Friday, July 27, 2012

A Look Back At The WCHA And CCHA

By Jessi Pierce

Ah that picture brings a bittersweet feeling to my heart. One of my favorite rivalry traditions enters its last season for the Gophers and Fighting Sioux North Dakota as conference rivals, although I am sure the bad blood will be maintained between the two teams beyond this season and for years to come.

As the WCHA and CCHA prepare their final descent with current conference teams before the Big Ten Hockey Conference imposes itself on the Big Ten teams, I wanted to first take a look back at each conference and all they have accomplished.

Western Collegiate Hockey Conference   
Founded: 1951
Former names: Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL), Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (WIHL)
Conference teams beginning 2013-14:  Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Mankato and Northern Michigan
Losing: Minnesota, Wisconsin to Big Ten & St. Cloud State, Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota, University of Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha to NCHC

It’s one of the most storied conferences in college hockey to date and a conference with a long list of success. Founded under then a conference named the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League in 1951, Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State had previously played together in that same MCHL along with original members Michigan Tech, North Dakota, Colorado College and Denver. The MCHL was later re-named Western Intercollegiate Hockey League in 1953 before owning the now infamous WCHA title it holds today.

Proud home to Minnesota, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State, Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota, Bemidji State, Alaska Anchorage, Mankato State, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and Michigan Tech, the WCHA boasts some of college hockey’s most dominant teams with the hardware to prove it.

In 61 years, the WCHA has assembled one of the most impressive national championship records in any collegiate conference of any sport, amassing 37 men’s national championships and another 27 runner-up honors. Atop that, there has been at least one berth in the national championship round (Frozen Four) in 56 of 60 seasons overall and is proud home to 14 Hobey Baker winners and more than 400 NHL players past and present.

Central Collegiate Hockey Association
Founded: 1971
Former names: None
Conference teams beginning in 2013-14: None, conference folds.
Losing: Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State to Big Ten, Lake Superior State, Bowling Green Alaska Fairbanks to WCHA, Miami-Ohio to NCHC & Notre Dame to Hockey East

It's sad to see a conference that seemed to be getting some solid footing under it in the last 31 years disband due to teams fleeing to other conferences, but such is the way realignment goes.

Home to big guns Michigan and Michigan State and promising seasons from Ohio State, Miami-Ohio and Notre Dame, the CCHA has also seen its fair share of success on the ice, accounting for 23 of 80 NCAA Frozen Four participants from 1992-2011. Although the championship trophies are not quite as bountiful as seen in the WCHA or Hockey East, the CCHA has seen the likes of Bowling Green (1984), Michigan State (1986, 2007), Lake Superior State (1988, 1992, 1994), Northern Michigan (1991) and Michigan (1996, 1998) etch their names on an NCAA Championship. Further more, big names like Ryan Miller, Ryan Kesler, Marty Turco, Duncan Keith and Brian Roloston — just to name a few — have developed under teams in the CCHA.

Coming up...A look at the schedule for these two programs last season together and what it will mean.