Earlier this evening, the WCHA held an informal "straw poll" to determine whether the current WCHA schools will approve a handshake agreement for UNO to join the WCHA. The terms appear to be that the WCHA would either waive or significantly reduce the leagues entrance fee for UNO and that UNO would immediately be eligible to share in league revenues. Some would point to that as a great deal for UNO, but they neglect one little fact. UNO already is a member of the CCHA, and this switch benefits the WCHA, Bemidji State, Alabama-Huntsville, and college hockey in general more than the Mavericks. The WCHA benefits by going to 12 teams, Bemidji benefits by getting a home in the WCHA, and Alabama-Huntsville benefits by gaining UNO's spot in the CCHA. Certainly UNO benefits by the increased revenue sharing in the WCHA ($100,000 per school last season), but UNO doesn't face the urgency the other parties have.
If the straw vote goes as expected, the WCHA will put the terms in writing and UNO will formally apply to join the WCHA. Everything would be approved over the next few weeks, and by all accounts, this upcoming season will be UNO's swan song in the CCHA.
Omaha hockey fans are all aflutter with the announcement that Mike Hastings is joining UNO after all. Dean Blais named Hastings "associate head coach" today, creating quite a buzz of excitement around town.
Yes, I know Hastings record as the winningest coach in the USHL. But I can't get one thought out of my mind. If Mike Hastings had spent 14 seasons as the head coach of the Des Moines Buccaneers followed by one season in Minnesota as the #2 assistant with the Gophers, would Hastings have been considered to be "associate head coach" of the Mavs?
My instinct, for whatever it's worth says no. Certainly he's qualified to be an assistant coach of the Mavs... maybe even be the top assistant to Dean Blais. But I get a little skittish with the talk that he's the "heir apparent" to a man who hasn't even coached one single game for UNO.
Some would wonder why Hastings would leave Minnesota, and I have a simple answer for that. Right now, I'd suggest that UNO's hockey program might just be a little more stable than Minnesota's at this time. That's a statement that can easily be misinterpreted, so I'll clarify. The Gophers have a tradition and a talent level that UNO can only dream of at this point. That's NOT what I was saying. But Don Lucia is starting to feel the hot seat in Minneapolis, while Dean Blais is starting a four year contract with the Mavs. Advantage: UNO. With the Gophers, Hastings was the #2 assistant behind John Hill, who took over for Lucia when he took a medical leave of absence earlier this season. So being named the top assistant is a promotion for Hastings.
To be sure, if Blais works his magic again and pushes UNO up to the elite level of college hockey, his assistants will most definitely be leading candidates to take over when Blais decides to retire. But to consider it a "done deal" is unfair to everyone at this point and time. Hastings might look like the slam dunk candidate when that time comes, but for now, it's just unnecessary speculation. Especially after the absurd rumors from this past winter that Hastings would take over as UNO head coach.