ORONO – Mark Anthoine admitted he hadn’t kept up with all of college hockey’s realignment during the offseason. But he was aware of the fact that Hockey East was on the verge of expansion.

“I think it’s great for our league to expand,” said Anthoine, a sophomore forward on the Maine men’s hockey team. “Making the conference bigger, I think it’s going to be good because everything needs to change in order to move forward.”

Wednesday afternoon, as Anthoine and his teammates practiced at Alfond Arena, Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna announced that Notre Dame will join the league as its 11th member in the fall of 2013.

Notre Dame chose Hockey East over two other options: joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which will begin play in the fall of 2013, or becoming an independent program.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said Notre Dame’s decision to join Hockey East was based on three factors: what impact the league would have on student-athletes, such as travel and academics; what media opportunities a move would bring and the overall question, “Does Notre Dame fit here?”

“We had to make sure that we considered all the options available to us and made the right choice for our student-athletes, our coaches and our university,” Swarbrick said.

Boston University Athletic Director Mike Lynch said Hockey East has not yet had any conversations about further expansion in the future, and Bertagna said the league has not yet tackled a future scheduling or playoff format, other than that half the league’s future 22-game schedule would be played at home and half on the road.

“This is all the fun stuff that’s ahead of us,” Bertagna said.

With Notre Dame comes exposure for Hockey East. During Wednesday’s press conference, John Miller, the president of programming for NBC Sports and Versus, said the network will carry both Notre Dame and Hockey East games, starting in the fall of 2013. NBC currently broadcasts all of Notre Dame’s home football games.

Notre Dame joined the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for two seasons in 1981, then re-joined the CCHA in 1993. The Irish reached the national title game in 2008 and played in the 2011 Frozen Four, and has qualified for the NCAA Tournament five times since 2004.

Anthoine believes Notre Dame brings its overall reputation and the school’s athletic tradition to Hockey East.

“Notre Dame is one of those schools that has so many fans from all over, whether it’s football, hockey or any other sport,” said Anthoine, who will be a senior when Notre Dame opens Hockey East play. “But it’s going to bring more (fans) to Hockey East.”

Like Anthoine, Maine sophomore Brice O’Connor said he didn’t focus too much attention to the movement this past year across Division I college hockey, including the formation of the NCHC and the Big Ten Hockey Conference. Yet the defenseman believes the movement is a positive for the development of the sport.

“We’re setting the foundation for the future of what college hockey is going to be and how it’s going to work,” O’Connor said.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi