Western Collegiate Hockey Association

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Western Collegiate Hockey Association
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023–24 WCHA women's ice hockey season
FormerlyMidwest Collegiate Hockey League (1951–53)
Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (1953–58)
CommissionerTracy Dill[1]
Sports fielded
DivisionDivision I
No. of teams8
HeadquartersBloomington, Minnesota
RegionMidwestern United States
Official websitehttp://www.wcha.com
Location of teams in

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) is a college ice hockey conference which operates in the Midwestern United States. It participates in the NCAA's Division I as a women's-only conference.

From 1951 to 1999, it operated as a men-only league, adding women's competition in the 1999–2000 season. It operated men's and women's leagues through the 2020–21 season; during this period, the men's WCHA expanded to include teams far removed from its traditional Midwestern base, with members in Alabama, Alaska, and Colorado at different times.[2] The men's side of the league officially disbanded after seven members left to form the revived Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA); the WCHA remains in operation as a women-only league.[3]

WCHA member teams won a record 38 men's NCAA hockey championships, most recently in 2011 by the Minnesota–Duluth Bulldogs. A WCHA team also finished as the national runner-up a total of 28 times.[4] WCHA teams also won the first 13 NCAA women's titles, which were first awarded in 2001.[5]


The league was founded in 1951 as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL),[2] then was known as the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (WIHL) until 1958. The WIHL disbanded in 1958 after Minnesota and the three Michigan schools withdrew in protest of Colorado College, Denver and North Dakota recruiting overage Canadians. While this didn't violate NCAA rules, the four "M" schools felt it violated the spirit of intercollegiate athletics.[2] The current Western Collegiate Hockey Association was founded for the 1959–60 season after the former WIHL schools concluded that the region needed a strong league. Despite this, Denver and Minnesota would not play each other until 1973, when the league took over scheduling from the individual members.[2] The 2005 NCAA Frozen Four hockey tournament finals were noteworthy when all four teams came from the WCHA.

WCHA teams also won the first 13 NCAA women's titles, which were first awarded in 2001.[5] In 2006, WCHA member Wisconsin was the first school to capture both the men's and women's Division I ice hockey championships in the same season.[6]

The men's regular season conference champion was awarded the MacNaughton Cup,[7] while the league's tournament champion winning the WCHA Final Five took home the Broadmoor Trophy.[8]

2013 realignment[edit]

On March 22, 2011, Minnesota and Wisconsin announced that their men's teams planned to leave the league in order to form a hockey Big Ten Conference in 2013–14, along with Penn State, which would start a varsity hockey program in 2012–13, and Central Collegiate Hockey Association members Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State.[9]

In response to the creation of the Big Ten men's hockey conference, Denver, Colorado College, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth, and St. Cloud State left the WCHA to join Miami University and Western Michigan of the CCHA to create the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.[10][11] Facing membership at 4 teams for the 2013–14 season, the WCHA conference added one of its former members, Northern Michigan of the CCHA, on July 15, 2011.[12]

On August 25, 2011, the WCHA announced that it had invited the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State to join beginning in the 2013–14 season. On August 26, 2011, Alaska-Fairbanks, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State accepted their invitations and joined Northern Michigan in the WCHA in 2013.[13] After much deliberation, on October 4, 2011, Bowling Green decided to join the WCHA as well in 2013.[14] On January 17, 2013, the WCHA admitted Alabama–Huntsville to the league, effective in the 2013–14 season.[15]

This realignment activity only affected the men's side of the WCHA. Even after Penn State took the ice with both men's and women's teams, the Big Ten still had only four members with varsity women's hockey (Michigan and Michigan State field only men's teams). This meant that the women's side of the WCHA remained intact for the immediate future.

