Four seasons in Hockey East will be all for the Notre Dame hockey program.
Starting with the 2017-18 season, the Irish will become a hockey member of the Big Ten conference. Notre Dame officially announced the move Wednesday afternoon, confirming multiple reports from the previous night. Hockey East also confirmed the change, as has the Big Ten.
“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,” said athletics director Jack Swarbrick in a statement. “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.”
Notre Dame joins Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin as the Big Ten hockey programs, pushing the league to seven members for the first time in its existence.
A member of Hockey East since 2013-14, Notre Dame will compete in that league for one more season before making its departure.
The Irish finished third in the regular season standings this season and bowed out of the league tournament with a quarterfinal series loss to Northeastern, the eventual champion. They will represent the league as one of its six entrants into the NCAA Tournament later this week.
“Hockey East has been a dominant player in college hockey since its inception in 1984,” Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said in a statement. “The addition of both Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut enhanced the strength and depth of the league. This weekend, Notre Dame is part of Hockey East’s six-team contingent that is looking to defend the national championship won by Providence College last April in Boston.
“The college hockey landscape continues to change but one certainty is that Hockey East will remain the premier conference in college hockey for years to come.”
Michigan is the only Big Ten program in the NCAA Tournament and the Wolverines will, ironically, face Notre Dame on Friday in the first round.
Both programs met regularly as members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, which dissolved after the 2012-13 season as three prominent members moved to the Big Ten. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all competed in the CCHA.
Notre Dame moved to Hockey East after the CCHA broke up, only to see its conference affiliation changing again. This time around it will see some familiar faces.
“Notre Dame hockey has a long history of competing with Big Ten programs and we’re pleased to renew those rivalries as part of conference hockey competition,” said Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia in a statement. “The Big Ten continues to grow the sport of hockey in our conference and the addition of Notre Dame as a sport affiliate assists in that goal.”