written by Chris Zills
The Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association continues to change the face of hockey in the West and today adds another chapter to the story that the league continues to write.
Dr. G. Steven Larson, commissioner of the league, has announced today a new era for the conference, complete with a new name and representation of both women's and men's teams under one association.
The MCHA has continued to expand, announcing last summer that both St. Norbert College and The College of St. Scholastica will be joining the league for the 2013-14 campaign. That new era will embark with a new league name, as the MCHA will officially be moving forward as the "Northern Collegiate Hockey Association".
"We are very pleased to announce these changes as we are moving into the transitional phases of our women's and men's conferences," Larson said. "It was very important for us to respect and recognize the traditions of both associations while simultaneously moving forward with a new perspective to reflect the changes that have taken place. Needless to say, this is a very exciting period of progression for member institutions and our hockey programs."
As part of the league transition, the women's teams from the current NCHA will now be under the same conference umbrella with the men's, with each side having its own administrative structure, constitution and bylaws.
"Moving the eight current MCHA men's programs forward as the NCHA brings together our men and women under one umbrella," Adrian president & chair of the MCHA/NCHA president's council Jeff Docking said. "We can now work on promoting growth on both fronts, while keeping 30-plus years of combined championship tradition alive."
The original Northern Collegiate Hockey Association dates back to 1980 and includes a lengthy history that consists of 12 NCAA National Championships won by six different members.
There will be plenty of history to merge when this new era begins, one that most notably comes into play when you talk about the student-athletes goal of winning a championship.
On the men's side, the NCHA tournament champion will continue to play for the "Harris Cup", named after MSOE Director of Athletics Dan Harris, who served as the first president of the MCHA and helped get the league up and running to become what it is today.
The regular-season champion will now receive the "Peters Cup", named after Bob Peters, the long-time Bemidji State coach. Peters won 728 games and 13 national championships with the Beavers, including two NCAA titles as an early member of the NCHA back in 1984 and 1986. The Peters Cup is an NCHA tradition, as it had been handed out to the NCHA playoff championship winner since 1998.
On the women's side, the NCHA tournament champion will now play for the "Slaats Cup", named in honor of Lake Forest College Director of Athletics Jackie Slaats, in recognition of her efforts and dedication in pioneering the formation of the Women's NCHA.
The regular-season champion will now receive the "Kronschnabel Cup", named after Bill Kronschnabel, the commissioner of the former Northern Collegiate Hockey Association since 2002. He served as the NCHA Supervisor of Officials from 1998 to 2005 and also played a role in the former MCHA as its Supervisor of Officials in its early stages.
"We felt it was very important to honor and recognize the individuals who were so important in pioneering and fostering the development of the MCHA and NCHA," Larson said. "Their leadership and vision have been instrumental in the success of both associations."
The MCHA dates back to the 1998-99 season and has taken great strides in the past 15 years to rise to the level that is has achieved. With the former NCHA essentially dissolving this offseason, the MCHA wanted to take a piece of the history and prestige of the conference it has become with its new name.
The NCHA women's conference was formed in 2000 and will play its 14th season starting next fall. The conference has sent 13 teams to the NCAA tournament over the past 11 years, including five to the semifinal round. It will be reducing its membership from 11 to seven institutions this offseason and change its leadership.
"I am really excited about the coming together of the two leagues and about both the synergy and energy that will result from having our men and women compete under the same name," Slaats said. "I am also honored and humbled to have the new league playoff championship bear my name. It's hard to believe how quickly, and how much, women's hockey has grown since the initial formation of a women's division in the spring of 2000. I honestly could not be happier or more proud of the outcome."
Both the women and men will maintain their automatic qualifier status and continue to play for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"Those of us at Concordia University are very excited to be a part of the new direction and strategic vision for our hockey conference," MCHA DASC Chair Rob Barnhill said. "The level of competition in our new conference will be rigorous and the student-athlete experience will be greatly enhanced by participating with student-athletes from likeminded and like-missioned institutions."
The "Men's NCHA" will consist of the following 10 members: Adrian College, Concordia University, Finlandia University, Lake Forest College, Lawrence University, Marian University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Northland College, St. Norbert College and The College of St. Scholastica.
The "Women's NCHA" will consist of the following seven members: Adrian College, Concordia University, Finlandia University, Lake Forest College, Marian University, St. Norbert College and The College of St. Scholastica.
The league will also welcome a new logo and a new website. Immediate changes will be seen starting today on the league website, with updating and archiving changes happening into the summer.
League staff will have a familiar look, while also welcoming a new face to the mix. Dr. G. Steven Larson, the current MCHA commissioner, will serve in the same capacity for both the "Men's NCHA" and the "Women's NCHA". Jim Olson, the former MCHA Supervisor of Officials, will continue in his role for both sides of the conference.
Chris Zills and Brian Monahan, who previously worked behind the scenes for the MCHA and NCHA to publicize their respective leagues, will be moving into similar, but different roles moving forward for the "new" NCHA. Monahan will serve in the role of Director of Public Relations, taking an active role in promoting, social media, blogging and other "faces" of the media. Zills will be the Director of Sports Information, maintaining the behind-the-scenes aspect of the communications department.