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Welcome to college hockey Monopoly

July 17, 2011
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

I've used a couple of different corny and lame analogies to describe the shuffling of teams in college hockey's not-so-off season this week.

In the beginning, it was a crazy game of poker. Some schools bet big right from the start, like the Big Ten. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference bet on the flop, Northern Michigan University got into the game on the turn and Notre Dame is still waiting for the river card.

When news of the NCHC - then and still known to some as the Secondary Six - began leaking out through the media, the sport evolved into the summer's hottest and steamiest soap opera, "All My Conferences."

Every day there were allegations of lies, deceit and a new over-dramatized twist and turn from sunrise to sunset. Commissioners, presidents and athletic directors launched a barrage of he-said, she-said remarks aimed at their counterparts while one by one, schools defected to new leagues.

When we take a step back and look at this whole saga from a distance, I think the summer 2011 saga of college hockey will look more like a greedy game of Monopoly and a bidding war for its high-priced properties.

The game began when the Big Ten grabbed up the previously untouched blue properties of Park Place and Broadway, slapping hotels on each. This move was no surprise.

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Then came the Secondary Six and its high hopes of making an even bigger splash than the Big Ten.

While the NCHC thought it acquired some hotels on the green streets of Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Pacific avenues, it was wrong. Hockey East already built up a couple of houses on those properties.

In reality, the NCHC bought up the yellow properties of Marvin Gardens, Ventnor Avenue and Atlantic Avenue on the other side of Go to Jail - a place often frequented by Ohio State and USC when football uses the board.

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We were told by the NCHC there would be hotels on the yellow properties when we arrived Thursday. In reality, it was only a couple of houses - but historic houses - and there was only one banner to share between them all.

At least there were snacks.

So where does the rest of college hockey fit on the Monopoly board and where does NMU land in all of this?

Right now, I'd slot the ECAC with Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky avenues in the red with its Ivy League schools in Cornell, Harvard and Yale.

But just on the other side of Free Parking, the WCHA appears to be building up New York Avenue, Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place in the orange and the WCHA is not done yet. NMU is just the latest house and more are coming.

Atlantic Hockey has a nice set of houses on Virginia Avenue, States Avenue and St. Charles Place in purple, but could some of those houses - Robert Morris, Niagara, Mercyhurst, Canisius - be heading for the CCHA in the light blue properties of Connecticut, Vermont and Oriental avenues?

If not, the CCHA will be out of the game by 2013-14.

And what about Notre Dame and Alabama-Huntsville?

The Chargers are stuck on Baltic Avenue while the Irish are the Reading, Pennsylvania, B&O and Short Line railroads. At this point in the game, South Bend has acquired all four and are using them as leverage to join with the highest bidder.

The Big Ten won't go after the railroads because it only partners with other blue territories. That leaves Hockey East and the NCHC chomping at the bit to acquire those railroads - I mean Notre Dame - in hopes of controlling the board.

We've all learned from playing Monopoly, however, the most expensive properties don't always win you the game. All it takes is a few lucky rolls of the dice and even the dark purple territories of Baltic and Mediterranean can take control.

For Northern, the high-priced territories on the back end of the board are just not affordable and neither are the costs that go with them. Houses and hotels are expensive on those properties just as large arenas and jets are too overpriced for NMU.

The Wildcats just can't compete financially with the Big Ten and NCHC schools.

Northern has shown, though, it can compete on the ice in a major conference. NMU is only a small house in the CCHA right now, but will be one of the bigger hotels on the block come 2013-14 in the WCHA.

In Monopoly, hotels mean cash. In college hockey, hotels mean wins and wins mean NCAA tournament berths.

Once in college hockey's big ice dance, anything can happen as Holy Cross, Bemidji State and RIT have shown.

College hockey's game of Monopoly is far from over. There's still a lot of wheeling and dealing to be done between the players, big and small.

Notre Dame will continue to play poker as the parties stack their chips around it and a certain athletic director in Anchorage will keep the soap opera spinning.

It has been an exciting summer in college hockey. Who knows what will happen next?

Hey Alaska, it's your move.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500. His email address is



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