On the cusp of the start of the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame made a wave with the news that it would leave Hockey East and join the Big Ten in the 2017-2018 season.
The Fighting Irish will contend in the tournament this season against Michigan as one of the six Hockey East teams to make the national tournament. Notre Dame, an independent, have been an affiliate member of Hockey East since joining the league three years ago for the 2013-2014 season when the CCHA disbanded. Notre Dame is also an affiliate in the ACC with its basketball and lacrosse teams.
“While we have enjoyed our affiliation with Hockey East, the opportunity to participate in Big Ten hockey is a compelling one from the perspective of our student-athletes. The move will significantly reduce the time our team spends traveling, increase the broadcast exposure for our program and allow us to take advantage of the natural rivalries that exist with the Big Ten schools that participate in hockey,” said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and James E. Rohr director of athletics in a team press release.
The Big Ten has had six teams since becoming an official college hockey conference in 2013; Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State. This will be the first affiliate member of Big Ten hockey, and it has one affiliate member in another sport with John Hopkins men’s lacrosse.
The speculation as to who will replace Notre Dame in Hockey East has led to discussion about Harvard, Holy Cross, and Quinnipiac, since the departure leaves the conference at 11 teams.
One way or another, the conference will go back to being an all-New England conference, and Notre Dame has been the outlier for the past three years with teams having to travel all the way to South Bend. Notre Dame joining the conference initially created a new playoff format for the conference, and whether a new team replaces them or not, it will be a different looking conference in the next few years.