LIU Brooklyn will add a Division I NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey team in the 2019-20 season, sources have confirmed to The Ice Garden. The move was originally reported by Adam Wodon of College Hockey News on Monday morning.
The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds currently sponsor 18 varsity men’s and women’s athletics programs, but do not have a men’s hockey program. As such, there are definitely plenty of details to be worked out, particularly where the team’s home arena will be. The school has already posted for the Head Coach position on its careers website.
Aside from the fact that this new program comes from completely out of left field, it also creates a lot of interesting questions. The question of which conference the new team will play in – if any – has come up more than any other since the announcement. While there aren’t any concrete answers to that yet, sources have confirmed to The Ice Garden that the team does intend to join a conference, and that any official announcement regarding the new program will come once the team has found a conference home.
The most prominent theory out there to this point seems to be that LIU Brooklyn should join the CHA, with Lindenwood finding its way to the WCHA — a better geographic fit for the Lions, and a way for the WCHA to fill the hole left by the now defunct North Dakota team that dropped the program after the 2016-17 season. Interestingly, there has been some movement behind the scenes on a possible Lindenwood-to-WCHA move for a while, even before the LIU Brooklyn news came about. And with Lindenwood possibly on its way out, that would require the CHA to find a new sixth program to keep its NCAA tournament autobid. LIU Brooklyn would be an ideal fit, however, to this point there have not yet been any discussions between the LIU Brooklyn administration and the CHA.
And women’s college hockey expansion may not yet be finished. In December, The Ice Garden reported that LIU Post was set to start a new D-II program. While that’s doesn’t directly affect the Division I teams, it could still have an effect on top tier NCAA women’s hockey as a whole due to D-I and D-II technically sharing the same NCAA tournament.
In practice, a D-II team has not yet qualified for the tournament, but that may change in the near future. There have been rumblings of other Division II schools seriously considering new women’s hockey programs, and any conference formed by these new programs plus the existing programs remaining in the new NEWHA could petition for an NCAA tournament autobid despite being made of primarily D-II teams. That in turn could possibly lead to tournament expansion as well.
After North Dakota cut its women’s hockey program, things looked pretty grim for the future of the sport. But all of a sudden, there seems to be the beginning of a small explosion in the growth of the sport at the collegiate level, and it’s exciting to see just how far it’s going to go.