History of the WCHA
by Kurt Stutt/special to USCHO
The WCHA was born as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League in 1951 by Colorado College, Denver, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota and North Dakota. After two seasons, the league changed its name to the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League, which more aptly described its geographical location.
The league was the dominant force in college hockey throughout the 1950s, winning all but the 1954 NCAA Championship. Michigan won six titles in that decade alone. But in 1958 the conference broke up, due to a disagreement over recruiting practices. Minnesota and all three Michigan schools accused Denver, North Dakota and Colorado College of recruiting overage Canadians. This practice did not violate the league's (or the NCAA's) rules, but was not in the spirit of the league. In the end, the four 'M' schools would withdraw from the league. As a consequence, there was no league play during the 1958-59 season.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) was officially founded in 1959. All the schools agreed that the lack of a league hurt Western college hockey. This time, though, it would be a more informal association, allowing schools to schedule whatever opponents they wanted. Denver and Minnesota, still bitter over the previous year's feud, did not schedule each other and would not meet on the ice for over a decade.
The next seven seasons were dominated by Michigan Tech and Denver, who won four and three league titles, respectively. The conference expanded, adding Minnesota-Duluth in 1966, Wisconsin in 1969 and Notre Dame in 1971. The 1960s and 1970s would see overwhelming WCHA superiority in NCAA play, with the conference winning all the NCAA titles except for 1967, 1970-72 and 1978.
The WCHA became more formal in 1973, when the league office assumed all conference scheduling. A plan was passed in 1979 to split the conference into two divisions as a cost-cutting move, but was rescinded three months later. Then, in 1981, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame all defected to the CCHA. The loss of Michigan Tech was a double blow, as they took the MacNaughton Cup, presented to the WCHA Champion every year, along with them.
The WCHA survived as a six-team league, then expanded again in 1984 when Michigan Tech returned (with the MacNaughton Cup), and brought Northern Michigan with them. The same year saw the start of an interlocking schedule with Hockey East, which lasted for five seasons. All inter-conference games counted in each conference's standings.
Recent developments saw the adoption of a single-site final four (later, five) format for the tournament, starting with 1988 in St. Paul. St. Cloud State joined as the conference's ninth member in 1990. Northern Michigan won the 1991 NCAA Tournament and North Dakota won the 1997 tournament, the 30th title for the WCHA.
Alaska-Anchorage became the tenth conference member in 1993-94, the same season that Colorado College won the first of three consecutive league titles, the first team to do so and their first titles since the 1956-57 season. Following the end of the 1996-97 season, Northern Michigan departed the WCHA, rejoining the CCHA. Mankato State participated in the WCHA tournament for the first time the following season. In 1998, Mankato State was voted in as the league's newest member, beginning play in the fall of 1999.
Kurt Stutt maintains the College Hockey Historical Archives. See the CHHA for in-depth college hockey archival information.
Note: No league play in 1958-59 and no tournament was played until 1960. League was known as MCHL from 1951-52 to 1952-53, and the WIHL from 1953-54 to 1957-58.
