SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) announced on July 20th today that former conference member Northern Michigan will be re-joining the Association effective with the 2013-14 season. The NMU Wildcats were unanimously approved for membership in a conference call of league members.
The Wildcats, who won the Division I men’s national championship in 1991 while a member of the WCHA, were admitted into the Association as an eighth league member for the 1984-85 season and remained through the 1996-97 campaign when they left for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).
“We couldn’t be more excited about welcoming back Northern Michigan to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association family,” said Commissioner Bruce M. McLeod. “We were naturally disappointed when the Wildcats left the WCHA in 1997 after a successful 13-year partnership but it’s wonderful to again have them on board as a sixth Association member beginning with the 2013-14 season.
“Northern Michigan is a first-class institution with a great college hockey tradition, enthusiastic fans and a supportive community in Marquette,” added McLeod. “This is a great fit for both of us – again – and we all look forward to NMU’s highly-skilled, tenacious style of hockey further enhancing an already-great brand of WCHA Hockey.”
“NMU is honored that the WCHA approached us with the idea of rejoining its hockey conference. The schools that will be in the WCHA in 2013-14 share many similarities with Northern. We all have similar locations with hometowns that passionately support their hockey programs,” Northern Michigan University President Les Wong said. “We also all offer similar academic offerings and have similar student bodies. We all have strong NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs but a Division I hockey program. Having our hockey team travel west also compliments our recruiting footprint for not just athletics, but the university as a whole.”
Northern Michigan head hockey coach Walt Kyle, no stranger to the WCHA, said, “This is a time of change for college hockey and that doesn’t worry me. I think when the dust settles, college hockey will be in as good, if not better shape – it will just look a little different.”
During their first tenure in the league, Northern Michigan competed for 13 seasons, winning the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular season champions in 1990-91, capturing three WCHA playoff titles and Broadmoor Trophies in 1988-89, 1990-91 and 1991-92, and as mentioned previously, taking home the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four crown in 1990-91 when they forged a noteworthy 38-5-4 overall record and 25-3-4 WCHA mark.
WCHA men’s membership for the 2013-14 season includes University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), Bemidji State University (BSU), Michigan Technological University (MTU), Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU), Northern Michigan University (NMU) and St. Cloud State University (SCSU).
The WCHA, home to a record 37 national championships teams since it’s founding in 1951, will continue to operate as a 12-team conference for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Current members are University of Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State University, Colorado College, University of Denver, Michigan Technological University, University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State University, University of Nebraska Omaha, University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University and University of Wisconsin.
Earlier this year (March 21) the Big Ten announced the formation of a new hockey conference that would include current WCHA-members Minnesota and Wisconsin and begin play in 2013-14. On July 13, WCHA members Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota announced they would be leaving following the 2012-13 season to form a new league (National Collegiate Hockey Conference) which will begin play in 2013-14.