When Wisconsin leaves the WCHA in the fall of 2013 for the newly formed Big Ten Hockey Conference, the schedule is going to change dramatically.
Wisconsin's current schedule allows for 28 conference games, and six non-conference games with the NCAA's 34 game maximum cap.
With only six teams in the Big Ten, the conference will run a 20 game league schedule, playing every team for a weekend home and away. Wisconsin, and the rest of the Big Ten teams will be forced to schedule seven non-conference series in a given year as opposed to the current three.
One of the old rivalries that Wisconsin hopes will continue in the transition is with Denver. The Pioneers will move to the newly formed NCHC the same season as the Big Ten is formed, and will have many games to fill themselves.
According to Let's Go DU
One season Denver would visit Minnesota, and Wisconsin would go to Denver. The next year Denver would come to Madison, and Minnesota would visit Denver.
Dggoddard first mentioned the news last week on his website. I talked with him today to gauge how reliable the information was.
I can't give up the source of the information, but trust me--It's reliable.
Contracts haven't been finalized yet, and I'm sure there may be some details to work out still but I'm told that they are confident that this is going to get done.
During his weekly press conference a few weeks ago, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves was asked about continuing the rivalry with Denver and mentioned that he thought they would continue to play Denver in the future.
"Well, I think it's a quality team. Any time that you play a quality team, and Denver has that spark within our fan base that they know Denver well. They know it's going to be a big time hockey series," Eaves said.
"So I think that we will continue to play them in the future just because of that fact alone. That our fans recognize that it's a quality hockey school, and every time you come watch, it's good hockey."
There has also been whispers of Colorado College getting involved. That scenario would play out similar to the college hockey showcase that Wisconsin and Minnesota were involved in with Michigan and Michigan State.
Wisconsin and Minnesota would travel to Colorado and play CC one night, and Denver the next. The following season CC and Denver would travel back here, playing Wisconsin one night, and Minnesota the next.
I can't vouch for the credibility of Colorado College getting involved, but it's all but guaranteed that Wisconsin will continue their relationship with Denver in the future.
Wisconsin also has a scheduling agreement to play North Dakota when the teams split from the WCHA. The teams would not play in the first year of the new conferences. The four year agreement between the schools would start for the 2014-15 season, with rotating series between Madison and Grand Forks every other year.
The agreement with North Dakota currently hinges on the status of their Fighting Sioux nickname. The school resumed using the nickname recently, which once again puts them in hot water with the NCAA. Wisconsin, along with many other schools won't play North Dakota unless they retire the nickname.
Assuming North Dakota works out their nickname issues, it seems likely that the Badgers will continue to play Denver and North Dakota one series per year for the foreseeable future.
Wisconsin will still have five other non-conference series to schedule every season. Expect the Badgers to play five non-conference series at home per season, and two on the road.
Under those parameters, and assuming Wisconsin will play Denver and North Dakota, the Badgers can still schedule two other teams and guarantee them return dates in their rink.
This would be a great opportunity for Wisconsin to schedule something with some of the more prominent teams from out east.
For example, year one Wisconsin would travel to North Dakota and Maine, and the next Boston College and Denver.
Nanne's Comments On Wisconsin's Future Schedule
Twin Cities hockey personality Lou Nanne was on ESPN1500 in the Twin Cities Wednesday afternoon and had some interesting comments in regards to Wisconsin's future scheduling agreements.
The former defenseman who played for the Gophers in college and the North Stars in the NHL before eventually becoming the GM of the former Minnesota NHL club isn't happy about the way Wisconsin is approaching their future schedules.
"What's not known, and I'll tell you what's even a bigger loss. Now I got this from a good source--I don't want to say it's absolutely true, but I believe it to be true. You know the Gophers are going to play a tournament and really keep the rivalries going with all the Minnesota teams which is the right thing to do.
Wisconsin went to these teams like Mankato, and Bemidji, and I believe even St. Cloud and told them don't expect any games. We're not playing you anymore.
Which is to me, really an unjust situation because these teams have played Wisconsin, and played them very well and been a good partner for so many years. And now because the Big Ten comes in you still do have games to play around the country. And you're telling me you can't fit in a team like St. Cloud, or Bemidji, or Mankato once every three years. That's ludicrous."
Nanne was asked what possible motivation Wisconsin would have for this.
"Well, the name. When you take a look at it, you know, Wisconsin is getting like Notre Dame. To me they seem like everything they want to do and play has got to be a big name.
It's the name of the city, and the name of the place. It's not a big time, Big Ten area where they have a big city so they don't want to play them."
Personally, the comments come off as a bit irresponsible. I sincerely doubt this played out as Nanne says where Wisconsin went to these schools and told them not to expect any games. I also find it hard to believe that anyone from Wisconsin would flat out say, we're not playing you anymore.
As I previously mentioned, Wisconsin will have seven non-conference series to schedule every season. It would be extremely bad business to eliminate options for potential games.
What's more plausible is when these teams discussed future schedules with Wisconsin, the Badgers told them they can't guarantee return trips to their buildings.
If Wisconsin has agreements with Denver and North Dakota, that means in a two year time frame, they only have two more non-conference road series to schedule.
I find it hard to fault the Wisconsin athletic department for trying to schedule the biggest names they possibly can. At the end of the day the department has a bottom line. The casual fan is going to flock to the arena for games against bigger names, it's simple business.
Right or wrong, that doesn't leave a lot of room for road trips to Mankato and Bemidji.
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