Season Regular Season Tournament 2003-04 North Dakota Minnesota 2002-03 Colorado College Minnesota 2001-02 Denver Denver 2000-01 North Dakota St. Cloud State 1999-00 Wisconsin North Dakota 1998-99 North Dakota Denver 1997-98 North Dakota Wisconsin 1996-97 Minnesota/N.Dakota North Dakota 1995-96 Colorado College Minnesota 1994-95 Colorado College Wisconsin 1993-94 Colorado College Minnesota 1992-93 Minnesota-Duluth Minnesota 1991-92 Minnesota Northern Michigan 1990-91 Northern Michigan Northern Michigan 1989-90 Wisconsin Wisconsin 1988-89 Minnesota Northern Michigan 1987-88 Minnesota Wisconsin 1986-87 North Dakota North Dakota 1985-86 Denver Denver 1984-85 Minnesota-Duluth Minnesota-Duluth 1983-84 Minnesota-Duluth Minnesota-Duluth 1982-83 Minnesota Wisconsin 1981-82 North Dakota Wisconsin 1980-81 Minnesota Michigan Tech/Minnesota 1979-80 North Dakota Minnesota/North Dakota 1978-79 North Dakota Minnesota/North Dakota 1977-78 Denver Colorado College/Wisconsin 1976-77 Wisconsin Wisconsin 1975-76 Michigan Tech Michigan Tech/Minnesota 1974-75 Minnesota Michigan Tech/Minnesota 1973-74 Michigan Tech Michigan Tech/Minnesota 1972-73 Denver Denver/Wisconsin 1971-72 Denver Denver/Wisconsin 1970-71 Michigan Tech Denver/Minnesota 1969-70 Minnesota Michigan Tech/Wisconsin 1968-69 Michigan Tech Denver/Michigan Tech 1967-68 Denver Denver/North Dakota 1966-67 North Dakota Michigan State/North Dakota 1965-66 Michigan Tech Denver/Michigan State 1964-65 North Dakota Michigan Tech 1963-64 Michigan Denver 1962-63 Denver/North Dakota Denver 1961-62 Michigan Tech Michigan Tech 1960-61 Denver Denver/Michigan 1959-60 Denver Denver/Michigan Tech 1957-58 North Dakota/Denver 1956-57 Colorado College 1955-56 Michigan 1954-55 Colorado College 1953-54 Minnesota 1952-53 Minnesota/Michigan 1951-52 Colorado College
WCHA Major Award Winners
Player of the Year
Note: Prior to the 1992-93 season this award was for Most Valuable Player. No award presented for 1959-60 and 1963-64.
2003-04 Junior Lessard, F, Minnesota-Duluth 2002-03 Peter Sejna, F, Colorado College 2001-02 Mark Hartigan, F, St. Cloud State 2000-01 Jeff Panzer, F, North Dakota 1999-00 Steve Reinprecht, F, Wisconsin 1998-99 Jason Blake, F, North Dakota 1997-98 Curtis Murphy, D, North Dakota 1996-97 Mike Crowley, D, Minnesota 1995-96 Brian Bonin, F, Minnesota 1994-95 Brian Bonin, F, Minnesota 1993-94 Chris Marinucci, F, Minnesota-Duluth 1992-93 Derek Plante, F, Minnesota-Duluth 1991-92 Duane Derksen, G, Wisconsin 1990-91 Scott Beattie, F, Northern Michigan 1989-90 Gary Shuchuk, F, Wisconsin 1988-89 Curtis Joseph, G, Wisconsin 1987-88 Robb Stauber, G, Minnesota 1986-87 Tony Hrkac, F, North Dakota 1985-86 Dallas Gaume, F, Denver 1984-85 Bill Watson, F, Minnesota-Duluth 1983-84 Tom Kurvers, D, Minnesota-Duluth 1982-83 Bob Mason, G, Minnesota-Duluth 1981-82 Phil Sykes, F, North Dakota 1980-81 Steve Ulseth, F, Minnesota 1979-80 Tim Harrer, F, Minnesota 1978-79 Mark Johnson, F, Wisconsin 1977-78 Mike Eaves, F, Wisconsin 1976-77 Brian Walsh, F, Notre Dame 1975-76 Mike Zuke, F, Michigan Tech 1974-75 Mike Polich, F, Minnesota Tom Ross, F, Michigan State 1973-74 Doug Palazzari, F, Colorado College 1972-73 Ron Grahame, G, Denver 1971-72 Doug Palazzari, F, Colorado College 1970-71 Rob Murray, D, Michigan Tech 1969-70 Murray McLachlan, G, Minnesota 1968-69 Murray McLachlan, G, Minnesota 1967-68 Keith Magnuson, D, Denver 1966-67 Keith Christiansen, F, Minnesota-Duluth 1965-66 Mel Wakabayashi, F, Michigan 1964-65 Gerry Kell, F, North Dakota 1962-63 Louis Nanne, D, Minnesota 1961-62 Gordon "Red" Berenson, F, Michigan 1960-61 Jerry Walker, F, Denver
Rookie of the Year
Award known as Sophomore of the Year prior to 1970-71 and as Freshman of the Year from 1969-70 to 1989-90. Both were presented in 1969-70.
