When Jeff Jackson’s team was in the CCHA, media day consisted of a conference call because of the significant distance between schools.
On Tuesday, the Notre Dame coach participated in his first Hockey East media gathering at TD Garden.
The Fighting Irish are now the 11th member of the league, setting it on a new course. Next year, Connecticut will make it 12.
“This is certainly different,’’ said Jackson, as he surveyed the packed crowd at Legends Club. “But to be honest with you, it’s one of the reasons we chose to come to Hockey East.
“There’s a much greater interest from a media perspective in the East probably from everything. The media is just that much more involved in the East than it is in the Midwest or West. I’m not surprised by the number of people here. It’s great.’’
Notre Dame’s addition is just one of the reasons there is plenty of excitement surrounding the league.
Hockey East produced the NCAA champion in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012, with three of those titles earned by Boston College.
Last year, UMass-Lowell won the league crown and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time. This week, the River Hawks earned the No. 1 ranking in the nation in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine preseason poll.
Lowell is one of five league teams among the top 15, along with BC (No. 4), Notre Dame (No. 7), New Hampshire (No. 13), and Providence (No. 15).
“We are moving into maybe the most successful conference over the last 15-20 years as far as winning national championships,’’ said Jackson. “We’re moving into a conference that is really on the rise right now because it’s not just about BU and BC anymore. You’ve got UMass-Lowell and Providence College and UNH is always in the mix.
“The conference, as far as the level of successful teams, is growing. Hopefully, we’re going to help that.’’
One big difference this season will be the number of league games. Hockey East teams will play 20 conference games, seven fewer than last year.
For the first time, all teams will compete in the postseason. The top five squads will draw first-round byes. Teams 6-11 will square in one-game playoffs March 7 and 8 at the higher seed. The winners will be reseeded for the best-of-three quarterfinals the following weekend, also at the higher seeds.
In addition, this fall marks the inaugural Big Ten/Hockey East challenge. Eleven schools will play in 13 games between Oct. 18-27. Six contests will be held in Hockey East arenas during the first weekend followed by six games in Big Ten rinks and a single game on neutral ice during the second weekend.
The Big Ten is loaded with perennial powers in Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
“The college hockey landscape is going through a major change this season and each conference needs to look beyond its familiar boundaries,’’ said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. “We have great respect for the hockey-playing institutions in the Big Ten and we hope to develop this concept to allow all of our programs to participate in this competition in future years.’’
After the 13 games, a Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge Cup will be presented to the league with the most points. Two points will be awarded for a win, one for a tie, and a bonus point for a road win. If the conferences are tied, the result of the Penn State-Vermont game, which will be played at a neutral site, will act as the tiebreaker.
“The Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge will offer a tremendous opportunity to build a relationship between our two conferences and to promote the strong traditions of college hockey on a national level,’’ said Big Ten associate commissioner Jennifer Heppel.
“The student-athletes will also benefit from the chance to take part in meaningful nonconference competition against other top programs.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.