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SP Sports Weekly: ASU hockey joins Big Ten conference

ASU will be among the teams competing in this season's Big Ten conference


Illustration published on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

Sports editors Alex Coil and Koki Riley invite reporter Avery Klatsky to talk about his story on ASU's hockey team joining the Big Ten conference for the 2020-21 season. 


Hello everyone and welcome to a new episode of SP Sports Weekly, a weekly roundup of State Press sports content. Alongside Koki Riley, I am Alex Coil and we are the sports editors at The State Press.


Joining us on the show now is State Press sports staff writer, Avery Klatsky to talk about his latest piece on ASU hockey's upcoming season and their recent inclusion to the Big Ten conference. Thank you for joining us today.


Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me. 


With this inclusion into the Big Ten conference now for ASU hockey, what does that mean for the upcoming season? Can you explain just sort of the basic dynamics when it comes to this merger?


Sure, so this agreement that was signed, or not signed I guess, but agreed to upon, by both parties, being the Big Ten and then ASU hockey program, is only for the duration of the 2020-2021 hockey season. ASU is going to be playing 28 games. They’re going to play with each team in the Big Ten, four times. So, there's seven teams and will play them four times each, and to my knowledge, it begins on Nov. 13. 

And the interesting thing that I think is worthy of mentioning is that every single game that they will be playing is a road game. So, ASU is going to be on the road for the entire duration of the season in the Northeast, which depending on who you ask is either great or awful cause, depending on the weather or travel or what have you. But I'm sure that they're all amped up about it and really looking forward to it and the fact that they actually have a season to begin with it all is they're pretty grateful for and I think it's going to be interesting. So, we'll see what happens. 


You mentioned that this is only going to be for the 2020-2021 season. Do you think this could set a foundation to where, you know, maybe in the future ASU obviously is technically an independent where they could join the Big Ten as a whole? Can they qualify for the Big Ten tournament this year?


I'll answer the second one first. So, can they qualify for the Big Ten and the answer to that is no, they are not eligible to qualify for the Big Ten tournament. To my knowledge, they are eligible to qualify for the actual tournament if they're going to have it, which I'm assuming they will. The reason why they cannot qualify for the Big Ten tournament is because they are officially not an actual member of the Big Ten for the purposes of the season. They're just contractually joining the Big Ten schedule for the 2020- 2021 season. 

So, they will not be able to participate in that, and the reason that is probably because they, the Big Ten, obviously wanted to keep the winner of that — the winner of each conference gets an automatic bid to determine, and I think it would be a pretty bad look, not the best look for the Big Ten if the winner of their conference wasn't even an actual member of their conference. That's the first thing. 

And then the second thing is to touch on the probability of whether or not they join a conference. I'm not too sure if ASU would want to travel a Big Ten schedule as if they were a member of the Big Ten for hockey, because they would have to go to places like Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, and take it how you want those all seem like great places, but I'm sure that ASU would probably prefer to travel to some schools that are a little closer in proximity. If I were to guess, which, you know, I'm no expert, but if I were just to throw a dart, then the first conference that jumps out to me is the NCHC. Just because they have a fewer amount of teams than most other conferences. And they're also closer, so they have Colorado College, Denver and Nebraska, Omaha.

I could go on, but I think they want to wait for a new stadium to be built in a couple of years before they decide to look at a conference, but obviously with the pandemic affecting everything who knows how long, or if that's going to change anything at all. 


When it comes to Big Ten sports, many people think of Big Ten football or Big Ten basketball, even what kind of conference is the Big Ten in hockey? Like how strong of a conference is that in that sport? 


Minnesota, I think if I'm not wrong, Minnesota historically has been a pretty dominant program. Um, Wisconsin. ASU actually played Wisconsin in the final two games of the season, other than the regular season last year, and lost to Wisconsin both times, which was quite surprising because Wisconsin, I recall was the worst team from a schedule standpoint or a record standpoint in the Big Ten last season and ASU really probably needed those two games to help their statistical chance of making the tournament. They probably would've made the tournament anyway. We'll never know. 

I do recall that final series in Wisconsin lighting up ASU pretty well, which I'm sure is in the back of the mind of a lot of players on ASU, and particularly for Sean Dhooghe, who is a transfer to ASU this year, who actually played at Wisconsin last season and beat ASU twice. They have a lot of draft picks. ASU played Michigan State over the winter break, I believe, I think they won in overtime and lost in overtime and I don't think they played any other team in the Big Ten last season, but obviously now they have 28 games against them. So, I'm sure they can get pretty familiar with some of those.