After realignment[edit]

The next change in the conference membership came shortly after the 2016–17 season, when North Dakota announced that it would drop women's hockey.[16]

During the 2019 offseason, the future of the men's side of the WCHA fell into serious doubt when its seven Midwestern members—Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Northern Michigan—notified the WCHA that they would leave the league after the 2020–21 season, potentially forming a new men's hockey conference.[17] In February 2020, these seven schools announced they would form a new CCHA.[18]

At the time the seven Midwestern members announced their plans to leave, the two Alaska teams were facing a crisis following the veto by state governor Mike Dunleavy of over $100 million in funding for the University of Alaska system, a move that was seen as potentially ending intercollegiate athletics entirely at both the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses.[19] The cuts led the UA system to start the process of consolidating the three-campus system into a single accredited institution (though retaining the existing campuses), with the system president telling local media that a single accreditation would likely lead to the Anchorage and Fairbanks athletic programs being combined into a single program. While both campuses continued to sponsor men's ice hockey in the 2019–20 season, the future of at least one of the teams beyond that point was then seen as uncertain at best.[20] Later developments saw many of the budget cuts pulled back, as well as a temporary halt to work on a single UA system accreditation; this led the UA system to announce that athletics at both campuses would continue as is through the 2020–21 school year.[21]

In November 2019, Alabama–Huntsville submitted a withdrawal letter to the WCHA, stating that it also planned to leave after the 2020–21 season. At the time, UAH was discussing potential future options with the two Alaska campuses.[22] However, UAH subsequently dropped hockey effective immediately on May 22, 2020, due to the financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on its athletic department. [23] On May 29, 2020, UAH President Darren Dawson announced that men's hockey would return for the 2020–21 season after more than $750,000 in private contributions were made in the week prior.[24] This reprieve proved temporary, as the school and its hockey supporters agreed that the continuation of the sport beyond 2020–21 would be contingent on finding a new conference home; when no conference move materialized, the hockey program was dropped again (although UAH officially called it a "suspension").[25]

In August 2020, Alaska Anchorage announced that it would drop hockey after the 2020–21 season.[26] The University of Alaska Board of Regents offered the hockey team a chance at reinstatement in September if they could raise 2 seasons worth of expenses, approximately $3 million, by February 2021. The fundraising was divided into 2 parts: $1.5 million in cash, and the remainder in firm pledges. As of December 2020, the team had begun fundraising for the needed money.[27]

The men's WCHA would fold after the 2020–21 season,[3] but the women's WCHA announced a further expansion effective in 2021–22 with the arrival of St. Thomas, a Twin Cities school that received NCAA approval to directly transition from Division III to Division I. St. Thomas had been expelled from its longtime D-III home of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference effective with the end of the 2020–21 school year due to perceptions by many members that it had grown too strong for that conference in multiple sports.[28][29] The Summit League offered the Tommies a D-I home, and backed the school's bid to directly transition from D-III.[30]


The now women-only WCHA has 8 members following the 2021 arrival of St. Thomas. The men's side of the conference had 10 members in its final season of 2020–21, at which time only two schools, Bemidji State and Minnesota State, had both men's and women's teams in the conference.

Institution Location Founded Joined Affiliation Enrollment Nickname Colors NCAA women's
Primary conference
Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota 1919 1999 (women) Public 5,198 Beavers     0 Northern Sun (D-II)
University of Minnesota Minneapolis & Saint Paul, Minnesota 1851 1999 (women) 51,848 Golden Gophers     6 Big Ten
University of Minnesota Duluth Duluth, Minnesota 1947 1999 (women) 11,168 Bulldogs     5 Northern Sun (D-II)
Minnesota State University, Mankato Mankato, Minnesota 1867 1999 14,712 Mavericks     0 Northern Sun (D-II)
Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio 1870 1999 59,837 Buckeyes     1 Big Ten
St. Cloud State University St. Cloud, Minnesota 1869 1999 (women) 14,615 Huskies     0 Northern Sun (D-II)
University of St. Thomas Saint Paul, Minnesota 1885 2021 Private 9,878 Tommies     0 Summit League
University of Wisconsin–Madison Madison, Wisconsin 1848 1999 (women) Public 43,820 Badgers     7 Big Ten

Final men's members[edit]

