I had said earlier that college hockey probably needs to find a way to realign their conferences to help their future. My idea was for smaller conferences, or conferences divided into divisions. I worked on some possibilities and here's what I came up with.
Scenario 1 East vs. West
I roughly tried to seperate the two conferences geographically. I know it's not perfect, but I think it works. Here's what you'd have:
CCHA East: Michigan, Lake Superior, Niagara, Wayne State, Miami, Ohio State, BGSU
CCHA West: Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Alabama-Huntsville, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Alaska-Fairbanks
WCHA "Minnesota": Minnesota, Minnesota State, St. Cloud, Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech
WCHA "Other": Wisconsin, North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver, Alaska-Anchorage, Nebraska-Omaha
By no means is this a perfect plan. The teams in the second division in each league have to do a lot of traveling, but not all that much more than they presently do.
If each team plays every team in their division 4 times, that gives every team a couple extra non-conference games to work with. So even though Michigan and Michigan State or Minnesota and Wisconsin don't schedule each other, there's plenty of room for them to schedule each other in non-conference games.
You also set up a system where each team plays a series against a "natural rival" from the other division and then another series or two against a rotating team from the other division.
My sets of natural rivals would look something like this: MI-MSU, LSSU-NMU, NIA-UAH, WSU-FSU, MU-WMU, OSU-ND, BG-UAF, MINN-UW, SCSU-UND, MnST-UAA, UMD-DU, MTU-CC, BSU-UNO
The only problem there is that the "rivalries" are pretty contrived by the end. It also eliminates a balanced schedule which isn't a huge deal, but would be nice.
Scenario 2 State of Michigan
The idea puts all the Michigan teams together in the same conference.
CCHA Michigan: Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Ferris State, Wayne State, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior
CCHA Other: Ohio State, Bowling Green, Miami, Niagara, Notre Dame, Alaska-Fairbanks, Alabama-Huntsville
The WCHA would be the same as listed above, unless you could convince Michigan Tech to play in a conference with the other Michigan schools. In that case, you'd move Michigan Tech into the Michigan division and Omaha into the other division. The WCHA could go back to their normal schedule since they would only have ten teams.
There's a couple problems with this though. It's a great deal for the Michigan schools, but the other division gets kind of screwed. It's questionable if the other league could survive without Michigan and Michigan State. It's also a lot of traveling between Niagara, Huntsville, and Fairbanks. The league could still share a conference tournament and alternate the site between Detroit and somewhere like Columbus, Dayton, or Omaha.
Scenario 3 Big Ten Tourney
This isn't a restructuring per se. It probably couldn't be done right now given the way things are currently, but if college hockey got restructured and teams ended up with a couple extra non-conference games, or they extended the season and the number of allowable games, I think this would be a good idea.
Basically, instead of creating a Big Ten conference and leaving the rest of college hockey in the dust, you allow the Big Ten teams to stay in their respective conferences(whatever those conferences may be), but hold a two weekend round robin tournament with Big Ten teams to determine a champion.
There is a problem with a six team, but I think for the purposes of the tournament, it would be best if North Dakota was the sixth member.
The tournament would work like this: It would be two weekends per season. One in the first half of the season, one in the second half of the season. The eastern teams would host one weekend, the western teams would host the other. It could be held on campus sites, or they could move it to bigger facilities(XCel Center, Joe Louis, Nationwide Arena). The games would be held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
I created a rough tournament schedule. I'm not a scheduling/math wizard, so there are a few problems with this schedule, but I think you'll get the basic idea of how exciting it would be.
Weekend 1 @ Joe Louis Arena
Day 1: Wisconsin vs. North Dakota, Michigan vs. Ohio State
Day 2: Minnesota vs. Ohio State, Michigan vs. Michigan State
Day 3: OSU vs. North Dakota, Michigan State vs. Wisconsin, Michigan vs. Minnesota
Weekend 2 @ XCel Center
Day 4: Michigan vs. Wisconsin, Minnesota vs. Michigan State
Day 5: Ohio State vs. Michigan State, North Dakota vs. Michigan, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
Day 6: Minnesota vs. North Dakota, Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
I messed up the schedule somewhere because I can't work Michigan State vs. North Dakota in anywhere, but you get the general idea. Obviously schedule-makers could do a better job than me at minimizing two teams from the west playing in the east and such, but overall, I think it's a great idea. Can you imagine the excitement of two great games during the day leading up to Minnesota vs. Wisconsin at the XCel Center or Michigan vs. Michigan State at Joe Louis?
I think it's great for college hockey in terms of exposure, interest, and it should be very profitable financially. You get the excitment and quality of Big Ten hockey without cutting the legs out from under from the other, smaller college hockey schools.
Those were just some of the ideas that I came up with. I'd love to hear other suggestions or critiques of what I had to say.