transpired thus far.
“They have made it very clear that hockey is important to them, and they want to have a hockey presence,” Anastos said of his talks with the BTN.
According to Anastos, the Big Ten Network is not only interested in televising games between Big Ten schools (such as CCHA teams like Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, and WCHA squads like Wisconsin and Minnesota), but also those games where only one Big Ten team is participating.
Next on the agenda was the CCHA Tournament format, which today includes all CCHA teams, who battle each other down in three-game series until four remain standing. Those four play a single-elimination tournament, including a consolation game.
“It gives all our programs opportunities,” Anastos said of the current 12-team tournament. “But at the same time our playoff games are the most poorly attended games of the season.”
Previously, the CCHA had used a six-team tournament called the 'Super Six,' which like the present format, was held at Joe Louis Arena.
“I wouldn't be surprised if there was a discussion about an eight-team format, over two weekends, as opposed to what he have now,” Anastos said. “But that's me talking.”
Also in the CCHA discussion mix was the continued planning of the 2010 Frozen Four, which will be held at Ford Field. There is also talk about holding a sporting event (other than football, of course), prior to the NCAA hockey championship.
“There has been talk of a hockey/basketball game, with the hockey on one end and basketball court at the other end,” Anastos said. “We've thrown all different ideas out.”
In terms of ties, and how to break them, Anastos said he is in favor of shootouts to determine a victor.
“You ask coaches if they like the shootout as a fan, and they are all for it, but you ask them as a coach and they don't like it so much,” Anastos said.
One big issue for the commissioner was the number of underclassmen leaving college for a shot at professional hockey. Over the years, the amount has grown close to 30 per season, while only a handful of the players actually made the opening day roster.
When asked the reason behind the expanding trend, Anastos had a simple answer.
“To the players, it's sexy,” he said.
He then explained the easy ability of NHL teams to take a chance on college players, as it is a minimum cost to sign them.
“You are talking about a $40,000 contract and an $85,000 signing bonus.”
A reason this is occurring more and more often is that the date which outgoing college hockey seniors have to sign by has been moved up to August 15 following their final year of eligibility, compared to what it used to be, close to a year later.
Items also discussed included expansion of the CCHA, and the inevitable fate of College Hockey America losing their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“If we expanded, it would take away games for our smaller schools to host teams like Michigan and Michigan State, which they rely on,” Anastos said.