Headed into its 20th season of operation in 2017-18, the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association has grown into a force to be reckoned with in hockey in the West and at the NCAA Division III level. The most significant change for season 20 comes at the top, as Don Olson becomes the third Commissioner of the league. Olson is no stranger to the hockey world, having played and coached collegiately and - most recently - having been the athletic director at St. Scholastica.
Change has been commonplace over the past several years in the NCHA, with the league most-recently welcoming Trine University in 2017-18 and Aurora University in 2014-15.
Another recent change came in April of 2013, when the league changed its name to its current title and joined forces under the same conference umbrella with the women’s side of the former NCHA. That coincided with expansion once again, this time adding both St. Norbert College and The College of St. Scholastica to bring the membership of the Men's Conference to then-ten members.
That change was monumental, as the first 15 seasons of league play came under the title of the “Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association”. The new era of the league was embarked on with the new name and logo, moving forward as one of the top conferences in the country.
The original Northern Collegiate Hockey Association dated back to 1980 and included a lengthy history that consisted of 12 NCAA National Championships won by six different members. There was plenty of history to merge when the new era began, one that most notably came into play when discussing the student-athletes’ goal of winning a championship.
The NCHA tournament champion will continue to play for the “Harris Cup”, named after MSOE Director of Athletics Dan Harris, who served as the first president of the MCHA and helped get the league up and running to become what it is today.
The regular-season champion will receive the “Peters Cup”, named after Bob Peters, the long-time Bemidji State coach. Peters won 728 games and 13 national championships with the Beavers, including two NCAA titles as an early member of the NCHA back in 1984 and 1986. The Peters Cup is an NCHA tradition, as it had been handed out to the NCHA playoff championship winner since 1998.
The former MCHA grew up in a hurry after receiving the long-awaited NCAA automatic qualifier to the league's postseason champion on April 14, 2009. The 2010 postseason marked the first time the winner of the Harris Cup advanced to the NCAA Tournament, with Adrian College falling by a single goal to the No. 3 team in the country that postseason.
The MCHA then left quite an early impression in year two of having the automatic qualifier, with Adrian claiming a pair of NCAA Tournament victories in the 2011 postseason before falling by just a goal in the NCAA National Championship game, finishing as the No. 2 team in the country.
It all started back in the late 1990's, when a group of independent NCAA hockey programs that all formed within the same time period came together to aid in scheduling and provide additional competitive opportunities for their programs. Hence, the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association was born prior to the start of the 1998-1999 season.
Charter members of the league were Benedictine University (Lisle, Illinois), The University of Findlay (Findlay, Ohio), Marian University (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin), Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and Northland College (Ashland, Wisconsin).
The University of Findlay (OH) hosted the first-ever MCHA Tournament and claimed the league's first championship. After that inaugural season, Findlay left the league to pursue NCAA Division I membership in hockey, Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin) joined the league and Benedictine dropped their hockey program, moving them out of the league.
In the spring of 1999, the University of Minnesota at Crookston joined the MCHA to bring the total membership to five institutions. The next addition to the MCHA occurred in 2004-05 when Finlandia University (Hancock, Michigan) joined the conference. After staying at six members for three consecutive seasons, the MCHA saw expansive growth and moved to eight teams for the 2007-08 season, as Adrian College (Adrian, Michigan) and Concordia University (Mequon, Wisconsin) joined the ranks of the conference.
The expansion did not stop there, as Lake Forest College (Lake Forest, Illinois) was accepted into the league and began play in the 2009-10 season, with Minnesota-Crookston leaving following the 2008-09 campaign to bring membership to eight schools for the next four years.
None of this would have been possible without the dedicated and forward thinking leadership of former MCHA President Dan Harris. Harris, currently the Athletic Director at Milwaukee School of Engineering, spurred creation of the association and led it into the next century. His leadership was so valuable to the conference, that the MCHA named the league championship trophy after him when he formally resigned as the league president following the 2001-2002 season.
Terry Brand, who was named the first commissioner of the league in the summer of 2005, was also instrumental, staying in that role until the end of the 2009-10 campaign.
Chris Zills started as the league's Director of Public Relations prior to the 2000-01 campaign, maintaining all statistics, producing the weekly report, and administering the MCHA website. Jim Olson, who was named to his post in July of 2007, completed the staff as MCHA Supervisor of Officials, overseeing the league's referees.
Under the new NCHA, those two staff members will keep similar roles, with Olson overseeing all officiating matters. Zills and Brian Monahan, who previously worked behind the scenes for the MCHA and NCHA to publicize their respective leagues, will be moving into similar, but different roles moving forward for the “new” NCHA. Monahan will serve in the role of Director of Public Relations, taking an active role in promoting, social media, blogging and other “faces” of the media. Zills will be the Director of Sports Information, maintaining the behind-the-scenes aspect of the communications department.
The Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association promotes sportsmanship and exists to enhance the academic and athletic well-being of its participants. The members of the MCHA are competitive with any college hockey program in the nation that competes at the NCAA Division III or II level.
1998 to 2004
2004 to 2013
2013 to present
Adrian College - Adrian, Michigan (Member since 2007-2008)
Aurora University - Aurora, Illinois (Member since 2014-2015)
Concordia University - Mequon, Wisconsin (Member since 2007-2008)
Finlandia University - Hancock, Michigan (Member since 2004-2005)
Lake Forest College - Lake Forest, Illinois (Member since 2009-2010)
Lawrence University - Appleton, Wisconsin (Member since 1999-2000)
Marian University - Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (Charter Member since 1998-1999)
Milwaukee School of Engineering - Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Charter Member since 1998-1999)
Northland College - Ashland, Wisconsin (Charter Member since 1998-1999)
St. Norbert College – De Pere, Wisconsin (Member since 2013-2014)
The College of St. Scholastica – Duluth, Minnesota (Member since 2013-2014)
Trine University - Angola, Indiana (Member since 2017-18)
NCHA/MCHA Tournament Sites:
2018 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: St. Norbert College)
2017 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: St. Norbert College)
2016 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: Adrian College)
2015 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: Adrian College)
2014 - Cornerstone Community Center - DePere, Wis. (Host: St. Norbert College ... Champion: St. Norbert College)
2013 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: Adrian College)
2012 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: MSOE)
2011 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: Adrian College)
2010 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: Adrian College)
2009 - Arrington Ice Arena - Adrian, Mich. (Host: Adrian College ... Champion: Adrian College)
2008 - The Kern Center - Milwaukee, Wis. (Host: MSOE ... Champion: Adrian College)
2007 - Houghton County Ice Arena - Hancock, Mich. (Host: Finlandia University ... Champion: Finlandia University)
2006 - Appleton Ice Center - Appleton, Wis. (Host: Lawrence University ... Champion: MSOE)
2005 - The Kern Center - Milwaukee, Wis. (Host: MSOE ... Champion: MSOE)
2004 - Blue Line Ice Center - Fond du Lac, Wis. (Host: Marian University ... Champion: Minnesota-Crookston)
2003 - Crookston Civic Center - Crookston, Minn. (Host: Minnesota-Crookston ... Champion: Minnesota-Crookston)
2002 - Appleton Ice Center - Appleton, Wis. (Host: Lawrence University ... Champion: Marian University)
2001 - Blue Line Ice Center - Fond du Lac, Wis. (Host: Marian University ... Champion: Marian University)
2000 - The Ponds of Brookfield - Brookfield, Wis. (Host: MSOE ... Champion: Minnesota-Crookston)
1999 - Findlay, Ohio (Host: University of Findlay ... Champion: University of Findlay)
All-Time Win-Loss Records (through 2015-16, ranked by total overall wins)
School (years in league), overall record, league record
Marian (18 seasons): 272-189-29, 224-86-16
MSOE (18): 251-220-21, 190-120-15
Adrian (9): 215-31-14, 158-8-10
Lawrence (18): 164-277-35, 128-171-24
Finlandia (12): 97-191-17, 83-139-10
Minnesota-Crookston (10): 110-135-14, 77-81-8
Northland (18): 81-355-24, 69-241-18
Lake Forest (7): 69-105-14, 54-74-8
St. Norbert (3): 73-13-5, 46-8-2
Concordia (9): 46-171-17, 35-129-12
St. Scholastica (3): 43-32-10, 30-20-6
Findlay (1): 23-5-0, 11-0-0
Aurora (2): 3-37-2, 2-17-1
Benedictine (1): 0-13-0, 0-13-0
THE NCHA, over the years
2000 ... Lake Forest, UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior - charter members
2003 ... Finlandia joins as 6th member
2007 ... Concordia Wisconsin joins, 7th member
2009 ... Adrian, Marian join, bringing membership to nine
2010 ... St. Norbert, St. Scholastica join, bringin membership to 11
2013 ... Four WIAC-affiliated schools depart, dropping membership to seven
2016 ... Northland joins, with full conference schedule delayed until 2017-18
2017 ... Northland, Aurora, Trine join as full members, bringing membership to ten
1998 ... Findlay (OH), Northland, MSOE, Marian, Lawrence, Benedictine form charter membership (6 members)
1999 ... Minn-Crookston joins, Findlay and Benedictine depart (5 members)
2004 ... Finlandia joins as 6th member
2007 ... Adrian, Concordia Wisconsin join, bringing membership to eight
2009 ... Lake Forest joins, Minn-Crookston departs (eight members)
2013 ... St. Norbert, St. Scholastica join, bringing membership to ten
2014 ... Aurora joins, with full conference schedule delayed until 2015-16
2015 ... Aurora becomes as full member, bringing membership to eleven
2017 ... Trine joins, becoming 12th member