In a year marked by mediocre play and low attendance at the Big Ten Hockey Tournament, the Big Ten was in need of a shakeup.
The conference may have found one in Notre Dame.
USCHO.com reported Tuesday afternoon that the Fighting Irish would be leaving the Hockey East for the Big Ten just for hockey in the 2017-18 season. An announcement is expected either late Tuesday or Wednesday.
“Good move by both sides,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I knew this was in the works, but I think from day one, (Notre Dame) probably wished they were in the Big Ten, but they chose the Hockey East because of the “newness” of the Big Ten Conference.”
In a move that makes geographical sense, adding Notre Dame to the Big Ten pushes the conference to seven teams, which could pave the way for another team such as Arizona State, currently an independent, to join. As of right now, though, there have been no reports of further expansion for the Big Ten.
ESPN anchor John Buccigross reported an unnamed Hockey East coach as saying, “I think it makes sense from a travel standpoint. … I think Hockey East is a better fit for them.”
The move by the Big Ten to accept a team for only one sport is not unheard of. The conference allowed Johns Hopkins to join solely for men’s lacrosse in 2014, and Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse will join the Big Ten for the 2016-17 season.
“Expansion is brought up every time the Big Ten is mentioned so (the move) is a good step in the right direction,” Berenson said. “It makes sense geographically. It’s not like we’re going out to play Rutgers or something. We’re playing a team that is in the Big Ten footprint.”
Notre Dame and Michigan are set to face off against each other Friday in the first round of the NCAA Regionals for the first time since the two teams met in the now-defunct CCHA tournament title game back in 2013.
But with this news from Tuesday afternoon, the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines could be seeing much more of each other in the near future.