2003-04 Brady Murray, F, North Dakota 2002-03 Thomas Vanek, F, Minnesota 2001-02 Brandon Bochenski, F, North Dakota 2000-01 Peter Sejna, F, Colorado College 1999-00 Dany Heatley, F, Wisconsin 1998-99 Gregg Naumenko, G, Alaska-Anchorage 1997-98 Karl Goehring, G, North Dakota 1996-97 Brant Nicklin, G, Minnesota-Duluth 1995-96 Brian Swanson, F, Colorado College 1994-95 Mike Crowley, D, Minnesota 1993-94 Landon Wilson, C, North Dakota 1992-93 Jim Carey, G, Wisconsin 1991-92 Darby Hendrickson, F, Minnesota 1990-91 Tony Szabo, F, Northern Michigan 1989-90 Scott Beattie, F, Northern Michigan 1988-89 Curtis Joseph, G, Wisconsin 1987-88 Rick Berens, F, Denver 1986-87 Dave Shields, F, Denver 1985-86 Mike Richter, G, Wisconsin 1984-85 Brett Hull, F, Minnesota-Duluth 1983-84 Rick Kosti, G, Minnesota-Duluth 1982-83 Craig Redmond, D, Denver 1981-82 James Patrick, D, North Dakota 1980-81 Ron Scott, G, Michigan State 1979-80 Aaron Broten, F, Minnesota 1978-79 Kevin Maxwell, F, North Dakota 1977-78 Greg Whyte, F, Colorado College 1976-77 Mark Johnson, F, Wisconsin 1975-76 Dave Delich, F, Colorado College 1974-75 Jim Warner, F, Colorado College 1973-74 Brian Walsh, F/D, Notre Dame 1972-73 Mike Zuke, F, Michigan Tech 1971-72 Alan Hangsleben, D, North Dakota 1970-71 Mike Usitalo, F, Michigan Tech 1969-70 Murray Keogan, F, Minnesota-Duluth (Freshman of the Year) Don Thompson, F, Michigan State (Sophomore of the Year) 1968-69 George Morrison, F, Denver 1967-68 Murray McLachlan, G, Minnesota 1966-67 Keith Magnuson, D, Denver Bob Munro, F, North Dakota 1965-66 Gary Gambucci, F, Minnesota 1964-65 Gary Milroy, F, Michigan Tech 1963-64 Tom Polonic, D, Michigan 1962-63 George Hill, F, Michigan Tech 1961-62 Gordon Wilkie, F, Michigan 1960-61 Jack Wilson, D, Denver 1959-60 Lou Angotti, F, Michigan Tech George Kirkwood, G, Denver
Coach of the Year
2003-04 Scott Sandelin, Minnesota-Duluth 2002-03 Troy Jutting, Minnesota State 2001-02 George Gwozdecky, Denver 2000-01 Dean Blais, North Dakota 1999-00 Don Brose, Minnesota State 1998-99 Dean Blais, North Dakota 1997-98 Craig Dahl, St. Cloud State 1996-97 Dean Blais, North Dakota 1995-96 Don Lucia, Colorado College 1994-95 George Gwozdecky, Denver 1993-94 Don Lucia, Colorado College 1992-93 Mike Sertich, Minnesota-Duluth 1991-92 Brad Buetow, Colorado College 1990-91 Rick Comley, Northern Michigan 1989-90 Doug Woog, Minnesota 1988-89 Rick Comley, Northern Michigan 1987-88 Herb Boxer, Michigan Tech 1986-87 Gino Gasparini, North Dakota 1985-86 Ralph Backstrom, Denver 1984-85 Mike Sertich, Minnesota-Duluth 1983-84 Mike Sertich, Minnesota-Duluth 1982-83 Mike Sertich, Minnesota-Duluth 1981-82 Gino Gasparini, North Dakota 1980-81 John Giordano, Michigan 1979-80 Brad Buetow, Minnesota 1978-79 Gino Gasparini, North