The 2003 CCHA champion Ferris State Bulldogs (photo courtesy Ferris State)
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM)- Bob Daniels has spent the last 23 years of his life at Ferris State University, the last 19 years as its head hockey coach. He's never known a time when the Bulldogs weren't part of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association with in-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State. But times are about to change. "There is a bit of uncertainty going on," Daniels told WZZM Monday. "There's a little bit of heartburn, a little bit of wondering."
No one knows right now what will become of the Ferris State hockey program. Its conference, the CCHA, is facing hardships with the 2013 departures of Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State to the new Big Ten Hockey Conference. Miami of Ohio has announced it will leave at that time as well to join a new conference. Northern Michigan, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan all appear ready to make moves away from the CCHA as well. But Daniels sees opportunity with all the changes. "I think Ferris State is ideally located to look both east and west (for new conference membership). We've got the WCHA, which is looking at some different teams and we would be within that footprint. Northern Michigan's already made the move. Michigan Tech would be in it. At that point, probably Lake Superior State, ourselves and three or four Minnesota schools."
Daniels is convinced Ferris will continue long-standing rivalries with Michigan and Michigan State despite no longer having conference affiliations with the two Big Ten schools. And even with the changing geography of a new league, travel costs for the program could be similar to what they are now. "Our travel expenses as far as I can see are going to remain constant. It's just that some of the games that used to be conference (will now be) non-conference. Some of the games that are non-conference now are going to be conference games. We'll continue to play Michigan and Michigan State. We'll continue to be part of the fabric of Ferris State and the Big Rapids community."
Daniels says he hopes the school has made a final decision on which conference to join by Thanksgiving of this year.