The following is the opinion of Travis Weldon, a frequent guest of Granite City Sports. You can read more from Travis on Twitter (@MoarClappers).

Make no mistake about it. Hockey season is about to start.

Don't listen to the people who say it's too soon to think about winter. Don't listen to the people who say hockey just ended. I know most fans are penciling in the Saturday's and Sunday's around top 10 college football match-ups and not changing from the Red Zone Channel on Sundays.

Not me. It's always about college hockey. I've been ready for this season ever since St. Cloud State was eliminated in March.

Between the college hockey season and the U-20 World Junior Championships that takes place over the New Year, this is the most entertaining form of hockey. With five men's college hockey teams in the state spanning three different conferences, it can be tough for the average fan to digest. Not to mention the ever changing dynamics in the women's game, where the NCAA Champion has been a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in 15 of the past 17 years. Clarkson has been the only team to win it all outside of the WCHA (which they've obviously won twice).

That's where I come in.

It is my job to convert you to the wonderful world of college hockey. I plan to give you my thoughts, analysis and opinions about what the major stories are on the campus rinks. For the last season and a half, I had a podcast talking about all things Husky Hockey and National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) related. With my co-host moving out of state, I felt like moving to my original love of writing would be a great outlet.

The college hockey game is the perfect sport to watch to cure all your winter blues. It has the event-type feel with once a week series, but more games to enjoy than a football season. When it's all said and done, one champion will be crowned in April, just in time to watch the Masters and get your golf swing tuned up (I promise this next year I will fix my slice).

This blog will be for the casual fans who can find the in's and out's of college hockey to be a little intimidating. That's understandable. You're not alone. So I will give you cheat sheet to help you start the season.

  1. Polls are stupid. NEVER put any stock into them. 

In the college hockey world, everything is ruled by the almighty Pairwise. It is a complex formula that mimics the NCAA selection criteria and will rank the teams at the end of the season to find out who is in and who is out. All conference tournament winners get a spot, the rest can be figured out by the Pairwise.

There is NO subjectivity when it comes to the Pairwise. Polls aren't involved. No voter in the poll has watch all 60 teams and knows where they fall. It is all math. I like it. Not because I like math. Far from it. While it may take all the drama out of a selection show in late March, you ALWAYS know where your team stands. You may be in one week and out the next, but you always know.

The subjectivity of the major polls is very apparent in the first rankings of the season. You will always see the familiar suspects at the top that only skate on name recognition and hype from an 18-year-old who is labeled as the next big thing. Last year, the biggest poll in college hockey (USCHO) had 33 teams receiving votes. The preseason poll in the 2014-2015 year had 42 teams out of 60 getting votes.

It's a new era in college hockey. This isn't the "Old Boys Club" anymore. Parity has evened out  competition across the country and you'll learn about plenty of new schools. Eventually, when a Quinnipiac beats Boston College, you won't bat an eye

Now, I know the schools will tweet out the polls and thump their chests about what little number is next to their name. It means nothing in the long run.

  1. While the Pairwise is almighty, it doesn't mean anything until late in the season. 

The Pairwise can't get even get a ranking until all the teams have a common opponent (where you can link teams together). When the first rankings come out, it will look hilarious. So many teams will be are out of place. We won't get an adequate reflection of the Pairwise until February at the earliest.

There is a line of thought that since the Pairwise is just a snapshot of where teams are, it technically only matters for one day; the day after the conference championships. I don't necessarly believe that 100 percent, it does bring up a good point about worrying too much about how a game between Mass-Lowell and Quinnipiac may effect the teams on the bubble.

Side note: I do wonder how the NHL teams would look if they applied the Pairwise criteria. Maybe I'll do that for a future post.

  1. Yes, I'm sad about re-alignment, but the talent on the ice has never been better. It's time to move on. 

There was always something 'punk rock' about college hockey; did it's own thing and adored by the diehard fans. The WCHA Final Five was the premier hockey event of the year. Arenas were standing room only. Enthusiasm was off the charts.

Once the Big Ten conference and National Collegiate Hockey Conference was formed, it turned the whole landscape upside-down. Does it suck? Yeah, of course it does.

But get over it.

New rivalries will be formed. You'll hate new teams. You'll still hate the teams you did. But ask yourself: What really has changed? Familiar teams will still be played due to the ease of travel. Sure, conference points won't be on the line anymore for when the Huskies play the Gophers, but those games were hardly about points to begin with.

Almost a third of NHL players have played college hockey from schools big and small. The Huskies have had an NHL first rounders play for them. Head Coach Bob Motzko keeps finding exciting players from all over. Everyone still hates North Dakota. Nothing has changed.

So join me this season. I'll give you my thoughts on this year's SCSU team along with any other talking points from the NCHC and all over college hockey. It's going to be an exciting season.

I want to thank Granite City Sports and KXSS for giving me a platform for my thoughts. I've been on the radio sporadically throughout the hockey season over the past couple of seasons and I'm happy for the opportunity to provide content for them. I look forward to sharing my thoughts throughout the season.


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