UNO hockey joins new national conference
July 13th, 2011
Omaha, NE – The Nebraska-Omaha hockey team has a new home, as a founding member of a brand new, national conference.
â€œWe are thrilled, excited, humbled, and quite frankly, itâ€™s a daunting challenge,â€ said UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts during a joint press conference in Colorado Springs, CO on Wednesday. Alberts joined the ADs and hockey coaches from five other schools to announce the creation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The new NCHC will include some hefty hockey players – at UNO, Colorado College, the University of Denver, Miami University, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of North Dakota. Alberts said the new conference will raise the national profile of Maverick hockey.
â€œWhen you sit and think about an institution that didnâ€™t even contemplate hockey 20 years ago,â€ he said, â€œto think of the possibility that within the next (sic) 15 years, we could have the lionâ€™s share of our hockey games shown nationally. The branding for our institution on the academic side is pretty substantial.â€
Alberts praised Maverick Hockey Coach Dean Blais, brought on to UNO in 2009. He said Blaisâ€™ stature and reputation as a coach is what brought the Mavericks to this table.
Alberts couldnâ€™t offer a timeline for how the conference came about, and which school led the talks, saying it was a collective decision that resulted from a series of conference realignments. But the move from the WCHA to the NCHC will be a two-year transition, which Coach Blais admitted will be difficult. UNO is used to being a powerhouse player in the WCHA.
â€œWe were the super power,â€ Blais said. â€œWe did look at being able to go out every game and compete. And I think weâ€™ll be that way pretty soon. Whether we are now, I donâ€™t know. I think we donâ€™t have that depth yet, like a North Dakota or a Denver for example. Will we have in the future? Yes. We will be as competitive.â€
The new NCHC will begin with several notches on its belt: including four NCAA National Champions, and 14 NCAA Frozen Four appearances. Play will begin for the 2013-2014 season.