Six of the nation's top NCAA Division I men's ice hockey programs have become founding members of the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference which will begin competition for the 2013-14 season, the programs' athletic directors and head coaches announced Wednesday at historic Penrose House in Colorado Springs.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference founding members are Colorado College, University of Denver, Miami University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska Omaha and University of North Dakota.
"We recognized the need to keep our premier athletics program at the forefront of college hockey with the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference," DU Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation Peg Bradley-Doppes said. "The other five schools have demonstrated a historical commitment to championship-level hockey and value excellence in the classroom as well. The schools in this conference will compete for national championships annually and the support for hockey at these schools is tremendous."
"The motivation to create the National Collegiate Hockey Conference follow recent conference realignments that affected several of our founding teams," said Brian Faison, director of athletics at North Dakota. "Our new conference was developed under the auspice of institutions that have displayed a high level of competitiveness on the ice, an institutional commitment to compete at the highest level within Division I, provide a national platform for exposure, and have wonderful history and tradition within their institution and hockey programs. The conference will be comprised of not only highly competitive, committed and winning hockey programs, but will also showcase many of the best student-athletes on and off the ice in coming years."
Dating back to the year 2000, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference boasts four NCAA National Champions, 14 NCAA Frozen Four appearances, 12 conference regular-season championships and nine conference tournament championships. All six founding members were participants in the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship tournament in 2011.
"The common thread among all institutions is a commitment to maintain a high quality level of college hockey," said Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. "The conference will provide a known structure and framework in the foreseeable future, which each institution can use as stability moving forward in these challenging times with our sport. The conference realignment started to happen this past spring. We believe this provided an opportunity to assess the landscape and make decisions for what's in the best interest of each institution and college hockey as a whole."
In addition to Faison and Gwozdecky, officials representing their respective hockey programs who have been actively involved with the formation of the conference include athletic directors Ken Ralph of Colorado College, Bradley-Doppes of Denver, Brad Bates of Miami, Bob Nielson of Minnesota Duluth and Trev Alberts of Nebraska Omaha, associate athletic directors Ron Grahame of Denver and Josh Fenton of Miami and head coaches Scott Owens of Colorado College, Enrico Blasi of Miami, Scott Sandelin of Minnesota Duluth, Dean Blais of Nebraska Omaha and Dave Hakstol of North Dakota.
Five of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference's schools -- 2011 NCAA Division I ice hockey national champion Minnesota Duluth, Colorado College, Denver, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota -- currently are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Miami competes in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. All six schools will continue playing in their current conferences through the 2011-2012 and 2012-13 seasons.
"We are thrilled to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with these five schools," Gwozdecky said. "Our fans should be really excited knowing these five schools will be coming to Magness Arena annually for two-game series. We'd like to thank Bruce McLeod and the WCHA for over 50 years of membership in the WCHA. We are committed to be strong WCHA partner for the next two years and look forward to competition in this new league beginning in 2013."
The new conference will begin immediate research of additional members with no specific, pre-determined limit on the final number of institutions. In addition, the conference expects to have a broadcast package in place before launching its inaugural season, according to Faison. The Goldwater Group and Stafford Sports will serve as the conference consultant to initially assess additional members and the best possible media platforms.
"We anticipate the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will provide the fans and stakeholders of our programs with great competition, contested rivalries and the establishment of proud, new traditions, all of which will have regional and national appeal," Faison said.
A national search for the conference's first commissioner as well as work on other organizational details will now move forward.