College hockey’s future will have a nod to its past.
On Tuesday, the seven schools that are leaving the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to form a new men's conference to begin play in the 2021-22 season announced the name of that league: the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
It’s a nod to the previous CCHA, which operated from 1971 through 2013 and included teams based mainly in Michigan and Ohio. The new CCHA will include Bemidji State and Minnesota State Mankato, plus Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan. Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan were members of the CCHA when it disbanded in 2013, while Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech played in the WCHA.
Athletics consultant Morris Kurtz, previously a longtime St. Cloud State athletic director, was the point man on the move by the seven departing WCHA teams and was pleased with the name.
“It’s a name rich in history and tradition that membership felt very excited and strongly about,’’ Kurtz said. “… We’re very excited about bringing the CCHA back and refreshing and rebranding it.’’
In his announcement in June that the seven teams would be leaving the WCHA, Kurtz said the new league would “focus on improving regional alignment … while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.’’
For the new CCHA, procedural matters will come next. Kurtz said he is hopeful the league will begin a search for a commissioner by the end of this week, with the hope to have that person in place by July 1. Deciding on a new logo and rebranding efforts also will start. Once a commissioner is chosen, a site for the CCHA’s headquarters will be determined.
“There’s lots of boxes to check,’’ Kurtz said.
The move, as of now, will leave only three remaining members of the WCHA -- Alabama Huntsville, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage. “Our focus is on this season and next year to serve our membership, which is 10 institutions,’’ WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson said. “… I continue to have conversations with schools that can potentially join the WCHA.’’
With the new CCHA slated to have seven teams and the WCHA down to three by 2021-22, there are openings in each league. Possible candidates for either league could be St. Thomas, which is awaiting NCAA approval to move from Division III to Division I after being forced out of the MIAC following the 2020-21 season, and Arizona State, college hockey’s only D-I independent team, which previously had talks with the WCHA.
Kurtz left open the possibility of adding teams to the new CCHA.
“Certainly, as we finalize our constitution and bylaws, there will be language dealing with expansion,’’ he said. “We have been contacted be other schools, and we’re always open to the concept of other schools.’’
Kurtz also said he’s been pleased with the progress since the June announcement.
“It’s amazing what this group of institutions have been able to accomplish in seven months – to start a new conference like this,’’ he said. “… If the last seven months is any indication, there’s absolutely nothing this group of seven institutions can’t accomplish.’’