A Bowling Green State University player in a game against Michigan.BOWLING GREEN — The Big Ten Conference announced Monday that it will take the first steps toward adding men's ice hockey as a league-sponsored sport.
The league's athletic directors recommended that the conference sponsor the sport beginning with the 2013-14 season. That sponsorship will include a postseason league tournament that will determine the winner of the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The decision will impact the Bowling Green State University hockey team and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, the league in which the Falcons play along with Big Ten members Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State.
"I'm not trying to downplay this news, but it's not anything new, and it's not really a surprise," BG athletics director Greg Christopher said. "Ever since Penn State announced it would add Division I hockey, there has been talk about this for about six months, and we've been planning accordingly."
While the announcement affects the CCHA as well as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association — which includes Minnesota and Wisconsin as members — Christopher said he expects the CCHA to continue as a strong hockey league.
"Is this going to change the landscape of college hockey? No doubt. Will it change the landscape of the CCHA? No doubt," Christopher said. "But we will be fine.
"Our member schools have a commitment to hockey, so we'll figure this out."
CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos confirmed Christopher's thoughts, adding, "Today's announcement by the Big Ten does not come as a surprise as we have been engaged in discussing this topic with Big Ten officials for several months now.
"We are studying the potential impact of this change and will continue to work closely with our membership and other stakeholders in college hockey to ensure the ongoing long-term success of our league."
Christopher was quick to reiterate that the news does not shake Bowling Green's commitment to its hockey program.
"When we went through the process a couple of years ago, we put our stake in the ground that we were going to sponsor a strong hockey program," he said. "I'm not concerned about this news affecting the future of hockey at Bowling Green.
"We're going in a great direction with Chris Bergeron as coach. We're going to be fine."
Bergeron, a former player and coach at CCHA member Miami before taking over as Falcon head coach before this past season, said he was saddened to hear the news.
"I don't like to see teams who have been in the league for a long time go away," Bergeron said. "But we've got a job to do here at Bowling Green, and this news doesn't change that.
"My focus has to be to make a strong program here at Bowling Green, just as it was before this announcement."