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WCHA talks to get underway

The first stage of official dialogue between Bemidji State officials and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association concerning a possible move of the men's team to the premier college hockey league will take place in the next few days.

The first stage of official dialogue between Bemidji State officials and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association concerning a possible move of the men's team to the premier college hockey league will take place in the next few days.

BSU athletic director Rick Goeb, faculty/athletic representative Tom Richards and women's hockey coach Steve Sertich are on the women's hockey agenda of the WCHA annual meeting, set to start Sunday in Naples, Fla.

Goeb said Bemidji State contacted WCHA officials about being included on the men's hockey agenda. "They told us to start with the women's side, since we are members there," said Goeb. "We want to follow proper protocol, go by the book and be very professional in how we move forward."

The WCHA meetings will be broken into three sub-committees - athletic directors, faculty representatives and coaches. Once the committees from the men's and women's sides complete their work, the group will meet as a whole.

Goeb said it is the expectation that possible future expansion of WCHA men's hockey and BSU's interest in joining the league will be discussed at that time. No formal action from the WCHA is expected at that time, however.

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Goeb said university officials are excited to make the WCHA aware of the "state of hockey" at Bemidji State.

"We've made major commitments to the hockey program over the last few years," said Goeb, "including hiring full-time staff and moving to 18 full scholarships. We've also been actively working with the city of Bemidji in building a new Regional Events Center."

The events center is currently in the planning process, using dollars allocated by the state legislature to design a facility. Awaited this session is legislative authorization to extend a one-half cent sales tax to partially cover costs of constructing the events center - a measure that was passed by Bemidji city voters last fall. Additional events center construction dollars will be sought in the 2008 Legislature's bonding bill.

Also discussed will be a major fund-raising drive by BSU that will seek to generate $500,000 per year for five years for the hockey programs. Goeb said the fund-raising effort is moving forward as well.

"We are excited to make the WCHA aware of the commitments we've made," said Goeb.

The BSU contingent also wants the WCHA to formally be aware of the uncertain history of College Hockey America on the men's side. "I don't think it's any secret the CHA members made an agreement at last year's annual meeting to stay together through the 2007-08 season," Goeb said.

That agreement was made after CHA member Wayne State told the league it would actively pursue membership in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

Could the CHA agreement be extended at this year's meeting? "That would be tough," Goeb said. "The future of the CHA does not look good." The CHA has set its annual meeting for Wednesday.

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"This is an exciting time," Goeb said. "We are looking forward to a positive response from the WCHA."

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