By Michael Caples –
The revamped Western Collegiate hockey Association will be spending some time in Grand Rapids over the next few years.
The league, which will add Ferris State, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State to a league that already features Michigan Tech, will host their men’s playoff championship at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena in 2014 and 2016.
The championship, known as the WCHA Final Five – will alternate between Van Andel and the Excel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. The Xcel Energy Center will host the tournament in 2015 and 2017.
“We just couldn’t be more pleased to be able to host the best conference post-season hockey tournament in the country in two of the premier facilities in the midwest,” said WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod in a release. “We are tremendously excited to bring WCHA championship hockey and the quest for the Broadmoor Trophy to Grand Rapids as well as continue our long-standing tradition and success of playing in Saint Paul.
“Both Grand Rapids and Saint Paul are wonderful travel destinations for fans, featuring first-class arenas centered in exciting downtown areas with noteworthy tourist attractions, great shopping, and fine hotels and restaurants. In Grand Rapids, we have the proximity of our Michigan-based WCHA teams and in Saint Paul of our Minnesota-based schools. This is truly the best of both worlds for us.”
The newly-formed Big Ten Hockey Conference will utilize a similar rotating arena set-up for their champion, switching between Joe Louis Arena and the Xcel Energy Center. That means that both Michigan and Minnesota will host major college hockey conference championships every season for the foreseeable future.
The WCHA also announced a new playoff format; the league’s top eight teams from the regular season will play in first-round, best-of-three playoff series at the home sites of the top four teams. The four winners will advance to WCHA Playoff Championship the next weekend, at either Van Andel or the Xcel, depending on the year.
Each of the WCHA teams will play a 28-game conference schedule, split evenly between home and away contests.
“The city of Grand Rapids, the West Michigan Sports Commission and Van Andel Arena all look forward to hosting the WCHA in 2014,” said Richard MacKeigan, Regional General Manager of Van Andel Arena in the release. “Hockey in general and college hockey specifically is a passion for West Michigan and we look forward to working with the WCHA to share that passion with the players, coaches and fans. We know your experience will be a great one in Grand Rapids, March of 2014!”