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Penn State And The Continental Divide of College Hockey

Note: With these maps you're going to want to read this in 'wide' view, which you should be doing anyway.  And yes, I certainly would have liked to include more data, but after eight teams I reach a diminishing return on investment and besides I don't have all day.

The Frozen Four ended this past weekend, and even though a large portion of the tournament games were wildly uncompetitive, I'm still typing this jealous as hell after watching it.

So I got to thinking, even if Penn State is lucky enough get the donations to launch a D1 teams, and even if that team can find a place in the currently gridlocked college hockey conference structure (an alignment that has the structural stability of a straw house in Los Angeles, by the way), where are all the players going to come from?

I asked myself that and then built the Google Map below, which is a plot of every rostered player on the eight finalists in the Frozen Four (the list: Miami, Michigan, Yale, Boston College, Wisconsin, St. Cloud St., RIT and New Hampshire).

(MAPS—which are now actually working—after the jump...)

View Frozen Four 2010 Rosters in a larger map

There are just over 200 players on that map; seven of them are from Pennsylvania, or about 3%. The Icers' roster, which is as good as you will find at the 'Team Sport' level, is just a tad over 50% 'sylvanian. It's hard to really bridge those two numbers, though, since there is a pretty big gap between being in the final eight at the D1 level and being a consistent winner at the club level.

It does probably mean, though, that a potentially competitive D1 Penn State hockey team would have to rely heavily on east coast talent. Here are the other Big Ten hockey teams, and their make-up of instate talent:

Team In-State Full Roster %
Minnesota 24 25 96%
Michigan 15 24 62%
Michigan St. 14 28 50%
Wisconsin 11 28 39%
Ohio St. 4 28 14%

So the top three are more or less set, Wisconsin has the benefit of being bordered by Minnesota, and Canada water and the Upper Peninsula, and Ohio State...well Ohio State has one CCHA regular season title in their history, although they have earned a bid in the tournament several times in the last 12 years. It's a product of a recruiting effort that reaching all over North America (and into Pittsburgh some, too).  A Penn State team would almost certainly have to take up this strategy.

If this whole dream becomes a reality and we find ourselves in a Big Ten hockey conference—again a wild proposition but not an impossible one—you start to wonder if you run into a kind of middle-ground issue some claim handicaps the basketball team.  You have excellent rivals in the midwest, but are crowded out of their recruiting world and instead have to figure out a way to snatch up east coasters who know and respect their own storied programs closer to the Atlantic.