Ice Hockey Wiki
Western Collegiate Hockey Association
NCAA Division I Conference
Wcha newlogo men.gif
Founded: 1959
Number of teams: Men: 10
Women: 8
Commissioner: Bruce McLeod
Defending champions (men): Denver Pioneers
Defending champions (women): Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, or WCHA is one of the Big Four conferences in the NCAA Men's Division I and is one of five conferences in Women's Division I.  The league was established as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League in 1951. In 1953, the league was renamed the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League. The league played until 1958 when the league broke up over recruiting practices.  The league was reorganized for the 1959-60 season, this time under the Western Collegiate Hockey Association name.  Each team made its own schedule up until the league office took over scheduling in 1973.

Likely Men's Conference Demise

The men's side of the WCHA is now likely to fold after the 2020–21 season. In June 2019, the seven Midwestern members of the men's conference jointly announced they would leave the league after 2020–21; they went on to announce in February 2020 that they would form a revived Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Alabama–Huntsville dropped hockey in May 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but before the end of the month announced the team's reinstatement following a successful fundraising effort, with the team being immediately readmitted to the WCHA. Prior to UAH's brief cancellation of hockey, it had filed withdrawal papers with the WCHA, though it was reviewing future options with the Alaska schools. The two Alaska teams had not yet announced their departure, but their cancellations have been prevented by several last-minute reprieves.

The demise of the men's WCHA grew even more likely in August 2020 when Alaska–Anchorage, citing financial issues related to state funding, announced it would drop hockey (as well as women's gymnastics and skiing) after the 2020–21 school year.[1]

Hopes of saving the men's conference

Currently, only two present or future D-I men's programs do not have conference homes. The most geographically viable candidate had been St. Thomas (Minnesota), which will be involuntarily removed from the D-III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after the 2020–21 season. St. Thomas was approved by the NCAA to make a direct move from D-III to D-I, having received an invitation to the Summit League, an all-sports D-I conference without hockey. However, St. Thomas was soon removed from the pool of potential candidates when it joined the revived CCHA. Long Island University, which will add men's hockey in 2020–21, is not seen as a viable candidate due to its location, and is reportedly making overtures to Atlantic Hockey. A more viable candidate is Arizona State (presently a D-I Independent).

Additionally, current Atlantic Hockey member Air Force, an extreme geographic outlier in that league as a Colorado school, is seen by some media as a possible WCHA candidate, but is unlikely to move as the US Naval Academy is rumored to be adding men's ice hockey as a varsity sport in the not too distant future and would be a natural fit in Atlantic Hockey as Army and Air Force are already members. Illinois and Iowa have also been mentioned as possible new Division I programs as well, but would join the hockey league of their all-sports home, the Big Ten Conference. Only the arrival of at least four teams would enable the WCHA to maintain the six teams needed to keep its automatic berth to the D-I tournament. In turn, these developments will likely spell the end for the Alaska Fairbanks program unless a membership in or affiliation with a western Canada based league such as the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League or Canada West Universities Athletic Association (Canada West) would be doable. Alabama-Huntsville could end up in Atlantic Hockey along with Long Island University as two teams would likely have to join together as the conference is apparently holding a spot for Navy to join the conference and leaving the conference with an even number of teams and making the conference schedule easier.

Women's Conference

Despite the uncertainty with the men's conference the women's side of the conference remains intact for the time being.

On July 15, 2020 the St. Thomas Tommies women's ice hockey team was announced as joining the women's conference for the 2021-22 season by a unanimous vote as the conference's 8th member.[2]

Member teams


Institution Location Nickname Arena
University of Alabama, Huntsville Huntsville, Alabama Chargers Von Braun Center
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage, Alaska Seawolves Seawolf Sports Complex
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, Alaska Nanooks Carlson Center
Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota Beavers Sanford Center
Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, Ohio Falcons BGSU Ice Arena
Ferris State University Big Rapids, Michigan Bulldogs Ewigleben Arena
Lake Superior State University Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Lakers Taffy Abel Arena
Michigan Technological University Houghton, Michigan Huskies MacInnes Student Ice Arena
Minnesota State University, Mankato Mankato, Minnesota Mavericks Verizon Wireless Center
Northern Michigan University Marquette, Michigan Wildcats Berry Events Center


