Northern Michigan back in WCHA in 2013-14

Wednesday from the WCHA office:

SAINT PAUL -– The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is extremely pleased to announce today (July 20, 2011) that former conference member Northern Michigan University will be re-joining the Association family effective with the 2013-14 season. The NMU Wildcats were unanimously approved for membership in a conference call of league members held earlier today.

The Wildcats, who won the Division 1 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 University 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.”

Said Northern Michigan University President Les Wong, “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. 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.”

Said NMU Interim Athletic Director Steve Reed, “We share many natural rivalries with the new WCHA programs and the league offers geographical balance for us. With the changing landscape in college hockey in 2013-14, it was important for us to consider all options and choose the one we felt works best for NMU hockey at this time.”

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.

“I’ve been saying all along that I know NMU will be in a great hockey conference over the next two years – in the CCHA and then in the WCHA. It’s important that people know that we value our current CCHA members and hope to continue strong relationships with them in the future as part of our non-conference schedule. However, playing in the same conference as Michigan Tech, our next-door U.P. neighbor, will boost that ongoing rivalry. It’s always special to play the Huskies and I know the Upper Peninsula hockey fans will be excited that NMU-MTU battles will take on even greater importance being league games. Our recent history with St. Cloud State – going into double overtime in the NCAA Tournament against them two years ago – is also something we can build into a good rivalry. We do a lot of recruiting west of the U.P., so increasing our playing exposure in that direction is a plus.”

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. Included on that stellar 1990-91 club, guided by WCHA Coach of the Year Rick Comley, were the likes of All-American forward Scott Beattie (WCHA MVP, WCHA Scoring Champion), All-American defenseman and WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year Brad Werenka, and Second Team All-American goaltender Bill Pye. The Wildcats competed in the NCAA tournament while in the WCHA in 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993 while other top finishes by NMU in the league standings were second in 1988-89 and third in 1991-92.

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).

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.

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