Men's Division I is a set of schools and conferences that sponsor men's hockey and abide by the National Collegiate Athletic Association's rules and regulations for Division I ice hockey. Currently, six conferences sponsor Division I men's hockey:
- Atlantic Hockey
- Big Ten Conference
- Central Collegiate Hockey Association
- ECAC Hockey
- Hockey East
- National Collegiate Hockey Conference
The most recent change to the roster of D-I men's conferences took place after the 2020–21 season. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association disbanded its men's division after seven of its final 10 members left to reestablish the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Of the remaining three members, two dropped men's ice hockey as a varsity sport, and the other chose to become a Division I independent.
These six conferences represent all but three of the 59 teams that will compete at the Division I level in men's hockey in the upcoming 2021–22 season. The Alaska Nanooks, Arizona State Sun Devils, and LIU Sharks are Division I Independents. Both Arizona State and LIU have played as independents since establishing their varsity men's teams (respectively in 2015–16 and 2020–21); Alaska became an independent upon the demise of the men's WCHA.
Division I represents the highest possible level of investment in hockey, and also the highest level of competition. If a school is a Division I institution, they must compete at the Division I level in all sports. However, several Division II and Division III schools choose to "play up" to Division I hockey, with the mechanics differing between D-II and D-III.
All NCAA members below D-I are allowed to "play up" in any sport that does not have a national championship for the school's own division. Since the NCAA abolished the Division II men's hockey championship after its 1998 edition, D-II schools have been allowed to compete as D-I hockey members under D-I rules. The Northeast-10 Conference, a D-II all-sports league, chose to continue playing under D-II rules; currently, six of its eight men's hockey schools play under D-II regulations, while the other two play in D-I as part of Atlantic Hockey, with one other D-II school playing in NE-10 hockey as a single-sport member. All other D-II men's hockey schools compete in D-I.
Since Division III has a men's championship, only D-III members covered by an NCAA grandfather clause are allowed to continue playing as D-I schools. A separate grandfather clause allows a subset of these schools to award hockey scholarships, a practice otherwise prohibited in D-III.
- Christensen, Joe (July 2, 2021). WCHA's men's hockey era officially ends after 70 years. Star Tribune. Retrieved on July 3, 2021.