Institution Location Founded Joined Affiliation Enrollment Nickname Colors NCAA men's
Primary conference Current
University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville, Alabama 1950 2013 Public 9,736 Chargers     0 Gulf South (D-II) N/A (program suspended)
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage, Alaska 1977 1993 15,819 Seawolves     0 Great Northwest (D-II) Independent
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, Alaska 1917 2013 7,744 Nanooks     0 Great Northwest (D-II) Independent
Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota 1919 2010 (men) 5,198 Beavers     0 Northern Sun (D-II) CCHA
Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, Ohio 1910 2013 17,357 Falcons     1 MAC CCHA
Ferris State University Big Rapids, Michigan 1884 2013 13,798 Bulldogs     0 GLIAC (D-II) CCHA
Lake Superior State University Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan 1946 2013 1,963 Lakers     3 GLIAC (D-II) CCHA
Michigan Technological University Houghton, Michigan 1885 1951–1981
7,319 Huskies     3 GLIAC (D-II) CCHA
Minnesota State University, Mankato Mankato, Minnesota 1867 1999 14,712 Mavericks     0 Northern Sun (D-II) CCHA
Northern Michigan University Marquette, Michigan 1899 1984–1997
7,612 Wildcats     1 GLIAC (D-II) CCHA

Other former men's members[edit]

Institution City State Joined Left NCAA championships[a] Subsequent
Colorado College Colorado Springs Colorado 1951 2013 2 (1) NCHC
Denver Denver Colorado 1951 2013 9 (7) NCHC
Michigan Ann Arbor Michigan 1951 1981 9 (5) CCHA Big Ten
Michigan State East Lansing Michigan 1951 1981 3 (1) CCHA Big Ten
Minnesota Minneapolis & St. Paul Minnesota 1951 2013 5 (5) Big Ten
Minnesota Duluth Duluth Minnesota 1966 2013 3 (1) NCHC
Nebraska Omaha Omaha Nebraska 2010 2013 0 (0) NCHC
North Dakota Grand Forks North Dakota 1951 2013 8 (7) NCHC
Notre Dame Notre Dame Indiana 1971 1981 0 (0) CCHA Big Ten
St. Cloud State St. Cloud Minnesota 1990 2013 0 (0) NCHC
Wisconsin Madison Wisconsin 1969 2013 6 (6) Big Ten
  1. ^ Total championships (Championships won while WCHA member)

Former women's member[edit]

Institution City State Joined Left NCAA championships[a] Note
North Dakota Grand Forks North Dakota 2004 2017 0 (0) North Dakota terminated its women's ice hockey program.
  1. ^ Total championships (Championships won while WCHA member)

Membership timeline[edit]

University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)Lake Superior State UniversityFerris State UniversityBowling Green State UniversityUniversity of Alaska FairbanksUniversity of Alabama in HuntsvilleUniversity of Nebraska OmahaOhio State UniversityMinnesota State University, MankatoBemidji State UniversityUniversity of Alaska AnchorageSt. Cloud State UniversityNorthern Michigan UniversityUniversity of Notre DameUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonUniversity of Minnesota DuluthUniversity of North DakotaUniversity of Minnesota, Twin CitiesMichigan Technological UniversityUniversity of DenverColorado CollegeMichigan State UniversityUniversity of Michigan

Conference arenas[edit]

Locations of Western Collegiate Hockey Association member institutions.
School Arena Capacity
Bemidji State Sanford Center 4,700
Minnesota Ridder Arena 3,400
Minnesota–Duluth AMSOIL Arena 6,764
Minnesota State Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center 5,280
Ohio State The Ohio State University Ice Rink 1,415
St. Cloud State Herb Brooks National Hockey Center 5,763
St. Thomas St. Thomas Ice Arena 1,000
Wisconsin LaBahn Arena 2,273

Awards (men's)[edit]

At the conclusion of each regular season schedule the coaches of each WCHA team vote which players they choose to be on the two to four All-Conference teams:[31] first team and second team with a rookie team added in 1990–91 and a third team added in 1995–96. Additionally they vote to award up to 5 individual trophies to an eligible player at the same time. The WCHA also awards a Most Valuable Player in Tournament, which is voted on at the conclusion of the conference tournament. Only the Coach of the Year award has been bestowed in each year of the WCHA's existence, making it the oldest continually-awarded conference award in Division I ice hockey.[32]