Team Location Arena Capacity
Bemidji State Beavers Bemidji, Minnesota Sanford Center 4,700
Minnesota Golden Gophers Minneapolis, Minnesota Ridder Arena 3,400
Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Duluth, Minnesota AMSOIL Arena 6,764
Minnesota State Mavericks Mankato, Minnesota Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center 1,000
Ohio State Buckeyes Columbus, Ohio OSU Ice Rink 1,415
St. Cloud State Huskies St. Cloud, Minnesota Herb Brooks National Hockey Center 5,763
St. Thomas Tommies (20-21) St. Paul, Minnesota St. Thomas Ice Arena 1,000
Wisconsin Badgers Madison, Wisconsin LaBahn Arena 2,273

Former members



League Structure

The old logo


The 10 WCHA men's teams compete in what has been the largely dominant conference in all of Division I since the first NCAA Tournaments. Each team plays 28 league games. Due to the geographical realities of a league where the members stretch from Alabama to Alaska, the majority of weekend series consist of full road or home series, with both teams meeting on Friday and Saturday nights. Some opponents within a short drive of each other (such as Minnesota State and St. Cloud State) will play home and home series much like the standard hockey weekend for the eastern leagues.

The WCHA plays an unbalanced schedule that varies from year to year to combat the problems of a 10 team league with only 28 league games to schedule. Each team has a designated rival that they will see for 4 games each season, one series at home and one series away.

For any given team, the remaining 8 opposing teams after the 'designated rival' rotate through the schedule so that in a 4 year span, a given team will have two seasons with a full four games against a certain opponent, and two seasons with only 2 games against that opponent. The end result is that every team plays every other at least twice each season, and in any given span of four years, fans of any given team will see every other team in the league visit their arena for at least three of those four seasons. After the 28 game league schedule, the winning team is awarded the MacNaughton Cup.

The WCHA Tournament consists of seeding the top eight teams based on their regular season finish. The top four seeds host best of three playoff series the weekend after the regular season ends, with #1 hosting #8, #2 vs. #7, etc. The four teams that advance out of the first round are then re-seeded again based on regular season results, and placed in a bracket for the WCHA Final Five. At the Final Five, held at a neutral site (The Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan hosted the 2014 event),  The top seed meets the #4 seed; while #2 and #3 play in the other semifinal, with both a championship and third-place game. The winner of the WCHA tournament earns the Broadmoor Trophy, as well as the WCHA's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The tournament despite being four teams kept the WCHA Final Five name for at least the 2014 tournament.


The women's side of the WCHA, with only 8 teams, does a better and more equitable job of scheduling than the men. Like the men, each team plays 28 league games, but with only eight teams, each team plays four games against every other, in the form of two home games and two road games.

The women's WCHA seeds all 8 teams, and conducts an standard 8 team tournament at a single site over 4 days. The winner receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.



The WCHA has for a long time been the dominanat conference in college hockey. While the membership of the league has changed over the years, featuring great rivalries, feuds, defections, and additions, the end product of WCHA hockey has dominated the landscape of college hockey. After the league's 53rd season in 2004-05, WCHA teams had won NCAA championships in 35 of those 53 years.


The WCHA as it is known today began in 1951 as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL), comprised of Colorado College, Denver, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota and North Dakota. After two years, the league changed its name to better reflect the actual geographic area of the conference, and became the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League. WIHL teams dominated the NCAA tournament in the 1950s. However, the beginings of long standing quarrels were starting to show. Minnesota and the Michigan schools, each with a very strong local hockey history and local talent pool to recruit from, accused North Dakota and the Colorado schools of recruiting overage Canadian players. Such recruiting was not against NCAA rules, but did represent a stong difference in philosophy. The quarrel grew so bad that the league temporarily disbanded in 1958, thus there was no 1958-59 season. However, the negatives of a philosophical differences in recruiting practices was not enough to overcome the benefit of having a conference to play in, so the league reformed as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Despite the hiatus, the WCHA still refers to the old MCHL formation as its birth, as it celebrated its 50th Birthday in 2001.

Feuding and Growth

Even with the rebirth of western hockey, there were still substantial differnces on recruiting philosophies, and the primary combatants in the feud were Minnesota and Denver. Despite the common agreement that a league was good for all of the western hockey schools, the WCHA was initially only a loose confederation, where individual schools set their own league schedules. Minnesota, with its tradition of only recruiting and playing with kids from the state of Minnesota, was in direct opposition to the philosophy of Denver. The two schools, still bitter over the fued, would refuse to schedule each other for more than a decade. Still, the WCHA was dominant. WCHA teams won 10 consecutive NCAA titles between 1957 and 1966, untill Cornell won in 1967. After Cornell broke up the WCHA party, Denver went on to win back to back titles in 1968 and 1969.

