Notre Dame hockey team joins Big Ten

The Irish will become the seventh member of the hockey conference starting in 2017-18.

Mike Hendrickson

The Notre Dame men’s hockey team will leave the Hockey East and become an affiliate member of the Big Ten in the 2017-18 season, the conference announced Wednesday.
 
 
The Irish will be the seventh men’s hockey team in the Big Ten.
 
 
“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.
 
 
Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletics director, said in a statement that travel expenses and broadcasting opportunities were reasons for the team’s conference move.
 
 
Notre Dame is 19-10-7 this year and will play future conference opponent Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Friday. The Irish have made the NCAA tournament seven times in the last 11 years.
 
 
“Great news for [Big Ten Hockey],” Gophers head coach Don Lucia , a Notre Dame alumnus, tweeted. “[Notre Dame] makes the Big Ten a stronger conference. Welcome to [head coach Jeff Jackson and] crew.”
 
 
The move could help increase the competition in the Big Ten, which has sent just four teams to the NCAA tournament in three years.
 
 
Four of the Gophers’ former opponents in the WCHA — North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and Denver — are in it this year.
 
 
Attendance at the Big Ten tournament is also waning and new blood could help increase interest.
 
 
The first Big Ten championship game was held in the Xcel Energy Center and drew 10,153 fans. The event returned to the arena this year, and only 6,180 people attended the championship game.