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100 days out, clear path lies ahead for NCHC before league play begins

July 6, 2013 Updated: July 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm
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The countdown to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's first season reaches a milestone Wednesday.

It will be 100 days until the first league games Oct. 18: Minnesota-Duluth at Colorado College and North Dakota at Miami.

While there is plenty of work to be done, the most immediate concern was met Monday with the hire of Miami administrator Josh Fenton as commissioner.

Fenton, who played a significant role in landing the national contract with CBS Sports Network, officially starts work July 15, when the league is scheduled to debut its website and announce its full CBS-SN schedule.

The quick move from Jim Scherr to Fenton should make for a smooth transition, director of hockey operations Joe Novak said.

If the fans are half as enthused as Fenton - he called league notables and stakeholders minutes after his hire - things look good headed into the season.

"It's all coming together bit by bit," Novak said. "We should have everything in place by the start of the season."

After months of behind-the-scenes work, including helping land Minneapolis' Target Center for the March 2014 postseason championship, Fenton has a clear idea what needs to be done; further develop relations with key stakeholders including school administrators, coaches and faculty representatives.

"Beyond that, the people at the Target Center have put a lot of time, effort and energy into promoting, supporting, creating and building what we hope will be the greatest college hockey championship come next spring," he said.

Fenton replaced Scherr, the former CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who left after 18 months to become chief operating officer of the 2015 European Games. Fenton will be paid a base salary of $125,000, $25,000 less than his predecessor.

The league signed contracts for the team and conference hotels, all within a short walk of the Target Center, and set up the system for training on-ice officials

The league will have five supervisors; Novak, head of officials Don Adam and veteran officials Ron Foyt, Mike Schmitt and Scott Zelkin. That allows one to be at each league game and give immediate feedback followed by video sessions the next morning.

Novak said most of the 14 referees are former WCHA officials with the remainder a mix of professional and Central Collegiate Hockey Association refs. The 32 linesmen are divided up geographically into groups in Colorado, Michigan/Ohio, southern Minnesota/Nebraska and northern Minnesota/North Dakota to minimize travel. The list has not been announced.

"We feel very good about the group and the (board of) directors and coaches all reached a consensus on them," Novak said. "This system will allows us to strive for more consistency. Having five supervisors is unique and key to that."

Each major penalty undergoes an automatic review. Friday infractions could result in suspensions handed out by Saturday morning. Additional punishment from Saturday would be determined in 2-3 days.

With more meetings and officials training ahead, the path to the season looks laid out and clear.

"We already have a lot of the priorities and goals in place," Novak said. "We just have to get the word out and tell everyone what the NCHC is all about."

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