Friday, June 26, 2009

It's official: BSU, UNO to join WCHA

Checking in from vacation real quick for the PucKato faithful: The WCHA is announcing that Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha will be admitted for the 2010-11 season. This coming year will be the final season of the WCHA as a 10-team league. There certainly ought to be great coverage of this event by various college hockey media. Click on any of the links to left for more. I'll add more after vacation.

Following is the WCHA's press release:

June 26, 2009/For Immediate Release

WCHA Membership Votes to Admit Bemidji State, Nebraska Omaha into Association Family
Two New Conference Members to Come on Board for 2010-11 Season

MADISON, Wis. – In what will rank among the most significant days in the storied, 58-year history of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, the membership today voted to admit both Bemidji State University and the University of Nebraska Omaha into the Association family beginning with the 2010-11 season. This marks the first expansion of the WCHA since Minnesota State University, Mankato was admitted as a 10th member for the 1999-2000 season and eighth time overall the league has expanded since it’s founding in 1951.

The admission of Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha will bring the league membership to 12 teams. The current 10-team membership of the men’s WCHA is comprised of University of Alaska Anchorage, Colorado College, University of Denver, Michigan Technological University, University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State University, Mankato, University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University and University of Wisconsin.

“I am extremely pleased to announce that the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is expanding to twelve teams,” said WCHA Commissioner Bruce M. McLeod. “With the addition of Bemidji State University and the University of Nebraska Omaha the WCHA solidifies and positions itself to maintain and expand upon the excellence that is the WCHA.

“This is certainly a defining moment for the WCHA and we are proud to add Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha to our already strong organization.

“This is a happy and proud day for me,” continued McLeod. “I’m happy because I think this is such a win-win circumstance for the WCHA, our new members and collegiate hockey in general. I could not be more proud of the way our WCHA members have handled this very complex circumstance and have been able to look beyond their own backyard and do what is best for college hockey and the WCHA.

“The WCHA is proud of what they’ve put together in 58 years (2009-10 will be the league’s 58th season) and I think this day will go down as a watershed day. I fully anticipate what we’ve done today will make us even better. I’m excited about the future and can’t wait to get going.”

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is home to a collegiate record 36 national championship teams since it’s founding in 1951, a record 13 Hobey Baker Memorial Award Winners, some 400 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League and some 725 NHL Draftees, more than 150 alums who have played on various Olympic hockey teams, and more than 40 players and coaches who have been part of Stanley Cup (NHL) winning clubs. In addition, the WCHA has drawn in excess of 1,500,000 fans in each of the past seven seasons and in excess of 1,000,00 for 16 consecutive years and annually conducts one of college hockey’s premier post-season tournaments – the Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five held annually at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The Final Five drew 82,065 fans this past March.

“The pieces are all falling into place for Bemidji State hockey,” stated BSU Director of Athletics Dr. Rick Goeb. “Beginning with the efforts to elevate our hockey programs to the NCAA Division I level and having the women’s program join the WCHA over 10 years ago, to our partnership with the city to see a world-class venue like the Bemidji Regional Event Center come to fruition, and now the men’s hockey program being approved for membership into the elite conference in all of college hockey.
“We want to thank the city of Bemidji, our dedicated fans and the student body who have supported Bemidji State hockey. These outstanding hockey fans and partnerships have made membership into the WCHA a reality.”

Said Bemidji State men’s hockey coach Tom Serratore, who took his team to the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in April of this year, “This is a great day for the Beavers.“

“First, I want to thank the WCHA for this opportunity. It is truly an honor to be a part of the greatest hockey conference at the Division I level and we feel privileged to come along side the other Division I hockey programs in the state of Minnesota as members of the WCHA.

“Beaver Hockey reaches far beyond this campus so that makes today’s announcement a dream come true for our alumni, many in the community and many in the region. This is a proud day for all involved with Bemidji State.”

Said University of Nebraska Omaha Director of Athletics Trev Alberts, “The WCHA is an outstanding conference with a long history of excellent players and coaches. When we were approached about admission, we took a long look at all aspects of a move to the WCHA. In the end, we felt there were many long-term benefits to our program. We’re excited about becoming a part of the WCHA’s rich tradition of outstanding hockey.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Alberts continued. “We have had a fruitful ten-year affiliation with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. It is a very well-run conference, and its member institutions have been outstanding partners. We know the CCHA will continue to thrive after we depart.”

“I was happy to hear that we would be joining the WCHA in a year’s time,” said Dean Blais, UNO’s new head coach. “I’m obviously very familiar with the league as both a head coach and assistant coach for 19 years and as a player. It’s a league with a great tradition and excellent coaches, and I’m looking forward to competing against them.”

Founded in 1951, the original seven members of the WCHA - then known as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League - were Colorado College, University of Denver, Michigan Tech University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota and University of North Dakota. In 1953-54, the league changed it’s name to the WIHL, or Western Intercollegiate Hockey League, and then in 1959, the league became known as the WCHA.

The first expansion of the league membership occured effective with the 1965-66 campaign, when the University of Minnesota Duluth became the WCHA’s eighth team. In 1969, the membership rose to nine teams with the addition of the University of Wisconsin for the 1969-70 season. And then in 1971, the WCHA increased its membership to 10 teams with the admittance of the University of Notre Dame for the 1971-72 season.

The WCHA remained an Association of those 10 teams through the 1980-81 playing season, when Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame left the fold to join the CCHA, or Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The WCHA then remained a six team league up until 1984-85, when Michigan Tech returned to the Association and the league welcomed Northern Michigan University as an eighth member team.

Then in 1990, the WCHA again grew to nine teams with the admittance of St. Cloud State University for the 1990-91 campaign and on to ten teams again when the University of Alaska Anchorage was admitted for the 1993-94 season.

In 1997, Northern Michigan opted to leave the WCHA to join the CCHA, again giving the WCHA nine teams before Minnesota State University, Mankato joined the family for the 1999-2000 campaign.

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