Such great success on the ice also made the league very attractive to new teams. Minnesota-Duluth joined the league in 1966, followed by Wisconsin in 1969, and Notre Dame in 1971. Wisconsin quickly picked up on the WCHA's tradtion of excellence, qualifiying for the NCAA tournament in thier very first year in the WCHA, and winning their first NCAA title in 1973. With that growth and continued dominance on the national scene, 1973 was also the year the WCHA adopted a more formalized structure, forcibly ending the feud between Denver and Minnesota.


Despite strong showings on the national scene in the 1970s, 1979 dealt a strong blow to the WCHA. Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Notre Dame all left the powerful WCHA to bolster the then fledgling Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The schools, as the easternmost constituents of a western league, felt that they could do better financially in the CCHA, with more opponents in the immediate vicinity. The WCHA had always been a "plane" league with large travel expenses, and the CCHA presented an opportunity to join a "bus" league and build rivalries around the state of Michigan. Michigan Tech's defection hurt twice as much, since the school owns the MacNaughton Cup. Still, the WCHA survived as a six team league, with Wisconsin and North Dakota alternating the honors of winning NCAA titles between 1980 and 1983.

More Expansion

In 1984, Michigan Tech returned to the WCHA after their experiment with the CCHA, and also brought Northern Michigan with them. The addition of NMU would prove to fit in with the WCHA's tradition of excellence, as NMU won the NCAA title in 1991. 1984 also saw the WCHA and Hockey East experiment for five years with an interlocking schedule, where games between Hockey East schools and WCHA schools counted in the standings of each conference.

The WCHA continued to grow. In 1988, the league began to host their own single-site tournament that would enventually become the WCHA Final Five. St. Cloud also joined the WCHA in 1988. The expansion would continue, with the addition of Alaska-Anchorage in 1993. UAA's membership further reinforced the mold of the WCHA as a "plane" league, although UAA's memberhsip was contingent on helping to pay for teams to come visit the Seawolves. Although Northern Michigan would depart for the CCHA in 1997, the void would soon be filled by traditional NCAA Division II power Minnesota State. The Mavericks participated in the league tournament in 1997, to fill the 10th spot vacated by NMU. The Mavericks officially joined the league in 1999.

Today, the WCHA is still regarded as one of the best conferences in Division I. WCHA teams, thanks to back to back title runs by both Denver and Minnesota, have won the last four NCAA titles. The geographical realities of a conference covering such large distances requires strong financial commitments to hockey from each of the member institutions. This is shown not just in the products on the ice, but also in the facilites that the teams play in. The WCHA has seen most of its teams move into new, state of the art arenas, including North Dakota's Ralph Englestad Arena, Wisconsin's Kohl Center, and Minnesota's Mariucci Arena. Additionally, the brand of hockey seen in the WCHA is often fast paced and exciting. Six of the ten WCHA teams play on Olympic or nearly-Olympic sized ice sheets.

Major reorganization for 2013-14

The WCHA was hit hard by the NCAA Division I men's hockey realignment of the 2010's.  The league was at one point down to as few as four teams on paper going into the 2013-14 season, which would cost the league its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The conference lost the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers to the newly formed Big Ten Conference hockey conference.  The conference also lost the Colorado College Tigers, Denver Pioneers, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey ConferenceSaint Cloud State University later accepted an invitation to join the NCHC and left the WCHA.

The conference added the  Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, Ferris_State_Bulldogs, Lake Superior Lakers], Bowling Green Falcons, and the Northern Michigan Black Bears from the dissolving Central Collegiate Hockey Association.  The conference also added the previously Division I Independent, Alabama-Huntsville Chargers

The addition of the teams from the CCHA and the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers restored the league to ten teams as it was before the realignment.

End of the men's league?