So, you talk about the travel was the Big Ten in terms of maybe why they wouldn't join full time for the Big Ten. What is the travel going to be like this year, as you, as you mentioned, four games against every single school and at every single school for all of those games? So is it going to be like, Oh, we go to Notre Dame for two, one weekend, then we go to Ohio State for two the next, or is it going to be okay, go Notre Dame for four, Ohio state for four, how's that going to work out? Or is that still something that has to be determined?


I don't know the answer to that. I'm sure it's probably something that said you want me to work out because they haven't released the schedule yet. But if I were to guess my initial thought was that, they are probably going to play teams that are close together first. So, for example, then probably play Michigan and Michigan State back to back or vice versa, whichever way you see it, just because they're close together and it's easier for the team to travel and they probably don't have to go on a plane or through an airport. They can probably take a bus, something like that.  Maybe they can do Ohio State, Penn State, or, um, you know, Minnesota, Wisconsin. 

They're probably just going to be smart about it in terms of traveling and because number one for health reasons. And number two, also, they're going to be traveling probably more than every other team. I mean, for obvious reasons, because they're not going to be playing any home games. They're always going to be on the road and therefore are going to have to account for a lot of those decisions, whether that be logistically or for the players that most other teams probably won't have to worry about. 

I recall seeing on Koki's Twitter earlier the other day that Coach Powers is excited that they're gonna be spending a lot of time in a hotel because he’s like a rewards member of the Marriott, which is great I guess.  So, it's really interesting the fact that how unique that situation is, that they're not be playing, they’re basically going to be on the road every single game. 

And something that I was also thinking about is I wonder how that is going to affect the students or the athletes, from an academic standpoint, because from November until the end of the semester, which I think is in early December. So that for that two and a half weeks span, when finals are kicking in and all of that, you know, they're going to be playing hockey, pretty often. So I think it's a little interesting to see how that whole dynamic is really coming into the fray, but I'm fairly certain that they have enough confidence in the Big Ten and ASU to plan a legitimate schedule that, you know, fits everyone's needs. 


Now that there's officially a hockey season, what's sort of the outlook for this ASU hockey team, even if they're only playing 28 games? 


I think it's good. I think I was talking, I wrote an article, I want to say a week or two ago, about the practicing alterations the team has had to make to fit health compliances and the main consensus or message I got out of the guys that I talked to is that they're practicing as if they wanted to play tomorrow. Um, and the good news for them is because they were waiting, they were waiting for that phone call. They were waiting for the announcements that hockey is going to be back. They were waiting to join the Big Ten. They were waiting for all of this thing to come into play. And now that it's finally gonna happen, it looks like, in about a month or so they're already ready in terms of game shape. If I was a player, I'd hopefully want to hit the ground running, obviously.

From a media perspective, it's good because that is an excuse for the editors to keep, for you guys to keep me around this semester, which is going to be great. I'm excited to cover the team, but I think that they have a lot going for them, even though they had some losses last year or after last year. So, they lost their top three defensemen. They lost, you know, some of their top forwards just because they graduated or whatever. So I think that if you are an ASU hockey player, or if you are an ASU hockey fan, you have a lot to look forward to, despite the fact that you're not actually going to see them in person this year, it seems like, but things are certainly looking up for them, with the recruiting classes and the transfers that they have and the way that they seem to have been preparing over the past week or two so we'll see what happens. It should be exciting. 


Now since the announcement, and I'm not sure how much you've been able to, you know, talk to Coach Powers or talk to the team or talk to anybody related to this with them, but what level of excitement do they have that, not only do they get to play as a season, but they get to play as close to a similar conference style schedule, as you can against some pretty big-name opponents, at least?


I'm sure they're probably enjoying it and looking forward to it. I do think this is really, this is actually, that's a fair point to bring up and it's a really good chance for Coach Powers to sort of see on a small scale, what it's like to be in a conference. Although, there's obviously not accounting for home games and playing it at home stadium in front of the home crowd, you are getting that sort of experience of, you know, you'd be playing these teams every week and you'd be playing them multiple times and seeing them multiple times, whereas opposed to last season and seasons beforehand, you see one team twice and that's it. 

But you know, when you're in a conference, the conference record is huge. It's a big deal. It decides whether or not you may or may not get into the tournament. And from an ASU standpoint, they haven't had to worry about that because they're obviously independent, so they have to rely on just having a good record and, I don't want to say getting lucky, but having a favorable lie with the pairwise. However in a conference, that helps them out in being able to make the tournament, but it also matches them up against the same teams, multiple times and the other teams against each other multiple times which ASU obviously hasn't had to worry about. So, I think that's going to be interesting. And they're certainly going to get a taste of what it's like to be in a conference, even though they're not actually in the conference, if that makes sense. 


Avery, we want to thank you so much for joining us on the show this week to talk about this developing story. Thank you so much again. 


Yep. Thank you, guys, have a good one. 


Thank you all for joining us for this episode of SP Sports Weekly

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