A new era in collegiate hockey will begin today at 4:00 pm as the #1 Gopher men's hockey team takes on the Wisconsin Badgers in the first ever Big Ten hockey game. Previously both teams were part of the WCHA and they are joined by previous CCHA members Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State along with the formerly independent Penn State team. At this point the Big Ten will not have a women's ice hockey conference, probably due to lack of teams. #1 Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State will remain in the WCHA and Penn State will remain in the CHA.
Lots of people are unhappy with this change as the WCHA has a long and storied history with Minnesota that can be traced back to 1951 and the old Midwest Collegiate Hockey League. For my part, the change makes me a little sad too, but life goes on. What I'm most skeptical about is a conference with only six teams, one of which(Penn State) just started their hockey program last year.
The Gophers at least managed to fill out their non-conference play this year with some top teams, I'm not sure about the rest. If they and the rest of the Big Ten teams can do that in the future then they will be fine. In fact, their schedules might have more room to play high-caliber teams than before. Time will tell.