Ice hockey coaches follow conference realignment
Though hockey teams not part of Big East, coaches still keep tabs on recent developments
Published: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2011 00:12
There are two coaches at UConn that are on the outside looking in regarding conference realignment.
UConn's ice hockey programs don't compete in the Big East conference. The men's team plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association and the women in the Hockey East. Both coach Bruce Marshall and Heather Linstad have still been following conference realignment.
"I keep tabs on it," Linstad, in her 12th season at the helm, said in an email interview. "I want UConn to be in a conference where they can have the most success."
Marshall, who has coached the Huskies for 24 seasons, has followed the conference changes as well. Marshall said in a phone interview that a conference that gives UConn the best brand name will suit them.
"UConn obviously has a great brand as it is," Marshall said.
He added that a conference with the same mission as UConn and one that's great for recruiting is the best fit. The changes to the Big East, however, will most likely not affect the ice hockey programs, according to Linstad.
"It affects what we're doing as a school," Marshall said. "Hockey-wise... probably not."
There are four conferences currently in women's ice hockey and five in men's hockey. Schools shuffling between conferences isn't unusual. Notre Dame was recently accepted into the Hockey East conference. The Big 10 will be creating a hockey conference that will begin play for the 2013-14 season. Penn State and Lindenwood, in Missouri, will join the CHA on the women's side. Linstad said she's interested to see if a Big 10 women's ice hockey conference will eventually be created.
The UConn men's ice hockey team was an intergral part in creating a new hockey conference. The Huskies joined the ranks of Division I in 1998 and became a member of the MAAC conference. The conference was an all-sports conference and with hockey being different than most sports, the policies weren't always geared toward the hockey aspect on the MAAC.
Marshall said that since not all MAAC schools had hockey, it was difficult to be a single-sport member of a second-tier sport in the conference. Although he praised the management of the MAAC, Marshall said the hockey-only colleges wanted a commissioner and a league that would be best for hockey issues.
The Atlantic Hockey Association was born in 2003 and UConn was a charter member along with eight other schools. The conference has member teams as close as Sacred Heart in Connecticut and as far as Air Force in Colorado. The league, which lost Quinnipiac to the ECAC in 2004, now has 12 teams.
Since their inception 12 years ago, the women's ice hockey program has competed in the Hockey East conference. Seven national champions have been members of the Hockey East conference on the men's side of the puck. The fact that Hockey East has been so successful as a conference on the ice is a huge plus for the UConn women's ice hockey program.
"I absolutely think it has an impact on recruiting," Linstad said. "I think Hockey East being a premier conference in men's hockey has helped the women's side."