Lake Superior State Press Release
Lake Superior State president Tony McLain and director of athletics Kris Dunbar confirmed Thursday that LSSU will accept the WCHA’s invitation to join the league for the 2013-2014 season.
Conference realignments are the result of the recent formation of the six-team Big Ten Conference for men’s ice hockey and the newly-established National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
“Without fully knowing the final outcome, if everything realigns as we have it on paper today, I think this will be a better conference for Lake Superior State hockey long-term than the CCHA was, and I thought the CCHA was pretty good,” said McLain.
“This will be a great step for our program – to find a league with teams that are similar to ours,” Dunbar said. “We will be in a conference with similar schools and good hockey traditions. This should be appealing to fans, alumni and recruits. Our fans will continue to see good college hockey played in Taffy Abel Arena for years to come.”
Conference realignments go into effect for the 2013-14 season. Schedule scenarios can’t take shape until all of the Division I hockey programs decide which route they wish to take. Some schools must wait for a vote from their trustees. And other schools, such as BGSU, WMU and Notre Dame of the CCHA, are considering moves to the NCHC.
“We hope for the chance to still play teams like Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State,” Dr. McLain said. “We’re expecting that to be part of our future.”
Dunbar said that Dr. McLain’s role in the negotiations was to contact college presidents of CCHA and WCHA schools and help find LSSU a stable home for its hockey program.
“I spoke to eight different university presidents over the last three weeks trying to position Lake Superior State so that no matter what happened around us, we felt we had a strong conference in which to play,” Dr. McLain said. “But most of the work was really done by our athletics director, Kris Dunbar. In my mind, she positioned us well to be in this realignment. Her role was 90 percent of the positioning, the negotiations, selling Lake Superior State’s hockey tradition. She talked to other ADs and representatives from the CCHA and WCHA.”
“I couldn’t have done this without his support and involvement,” Dunbar added.
McLain, who spent most of his professional career in the Upper Peninsula, looks forward to LSSU continuing a conference rivalry with NMU and building one with Michigan Tech. The Huskies were members of the CCHA for three seasons between 1982 and 1984.
This will be LSSU’s third hockey conference affiliation. Laker hockey began in 1966-67, and LSSU was part of the International Collegiate Hockey Association with Lakehead, Bemidji State and Wisconsin from 1967 to 1973. LSSU joined the CCHA in 1972-73, which was the league’s second year of existence.
“We’ve caught wind of what people thought was the best option for us, and I think this will be well-received by hockey alumni and fans,” Dr. McLain said. “We found our best avenue to position Laker hockey was not through the public arena, but through private negotiations. Right from the start, we were committed to remaining a Division I team and positioning us into a conference that would allow us to compete at a high level. Unfortunately we couldn’t always come out and say what we were doing, as we feared that would jeopardize our chances of getting into the new conference.”