USCHO.com broke a mild stunner of a story late Tuesday afternoon when it reported that Notre Dame will leave the Hockey East Conference for the Big Ten following next season. The move has since been reported by several other media sources including the Chicago Tribune.
This move seemed to come out of thin air, but the Big Ten hockey conference has essentially been a disaster since the league broke up the Central Collegiate Hockey Association by forming its own six-team league three years ago with the addition of Penn State. The Big Ten got only one NCAA tournament bid this season, the second straight time that's been the case. It's likely, though I'm speculating without any information, that this made them extremely motivated to act to improve the conference in any way necessary.
The Big Ten had long been against the idea of affiliate members in any sport, though it added Johns Hopkins for lacrosse in 2015. Notre Dame hockey will become the second affiliate member in the Big Ten and bring the league to seven hockey teams. That seems an unwieldy number, but the Tribune reported that for the moment the B1G will not add an eighth team.
Many Irish fans (myself included) that enjoyed ND's continued nose-thumbing at the Big Ten by joining the ACC instead back in 2012 and moving to Hockey East when the CCHA broke up may find this move disconcerting. It seems like a step down both in current conference prestige and, unless ND keeps its NBCSN deal, television exposure. One cannot, I suppose, deny the geographic draw of this move, though.
Irish Hockey Leaving Hockey East for Big Ten
The move will take effect following next season and will be Notre Dame's first-ever official affiliation with the conference it's had a hate-hate relationship with for over a century.