GRAND RAPIDS — Former Minnesota coach Don Lucia – a graduate of Grand Rapids High School – was named commissioner Wednesday of the newly-formed Central Collegiate Hockey Association, an NCAA Division I league set to start in the 2021-22 season.
Lucia won two national championships and made five trips to the Frozen Four over 19 seasons running the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, until retiring from the bench in 2018. Before that, he was the head coach for six years each at Colorado College and Alaska-Fairbanks. His overall record was 736-403-102.
The original CCHA existed from 1971-2013, when widespread realignment in the sport led to its end. Seven of the 10 current programs in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced last year their plan to leave to create the new league: Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan.
This left Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska (formerly Alaska-Fairbanks) and Alaska Anchorage in limbo with budget crunches at their institutions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Alabama-Huntsville recently announced the elimination of the program, only to have donors pledge to fund it for at least the upcoming season.
Lucia did not rule out adding any of those programs, but he stressed the financial advantage of the league’s smaller footprint in three Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. Costs of traveling to Alabama and Alaska, and concern about the long-term financial commitment to the sport from those schools prompted the departure of the seven teams from the WCHA.