Forming of Big Ten conference and its impact on college hockey

Along with a new crop of coaches who have been brought in to maintain a level of consistency and a tradition of winning to Michigan State hockey is a new conference for them to call home.

The inception of the Big Ten hockey conference is expected to occur in 2013-14, with Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State being the six teams expected to make up the composition of the new venture. The games will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network and provide fans with more viewing pleasure in accordance with their program of choice.

Spartan Nation recently asked new head coach Tom Anastos, new assistant coach Kelly Miller and longtime assistant Tom Newton about what the creation of the Big Ten’s own hockey conference means both in the Midwest and on a national level. Needless to say, it’s brought a new sense of excitement to Big Ten supporters and the coaching staff as a transition will occur which should bring in the next era of college athletics in relation to hockey.

“The profile of hockey will continue to rise with more national television,” Anastos said. “The Big Ten Network, as it’s extending its footprint and getting more acceptability, hockey will have more of an acceptance. Right now we have six to eight games a year – if we get up to the 25-35 game [range], it will bring a lot more presence.

“Beyond the games and the competitions, the Big Ten Network will do a good job of telling some of those stories that connect with fans.”

Anastos continued to say that Michigan State will be a beneficiary of the good things that will come along with the forming of the Big Ten conference, and that hockey players internationally will be inclined to want to be a part of the new venture and play against other talented players from around the globe.

The conference also brings a sense of tradition already seen in football and basketball circles, where schools familiar with one another will now get to enjoy new rivalries in the hockey realm. It adds another element for coaches, players and fans to enjoy and appreciate.

Miller made a point of rivalries continuing over from other sports, such as the Michigan State-Michigan football rivalry stemming over to the ice and still being as heated and intense. He also talked about how alignments will adjust in the CCHA and WCHA and how things will look when everything is sorted out.

“The college hockey game is a great game and, hopefully, the Big Ten (conference) will be another addition to a great legacy,” Miller said.

Playing schools the Spartans are familiar with on a year-round level will be a treat long awaited by many, especially considering that six teams will be the starting point for the brand new conference. It will provide an aura of competition and a tight-knit personality which can be found when certain schools are linked together by geography.

And while the Big Ten currently boasts double-digit numbers in terms of schools involved in football and basketball, starting off with six teams will create an even more exclusive feeling that should carry over as more schools may want to jump aboard in the years ahead.

“I think it’s gonna take the excitement of Michigan State hockey to a new and higher level,” Newton said. “It will drive college hockey to a higher level on a national basis. I know people are skeptical on a national basis, but I think there will be good things that come from this.”

Newton pointed out how Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan Tech bolted the WCHA in 1980 to join the CCHA, a move first frowned upon but which became one of college hockey’s greatest transitions to date. The Big Ten’s hockey conference is expected to have an even greater impact on the landscape of college hockey in not only the Midwest but all across America.