Football is not the only college sport to see changes in its landscape, specifically how big name conferences are aligned.
When it was announced on Sept. 17, 2010 that the then-Icers would make the jump to varsity level to become the Nittany Lions, it made the idea of a Big Ten hockey conference possible because it takes six teams to hold a conference tournament.
“Penn State's launch of Division I hockey will lead to additional competition within the Big Ten,” former athletic director Tim Curley said at the time. “That has the potential to transform college hockey in this country.”
Right now, Big Ten schools belong to other hockey specific conferences including the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) while Penn State is an independent.
A Big Ten hockey conference will mark the first time college hockey uses a big name conference from other sports such as football and basketball.
In terms of hockey, the Big Ten is historically a powerhouse with 23 combined national championships between Michigan (9), Wisconsin (6), Minnesota (5), and Michigan State (3). Ohio State has none.
However, this year, the teams have not fared well like they traditionally do. With the exception of No. 1-ranked Minnesota (17-4-3), four of the six schools have a losing record.
Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said that he is surprised by the performance of the Big Ten schools as a whole, however he does not expect the struggles to last long at all.
“It’s not a trend, it’s a blip,” Gadowsky said. “I’m sure you will see [those] teams back on top soon.”
Coaches around hockey think the addition of a Big Ten hockey conference will have benefits.
Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, whose son Tom plays for Minnesota, made comparisons to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) at the Penn State men's hockey brunch at the Nittany Lion Inn on Nov. 10, 2012.
The United States Under-18 National Development team head coach and Wisconsin graduate Don Granato said he really likes the potential of the conference.
Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos said in a press conference this week that he knows the Lions will play hard.
“They’ll be very difficult to play against,” Anastos said. “They are very aggressive.”
As far as the new conference goes, Anastos said that the Big Ten will bring the “big stage” as well as a change in the culture of college hockey. Anastos also hinted at an increase in coverage of the college game.
The Nittany Lions will be facing their second Big Ten opponent this season when they take on Michigan State at the Munn Ice Arena for a two-game weekend series tonight and Saturday. Both games are scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop. It will be the first meeting in history between the two teams.
Penn State will also face Wisconsin in Madison, Wisc., on Feb. 24 and 25. To date, the Lions have only faced one Big Ten opponent, a 5-4 win against Ohio State on Dec. 29, 2012 as part of the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh.