South Bend, Ind., isn't really close to the Northeast. If you were to rent an RV from Boston and drive the roughly 900 miles separating the two regions, it would take about 15 hours.
Sure, making frequent trips between the Northeast and Indiana will no doubt be an adjustment, but the tradeoff is much better. In return for constant flights, Notre Dame and the premier teams in Hockey East will have a chance to play against teams of fairly equal talent levels.
First off, the Fighting Irish are a top-tiered team — U.S. Hockey College Online ranked the Fighting Irish No. 1 in the nation — and Hockey East is a good conference that has produced four national championships and an additional five runner-up teams in the past decade. One of those championships came at Notre Dame's expense, as the Fighting Irish lost to Jerry York's Boston College Eagles in the 2008 national championship game.
That was only three years ago, and both teams — including a couple others from Hockey East — can still make it deep into the NCAA tournament. If each year those teams are going to contend for a title, it only makes sense that they should play each other every year.
As it stands right now, BC and Notre Dame will play each other, but only once. The same goes with Notre Dame and Boston University. Both teams are scheduled to play once this year, while Notre Dame will host Northeastern twice. But the Irish will not face off against UNH at all. That's a pity, since the Wildcats have one of the best goalkeepers in the league, Matt Di Girolamo, and it would be an entertaining matchup.
Think of the rivalries this can create. It's hard to say that the Fighting Irish are rivals with any current Hockey East teams, like the Eagles or the Terriers, but it won't take long after 2013-14 for the Fighting Irish to create some new enemies. Notre Dame and BC could generate a particularly intriguing rivalry, considering they are two of the most prominent Catholic schools in the country and already have a football rivalry going.
It should also boost attendance both at Notre Dame and in New England. Fans always want to see their teams take on the best, and there's not much doubt that Notre Dame's presence will bring in fans to BC, BU, UNH, Maine and the lower-level teams of Hockey East. And should Notre Dame fall into a slump and attendance drop, these once-rare matchups can entice fans back into the building.
Lastly, Notre Dame might incite a trend that encourages other teams around the country to break away from their regions and try playing somewhere else. Every division shouldn't just break down, but if a few teams switch to a different division, so many more attention-grabbing matchups could be created.