December 21, 2009

College Hockey - Sort Of

Western Washington University Hockey 2009-2010 Game Schedule

Having an NCAA team isn't a matter of interest, it's a matter of funding. And since most schools don't have a lot of funding, they don't have an NCAA ice hockey team. Which is why, when you look up the college ice hockey leagues, there really aren't that many of them.

But that doesn't mean that a school can't and doesn't field their own ice hockey team, anyways. Ice hockey is played at most universities here in the United States. It's just not all NCAA sanctioned.

My alma mater, Western Washington University (link is to the athletics website), is an NCAA Division II school that's a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC). Last I'd looked, they were ranked #17 in the country for men's basketball. Usually, the women's basketball team is much better than the men's, but the basketball program there is pretty good, regardless. We'll just conveniently ignore the fact that they've been without a football team now for almost a year...weasels....

Anyways, they do not have an NCAA hockey team, but they do have a club hockey team. I was asked to play for them a couple of times when I was in college, but I'd turned them down both times due to my bad ankle. Because it isn't an NCAA team, it's been co-ed at times - tho not many women have played at any one time. Three at most, I think.

The difference between an NCAA team and a college club team isn't just money, but rules, method of operation, and stratification. They are also typically run by the students themselves. A club team has a lot more leeway in what they want to do and who they want to play. Not only can they be co-ed, but they can play against bigger schools.

Western Washington University (link is to the school's official website) has approximately 13,000 students, and does not have a doctoral program. Obviously, it's a small school. But they play against the University of Washington, which has 40,000 students and is a NCAA D-I Pac-10 school. At the other end of the scale, Walla Walla University isn't even NCAA - they're NAIA. Interestingly enough, Western doesn't play anyone else in their own NCAA athletic conference at this time, tho the participating universities changes from time to time. When I was in school, they were playing USC & UCLA as well. Now, it's just Washington State universities (not WSU, but the list of them all) with a few just outside of the state borders.

This hockey association covers the following athletic conferences: Pac-10 (NCAA D-I A), Big Sky (NCAA D-I AA), West Coast (NCAA D-I AA), Great Northwest (NCAA D-II), Northwest (NCAA D-III) Independent (NAIA II), and Canada West Universities (Canadian Interuniversity Sport).

They don't do this to prove that they're worthy of an NCAA sanctioned hockey team. They do this simply because they want to play hockey. And I think most hockey fans can relate to that.

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