National Championships[edit]


  1. ^ Milweski, Todd (July 5, 2022). "WCHA Announces Tracy Dill as Interim Commissioner". Wisconsin State Journal. Archived from the original on 2022-07-05. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Stutt, Kurt. "History of the WCHA". USCHO. Archived from the original on 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2010-11-26.
  3. ^ a b Christensen, Joe (July 2, 2021). "WCHA's men's hockey era officially ends after 70 years". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  4. ^ "All-Time Championship Tournament records and results" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
  5. ^ a b "National Collegiate Women's Ice Hockey Champions". National Collegiate Women's Ice Hockey History. NCAA. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  6. ^ Schmoldt, Eric (2006-04-10). "UW's championship celebration continues at rally". The Badger Herald. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  7. ^ Julien, Connie (2009). "MacNaughton Cup Winners". CC Hockey History.
  8. ^ "WCHA Unveils New Playoff Format and Broadmoor Trophy, Welcomes Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha". Media Center. Western Collegiate Hockey Association. 2010-03-20. Retrieved 2010-11-26.
  9. ^ "Big Ten Officially Announces Hockey Conference". College Hockey News. March 21, 2011. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  10. ^ Paisley, Joe (July 9, 2011). "Schools confirm new college hockey 'super league'". Archived from the original on August 29, 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  11. ^ "St. Cloud St., W. Michigan join league". September 22, 2011.
  12. ^ "WCHA set to add Northern Michigan as sixth member for 2013–14". U.S. College Hockey Online. July 15, 2011. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  13. ^ Sipple, George (August 26, 2011). "Ferris State becomes third CCHA team to accept WCHA invitation". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  14. ^ Wagner, John (October 4, 2011). "Falcons make switch to WCHA". Toledo Blade. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  15. ^ "WCHA accepts Alabama-Huntsville for 2013-14 season". USCHO.com. January 17, 2013. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
  16. ^ "Deep budget cuts force UND to eliminate three varsity sports" (Press release). North Dakota Fighting Hawks. March 29, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  17. ^ "Statement Regarding Hockey League Affiliation" (Press release). Bowling Green Falcons. June 28, 2019. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  18. ^ Johnson, Randy (February 18, 2020). "CCHA will be new name for seven teams leaving WCHA in 2021-22". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  19. ^ "7 of 10 WCHA Teams Announce Plans to Leave". College Hockey News. June 28, 2019. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  20. ^ Bragg, Beth (August 2, 2019). "As University of Alaska moves toward consolidation, two athletic programs might become one". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  21. ^ "Alaska Schools Cleared to Play in 2020-21". College Hockey News. November 11, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  22. ^ Bragg, Beth (November 20, 2019). "Could UAA and UAF be the last hockey teams left in the WCHA?". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  23. ^ "COVID-19 Forcing UAH to Take Steps for More Budget Reductions". UAH Athletics. May 22, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  24. ^ "UAH announces hockey will return after private funds raised to support program". AL.com. May 29, 2020. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  25. ^ Gattis, Paul (May 5, 2021). "UAH drops hockey program for 3rd time after empty search for conference". AL.com. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  26. ^ "UAA announces reconfiguration of athletics programs" (Press release). Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. August 19, 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  27. ^ Bragg, Beth (October 19, 2020). "UAA hockey supporters launch Save Seawolf Hockey fundraising campaign". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  28. ^ Campbell, Dave (May 22, 2019). "MIAC ousts original member St. Thomas for being too strong". Star Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  29. ^ "Athletics Conference Update" (Press release). University of St. Thomas (Minnesota). October 4, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  30. ^ "NCAA Ruling Allows D-III St. Thomas to Make Unprecedented Leap to D-I" (Press release). St. Thomas Tommies. July 15, 2020. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  31. ^ "Head Coaches Tab Denver as MacNaughton Cup Favorite in Annual Grand Forks Herald WCHA Pre-Season Poll". WCHA.com. 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  32. ^ "WCHA Awards". College hockey Historical Archive. Retrieved 2013-08-26.

External links[edit]