It’s difficult to put a positive face on the decimation of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
A group of power-house teams in the WCHA made it official, announcing they are breaking off in two years to form a “super league” called the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The Minnesota State University Mavericks will continue in the WCHA, minus the league’s powers: University of Minnesota and Wisconsin (who are going to the Big Ten), North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Minnesota Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha.
The reason for the powerhouses abandoning the storied WCHA is a common one — money. Any college Division I sport gets more TV money, attracts more fans and better recruits if their league is packed with top-flight teams.
Ironically, the fans of the big-name teams in the new super league are not well served by the chase for more money and prestige. Dedicated Gopher fans, for example, now often take road trips to Mankato or St. Cloud or Duluth to watch their teams play. Such road trips will be out of the question for most fans as the teams in the new league will play all across the country. The move to create the super league sacrifices the regional flavor and rivalries that mark the current WCHA.
For MSU, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State and the others left in the WCHA, the results are likely to be fewer fans, less revenue and a tougher time recruiting top athletes.
The change also will likely have consequences for the city of Mankato and taxpayers. The city-owned civic center was built for many reasons, but one key one was to be home to Maverick hockey. The civic center — any civic center for that matter — is not designed as a profit center. Civic centers’ operations are generally subsidized by taxpayers with the understanding the overall private economic impact and social benefits are worth it.
The combination of less revenue and more infrastructure expenses will give those residents who are already skeptical of the civic center even more ammunition.