Outside of the occasional outdoor hockey venue decision, the sport of football rarely has an impact on hockey. But that’s exactly what happened today as the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) booted perennial multi-sport powerhouse St. Thomas from their conference.
The decision, fueled mainly by the Tommies’ dominance on the football field, drastically affects St. Thomas’ men’s and women’s hockey programs, as they will have to make an incredibly difficult (and perhaps costly) decision: stay in Division III, or move up to Division I. Outside of one conference, the Northeast-10, Division II hockey doesn’t really exist, and the NCAA does not sponsor a championship in DII.
Staying in DIII would most likely mean a move to the WIAC conference, which is currently represented by Wisconsin-based colleges but is reportedly open to adding out-of-state schools. Moving to DI would likely mean the NCHA (for the men’s team) or the WCHA (for the men’s and women’s teams). St. Thomas could also play as an independent.
Unlike football, where St. Thomas routinely defeats their MIAC opponents (sometimes by embarrassingly large margins), in hockey St. Thomas is much more closely competitive. While the men’s team has won the regular season title three of the last five years, the Tommies haven’t won a title over that span, with fellow MIAC powerhouse Augsburg winning four titles since 2014. On the women’s side, St. Thomas did win four postseason titles out of the last five years, but never as the number one seed, and most often won the title by a single goal - definitely not in lopsided fashion.
It will be interesting to see were St. Thomas decides to try to go between now and 2021, when their agreement with the MIAC will run out. Once again, that decision may be driven by football instead of hockey, with the gridiron team forcing their hand: if St. Thomas moves to DII for football (joining the Northern Sun conference, for example), the Tommies would, by NCAA rule, have to play DI hockey.
A lot to play out, for sure.
In the meantime, with the Stanley Cup Final starting next Monday, not much else to talk about in the world of hockey. Let’s take a light walk today.
On Frozen Pond
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