After 70 years of play, the Men’s WCHA announced on Friday that it had disbanded effective Thursday, July 1, after a vote taken by the two remaining members of the league.
Representatives from Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks recently voted to end the men’s league, the statement said, following the departure of eight league members in the past two years.
“I am honored and grateful to have had the special opportunity to lead the WCHA for the past seven plus years,” said Bill Robertson in a statement. Robertson, who has served as WCHA Men’s League Commissioner since 2014, was recently named USHL President and Commissioner. “I consider my time with the oldest and most distinguished conference in college hockey to be one of the highlights of my athletic career. As we mark the end of an era of college hockey, I wish the ten outgoing institutions and all those who have contributed to the operations of the conference the best.
Friday’s news had been in the works for two years.
Seven WCHA Schools – Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, State of Minnesota and Northern Michigan – announced on June 28, 2019 that they will be leaving the league to explore creating a new call-home conference to start playing in 2021-2022. Alabama Huntsville, Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks were not among the group’s plans.
The seven programs announced in February 2020 that they had revived the name of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for the new league.
Two other major stages took place in the summer of 2020.
First, longtime trainer Don Lucia was hired as CCHA Commissioner. A few weeks later, Saint Thomas was introduced as the eighth member of the conference with the Tommies moving to NCAA Division I.
Meanwhile, Alabama Huntsville cut its program in May 2020, only to reinstate him for 2020-21 after a fundraising campaign. After playing last season, the program was suspended in May 2021 lack of conference affiliation. WCHA granted UAH’s request to leave the league earlier this summer.
Alaska programs, which missed the 2020-21 season, are at a crossroads.
Alaska Anchorage will not be playing this coming season during a fundraising attempt to save the program. School announced last August that the program would end after 2020-21 before later cancel the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alaska Fairbanks will perform as an independent program in 2021-2022.
Established as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League in 1951, the Men’s WCHA was the oldest college hockey conference at the time of its demise. The league has produced 37 men’s national champions over the years, the most recent being the Minnesota Duluth title in 2011.
The WCHA changed dramatically after the 2012-13 season when many longtime members left for the new Big Ten and the National College Hockey Conference. Six new programs joined the WCHA for the 2013-14 campaign.
The historic MacNaughton Cup, the WCHA regular season championship trophy, will be transferred to the new CCHA and be awarded to the league’s regular season champion starting his inaugural season in 2021-2022.
Bemidji State joined the WCHA Men’s League prior to the 2010-11 season.
The WCHA Women’s League, to which BSU has been a member since 1999, will continue to sponsor NCAA Division I women’s hockey.