AURORA — Seeking to continue to spark growth in their sport, and create more competitive balance, the ice hockey committee on Wednesday recommended that the sport split into two classifications.
The recommendation, as with all recommendations from committees, will need to be approved by the Legislative Council at its April meeting in order to go into effect for the 2021-22 season.
Their proposal is to place 20 teams into a Class 5A, and 17 in 4A. The group used a variety of factors to split the teams from bylaw 1500.21, including enrollment, geography, competitive history, competitive balance, participation rate, and the entry or selection process that places an athlete at a program.
"I believe the hockey committee has a great opportunity to place like competition against one another," said Cheyenne Mountain athletic director Kris Roberts, who submitted the proposal to the committee for consideration.
The committee voted unanimously to forward the recommendation, which includes three leagues in each classification. The proposed alignment is listed at the bottom of this story.
With 37 teams, hockey has more than gymnastics — which, at 32 programs, has two classifications of 16 teams each. The committee also recognized the potential for growth of programs is greater with the addition of a 4A classification, something girls lacrosse has seen with its recent addition of a second class.
"Over the past four years, the same fourteen schools have advanced to the quarterfinals of the ice hockey tournament. Parity in the sport is non-existent," said Justin Saylor, the CHSAA assistant commissioner who oversees hockey. "The addition of the 4A classification allows more programs the opportunity to be successful, and with that, the hope is it opens the sport up to a larger portion of the state."
The committee also adjusted the postseason format. Leagues would play one another twice, and the champion would automatically qualify for the state tournament. In 4A, that tournament would be 10 teams, with the top two seeds receiving a bye. In 5A, the bracket would be a 12-team field, with byes for the top four seeds.
To seed those brackets, the sport would use the new CHSAA Seeding Index, which combines data from the RPI, CHSAANow coaches poll and the MaxPreps rankings.
In other work, the committee also recommended stricter penalties for fighting, which has seen an uptick in recent years. On a first offense, a player would be suspended for two games. On a second offense, the player would be suspended for four games. Currently, it is a one-game suspension for the first offense, and a two-game suspension for the second.
Proposed hockey alignment