WCHA: Strange Lights

Indulge me for a moment, but this Deerhunter song perfectly encapsulates what has come to be known in the world of the WCHA as the “Alaska Plan.”

“What direction should we choose? / We’re lost and still confused”

I’ll explain: At this point yesterday, all we really knew about the WCHA playoffs was that there would be nine teams.

Then things got strange.

First, the Mankato Free Press’ Shane Frederick reported that the WCHA would feature nine teams in the playoffs, with the regular season champ getting a bye into the Final Five. The rest of the format would stay the same as it is today: three-game first-round series and single elimination Final Five with a 4 vs. 5 play-in.

So far, so good.

After that? I’m going to try best I can to give the blow-by-blow:

I called Bemidji State athletic director Rick Goeb just to get a localized quote about the WCHA, and got even more: He told me about the Alaska Plan (or, as Northern Michigan beat writer Matt Wellens put it today, “Mystery Alaska“).

Frederick later confirmed this with Minnesota State AD Kevin Buisman, and Twitter briefly exploded.

The Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Schlossman wrote a piece on his North Dakota blog with the theory that the Alaska Plan may be the reason why the NCHC split from the WCHA.

Much later that night, though, Danny Martin of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported something else: Nobody had approved anything yet.

I don’t know if this was simply due to the time difference between the Midwest and Alaska and people not seeing the reports from earlier, but Alaska Fairbanks head coach Dallas Ferguson told the paper that nothing had been set in stone.

Which had me scratching my head.

Then it nearly exploded when Wellens wrote another piece for the Marquette Mining Journal quoting new Northern Michigan AD Forest Karr. Well, he didn’t exactly quote him, as Karr wouldn’t comment on the Alaska situation.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green AD Greg Christopher seemed to confirm the Alaska playoff picture in the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune.

All of this had me wondering if I should check in to a mental institution immediately.

Until Wellens finally got WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod on the phone once and for all to confirm everything.


I’ll let Wellens take it from here, via the Mining Journal, because it’s almost too confusing to summarize:

MARQUETTE – WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod confirmed Friday evening via phone in Minneapolis what I’ll dub the “Alaska Plan” for the league playoffs starting with the 2013-14 season.

In the WCHA’s nine-team playoff format, the Alaska Nanooks and Alaska Anchorage Seawolves will meet every year in the first round of a best-of-three series series with the winner advancing to the WCHA’s Final Five, no matter where either the Nanooks or Seawolves finish in the league standings.

So if the Nanooks win the regular season title, and the Seawolves finish second in the standings, then the No. 3 seed — let’s say Northern Michigan — would get the automatic bye into the Final Five while No. 4 hosts No. 9, No. 5 hosts No. 8 and No. 5 hosts No. 6 in the other best-of-three first round series.




While the “Alaska Plan” was approved by the league, McLeod said there are other proposals on the table from the athletic directors. The league will be revisiting the plan, possibly as soon as next week during a conference call among the ADs.

“It’s not set in stone. Although it was voted upon and passed, there were a couple other scenarios that were definitely talked about. I’m not quite sure,” McLeod said.

Got it? The plan is official, only they might change it if they think of something better first.

If I missed any developments here, let me know. It’s been a strange 24 hours.

4 Responses

  1. Beaver fan

    Do you have goeb’s email address so that fans can express their opinions on this? Won’t do much good probably, but at least make the group of us feel better for sharing our dislike of the plan and how it portrays the league…

    1. jackhitts

      I don’t think Goeb is necessarily “responsible” for it, so I don’t know how much good it will to. He just told me what the league has (tentatively, apparently) decided. All the email addresses are on the athletics website, though.

  2. Beaver fan

    I agree, definately not Rick’s doing but it is frustrating to see the league go down this path that appears to confirm all the negative “cheap” talk that we have had to hear from the nacho teams for the last year

  3. TwinCityBeaver

    I’m not quite sure,” McLeod said.
    Say what. Um…isn’t McLeod the commish? How can he not be sure about other proposals. Isn’t that his job to know these things? The first order of business for the new WCHA should be to fire Bruce McLeod.

    I totally get it that two AK schools can bring some financial challenges and presents some logistical challenges around playoff time. I don’t know – I think it’s one of those things the teams are going to have to suck it up and deal with. Over a 10 year span the pain will probably get spread around fairly evenly if you think about the various scenarios.

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