Dakota 1977-78 Marshall Johnston, Denver 1976-77 Bob Johnson, Wisconsin 1975-76 John MacInnes, Michigan Tech 1974-75 Jeff Sauer, Colorado College 1973-74 Herb Brooks, Minnesota 1972-73 Lefty Smith, Notre Dame 1971-72 Jeff Sauer, Colorado College 1970-71 John MacInnes, Michigan Tech 1969-70 Glen Sonmor, Minnesota 1968-69 John Matchefts, Colorado College 1967-68 Murray Armstrong, Denver 1966-67 Bill Selman, North Dakota 1965-66 John MacInnes, Michigan Tech 1964-65 Bob Peters, North Dakota 1963-64 Al Renfrew, Michigan 1962-63 Barry Thorndycraft, North Dakota 1961-62 John MacInnes, Michigan Tech 1960-61 Murray Armstrong, Denver 1959-60 John MacInnes, Michigan Tech
Most Valuable Player in Tournament
2004 Kellen Briggs, G, Minnesota 2003 Grant Potulny, F, Minnesota 2002 Wade Dubielewicz, G, Denver 2001 Tyler Arnason, F, St. Cloud State 2000 Lee Goren, F, North Dakota 1999 Stephen Wagner, G, Denver 1998 Joe Bianchi, F, Wisconsin 1997 David Hoogsteen, F, North Dakota 1996 Brian Bonin, F, Minnesota 1995 Kirk Daubenspeck, G, Wisconsin 1994 Chris McAlpine, D, Minnesota 1993 Travis Richards, D, Minnesota 1992 Corwin Saurdiff, G, Northern Michigan 1991 Bill Pye, G, Northern Michigan 1990 Steve Rohlik, F, Wisconsin 1989 Bill Pye, G, Northern Michigan 1988 Dean Anderson, G, Wisconsin
Defensive Player of the Year
2003-04 Ryan Caldwell, D, Denver 2002-03 Joe Cullen, F, Colorado College Aaron MacKenzie, D, Denver 2001-02 Jordan Leopold, D, Minnesota 2000-01 Jordan Leopold, D, Minnesota 1999-00 Jeff Dessner, D, Wisconsin 1998-99 Brad Williamson, D, North Dakota 1997-98 Matt Henderson, F, North Dakota Andy Sutton, D, Michigan Tech 1996-97 Eric Rud, D, Colorado College 1995-96 Eric Rud, D, Colorado College 1994-95 Brian Rafalski, D, Wisconsin 1993-94 Shawn Reid, D, Colorado College 1992-93 Chris Hynnes, D, Colorado College 1991-92 Dallas Drake, F, Northern Michigan
Goaltender of the Year
Note: No longer awarded.
1988-89 Robb Stauber, Minnesota 1987-88 Robb Stauber, Minnesota
Student-Athlete of the Year
2003-04 Connor James, F, Denver 2002-03 Tom Preissing, D, Colorado College 2001-02 Mark Cullen, F, Colorado College 2000-01 Karl Goehring, G, North Dakota 1999-00 Jeff Scissons, F, Minnesota-Duluth 1998-99 Kyle McLaughlin, D, St. Cloud State Scott Swanson, D, Colorado College 1997-98 Mitch Vig, D, North Dakota 1996-97 Petri Gunther, D, Denver 1995-96 Dan Trebil, D, Minnesota 1994-95 Justin McHugh, F, Minnesota 1993-94 Brian Konowalchuk, F, Denver Jeff Nielsen, F, Minnesota 1992-93 Brett Hauer, D, Minnesota-Duluth 1991-92 Geoff Sarjeant, G, Michigan Tech 1990-91 Brad Werenka, D, Northern Michigan 1989-90 Dave Shields, F, Denver 1988-89 Tim Budy, F, Colorado College 1987-88 Steve Johnson, F, North Dakota 1986-87 Tony Granato, F, Wisconsin