The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

April 15, 2014

Frederick column: Union proves program, not conference, matters most

A week ago, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association introduced Bill Robertson as its new commissioner, and there was a lot of talk about the history and tradition of a league that saw much of that history and tradition bolt for different conferences almost a year earlier.

Robertson talked about the foundation that’s been built over time, but there was little mention of the wrecking ball that blasted through the building atop that footing when the Big Ten plucked off two teams and six others jumped to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The league went the right direction and made a good hire with Robertson, whose expertise is in public relations, communications and broadcasting.

The programs that have made up the league since the breakup of the WCHA and the disintegration of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association should be encouraged that they have an energized leader who wants to build — or, rather, rebuild — the conference, as well as educate fans and seek sponsors and revenue streams.

Robertson focused on the Final Five, which will return to the Xcel Energy Center next March after a year in Grand Rapids, Mich. (it will go back to Grand Rapids in 2016 and return to St. Paul again in 2017), and it should be interesting to see what ideas the new boss brings to try to sell tickets.

What last week’s event didn’t feature was much talk about hockey and the individual programs that now make up the conference.

Perhaps that’s because things actually are in decent shape on the ice for several teams, and they could get better.

Not that polls are worth much following the conclusion of the season, but the WCHA has two teams in final top 12 of two polls, with Minnesota State ranked 12th and Ferris State ranked sixth. Both teams, which are coming off NCAA-tournament appearances, could be in similar spots next October when the first preseason polls come out.

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