On June 28, 2019 it was announced that seven members of the league had begun to explore the possibility of forming a new conference.[3]  All of the present league membership except the two Alaska schools and Alabama–Huntsville were on that list. The seven schools, all in an Upper Midwest footprint, eventually announced on February 18, 2020 that they would revive the Central Collegiate Hockey Association starting in the 2021–22 season.[4]

This raised further questions of the future of the two Alaska programs, with the two schools caught in the state's budget crisis which has gone on for several years. At the time the seven Midwestern schools announced their departure, three schools were apparent possibilities for joining the league to save it: the Air Force Falcons who are outliers in Atlantic Hockey, the Arizona State Sun Devils who are playing as an Independent, and St. Thomas University who are being involuntarily removed from the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2021 for disrupting the competitive balance of the conference. However, St. Thomas would soon be removed from the pool of potential WCHA candidates when it joined the revived CCHA. Some other possibilities would involve some current American Collegiate Hockey Association (club sport level) program(s) elevating their program(s) to Division I varsity status such as the University of Nevada-Las Vegas or another Pac-12 or Mountain West Conference team to bring the conference back up to seven members to keep the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament but with the history of the seven teams that are looking to leave the bid could go along with them as they account for a good deal of the history (and success) of the league. At worst the conference would lose its automatic bid to the tournament until it was back at seven members for two seasons.

The issue may be moot as the governor of Alaska vetoed $100 million in the state budget in funding that would have likely been earmarked for the athletic programs at the two Alaska schools who had already moved to much smaller on campus arenas to save on expenses. The cut in funds may spell the end of the athletic programs at both schools,[5] and eventually led to the Anchorage campus dropping men's hockey.

On May 22, 2020 the University of Alabama in Huntsville announced that it was dropping the men's varsity program effective immediately. The university cited budget constraints related to the COVID-19 crisis. The men's and women's tennis programs were also dropped. The Chargers became the first men's D-I program discontinued since Wayne State ended their program in 2008. [6] However, this discontinuation proved temporary; UAH announced one week later that ice hockey would be immediately reinstated following a successful fundraising effort.[7]

The Alaska budget crisis claimed a victim when Alaska Anchorage announced on August 19, 2020 that the 2020–21 season would be the last for its men's hockey program.[1]


The Women's side of the WCHA began competition in the 1999-2000 season. The league began with seven members, five of which also competed in the men's WCHA: Bemidji State, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State, Ohio State, St. Cloud State, and Wisconsin. Bemidji State's men's team competed in College Hockey America, while Ohio State's men's team competed in the CCHA.

The women's WCHA, like the men's conference, has dominated the college hockey landscape. Now five years after the formation of the conference, the WCHA has laid claim to all five national titles during that span. For the 2004-05 season, the WCHA added North Dakota to the league, giving the WCHA 8 teams, all with fine hockey pedigrees. Despite the relatively short history of the women's WCHA and women's college hockey in general, the WCHA has still done an excellent job of holding up the reputation of the WCHA.

On March 29, 2017; the University of North Dakota announced that the school is cutting the women's ice hockey program effective the end of the 2016-17 academic year.  The reason stated was a $1.3 million budget shortfall due to the school attempting to meet minimum standards of the Summit League which most of the school's athletic teams are moving to for 2017-18.  The men's and women's swimming and diving programs were also cut at the school.  The school announced UND will honor all athletic scholarships for the discontinued sports “at their present equivalencies for returning student-athletes."

Conference arenas


School Hockey Arena Capacity
Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves Sullivan Arena 6,406
Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks Carlson Center 4,595
Bemidji State Beavers Sanford Center 4,700
Bowling Green Falcons BGSU Ice Arena 5,000
Ferris State Bulldogs Ewigleben Ice Arena 2,493
Lake Superior Lakers Taffy Abel Arena 4,000
Michigan Tech Huskies John MacInnes Ice Arena 4,200
Minnesota State Mavericks Verizon Wireless Center


Northern Michigan Wildcats Berry Events Center 3,902


School Hockey Arena Capacity
Bemidji State Beavers Sanford Center 4,700
Minnesota Golden Gophers Ridder Arena 3,400

Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs

Duluth Entertainment Convention Center 5,333
Minnesota State Mavericks All Seasons Arena 1,000
North Dakota Ralph Engelstad Arena 11,640
Ohio State Buckeyes OSU Ice Rink 1,415
St Cloud State Huskies National Hockey Center 5,763
Wisconsin Badgers Kohl Center 15,237

See also


External Links

WCHA Official Site

website with historical standings a site that also has information on other D-1 leagues as well