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Athletic directors: News of possible MSUM hockey program still fresh

MOORHEAD - While Minnesota State University Moorhead has had several talks with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association office about starting a Division I hockey program, the news remains fresh among WCHA schools.

If the Dragons are able to launch a team, conference affiliation would likely be a necessity. Earlier this week, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod didn't rule out that MSUM could join the league, "but there's a long way to go before it happens."

The WCHA is arguably the top hockey conference in the country.

University of North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison said Wednesday the little information he knew about MSUM's hockey exploration came from a newspaper article.

"I think it's encouraging when you see a program interested in adding the sport because there is a concern about the potential of a team or two dropping the sport," Faison said. "Beyond that, I'm not sure what all they are envisioning and those kinds of things.

"This certainly is new. I haven't really had any conversations with my counterparts with respect to that."

Like Faison, Bill Hudson, St. Cloud State's faculty representative, has heard little about the Dragons.

"I would say right now I wouldn't really have a comment without hearing more about what they're planning," Hudson said. "I have not had any conversations with anybody in the league or with our athletic director."

Alaska-Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb said he's heard "just the faintest rumors."

Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph said, "I've just seen things in passing. ... I haven't received any communication from Moorhead."

There are currently 58 Division I men's ice hockey programs in the country spread across six leagues.

"I think there's a lot of us who would like to see growth in Division I hockey," Ralph said.

Later this month, the WCHA will consider whether to add Bemidji State to the 10-team conference. If that happens, the WCHA would likely need to add a 12th team to make the scheduling work.

"Nothing's impossible, but it's the next closest thing is trying to schedule an 11-team league," Faison said. "I think the key is in getting to 12 it's got to be the right 12th team for the league."

McLeod said MSUM athletic director Doug Peters requested time to introduce himself and MSUM to WCHA school officials at league meetings in Florida at the end of April. However, the WCHA executive committee turned down that request.

"They just felt it was a little too early, a little preliminary to kind of get into that," McLeod said.

"I'm sure some of the Minnesota schools will update us," Cobb said.

MSUM is planning a 10 a.m. Friday news conference at the Comstock Memorial Union Ballroom to discuss the potential addition of Division I hockey.