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BSU, WCHA announce scheduling agreement

The WCHA has promised to compete more often in Bemidji.

But, there might be a catch. A $67 million catch.

Bemidji State University and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced on Friday that they have agreed to a future scheduling agreement - but it refers to a schedule to be competed at the proposed events center.

"Beginning with the 2010-11 season, and in conjunction with the opening of the Bemidji Regional Events Center, the WCHA will include in its annual composite schedule guaranteed home contests in men's ice hockey at Bemidji State," the release said.

In a statement, the WCHA also praised the community's "commitment" to a new arena.

"The WCHA congratulates the city of Bemidji and Bemidji State University on their commitment to build a new ice hockey facility," the statement said. "(The WCHA) looks forward to helping showcase the sport at the highest level to the citizens of Bemidji."

However, the proposed Bemidji events center, in which BSU hockey would serve as the anchor tenant, is far from guaranteed. The city has requested from the Legislature $25 million in state bonding dollars and the extension of its half-cent sales tax. Neither has been promised, much less approved. Additionally, Gov. Tim Pawlenty released his proposed capital projects bonding proposal Monday, and funding for the events center was not included.

So, would the scheduling agreement remain in place if BSU does not get its new arena?

"We're confident the events center is going to happen," said Rick Goeb, the BSU athletic director. "We're feeling very good about the road we've traveled so far - and it's been a long road.

"After working with the city and working with the people that have worked on it, I feel really good that it will all work out, that this facility will happen."

A call to the WCHA was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

The scheduling agreement is the result of a 30-minute presentation to the WCHA board by BSU President Jon Quistgaard, Goeb and Rob Bollinger, the executive director for university advancement.

As game scheduling is actually set by hockey coaches and not the WCHA, Goeb said Friday that the agreement essentially reaffirmed the WCHA's support of BSU hockey.

"It ultimately shows that they support us," he said.

BSU hopes to compete in an annual, 12-game non-conference schedule against WCHA opponents with an even split of home and road contests, the press release said. However, details of the scheduling agreement have not yet been finalized.

"The goal, of course, is to get into the WCHA," Goeb said, explaining that the university is following its leads and continuing to listen to WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod.

But, he added, that does not mean the university is turning its back on its current men's hockey conference, College Hockey America, which is now positioned to have just four teams after the 2007-08 season.

"There's been a lot of discussion with other conferences and other schools," Goeb said. "We're very confident with where we are at with our scheduling."

BSU President Jon Quistgaard did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday, but lauded the scheduling announcement in Friday's press release.

"We're pleased that we have been able to successfully pursue this agreement with the WCHA," Quistgaard said. "We view this agreement as the first step in developing an even closer relationship between Bemidji State University and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association."

BSU hockey history

The BSU hockey program started in 1947 and continued through the 1950 season, according to information from the university. BSU did not field a team from 1951-59.

Throughout the 51 years of hockey at BSU, the Beavers have captured 13 national championships -- at the NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division II levels. The team has also finished as the runner up seven times.

The team played at various venues on outdoor rinks before finding a permanent home in the John Glas Fieldhouse in 1967.

Not including the current season, BSU played 641 games at the John Glas Fieldhouse, recording a record of 469-132-40 (a .763 winning percentage). Five national championships were won by the Beavers at The Glas.

Fifty-four BSU players have earned 81 All-America honors, eight players have competed on U.S. National teams, five went on to play in the National Hockey League and five played for U.S. Olympic teams.

The BSU hockey program moved to the NCAA Division I level prior to the 1999-2000 season. The team has found success at the highest collegiate level as well, advancing twice to the national tournament.