December 20, 2013
One of the most influential commissioners in college hockey history set to retire
MADISON, Wis. – Bruce McLeod, one of the most influential and successful commissioners in the history of collegiate ice hockey, has announced his intent to retire on June 30 at the end of his current contract. Now in his 20th season at the helm of the 62-year-old Western Collegiate Hockey Association, McLeod has made a truly significant mark on both the game itself and the organization he has led.
"It has been my distinct honor to serve this wonderful organization as Commissioner for the past 20 years and to be associated with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for 49 years – since 1965," said McLeod. "The opportunity to get to know and to work alongside so many outstanding coaches and administrators, to become acquainted with so many marvelous student-athletes, and watch our sport grow and prosper has been a blessing. I will forever be a fan."
Chosen by the membership to succeed the retiring commissioner Otto Breitenbach in 1994, McLeod has led the WCHA to ever greater heights. Recognized throughout the sport as one of its true leaders, his half-century of experience and wealth of knowledge about the game run the gamut from his days as a standout collegiate player at Minnesota Duluth in the 1960s, to a school administrator in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s where he worked closely with the league and served on numerous committees, and on to a notable tenure as commissioner of a premier collegiate athletic association. Pure and simple, McLeod has always been one of the game's biggest fans.
"We will forever be grateful for the commitment, loyalty and leadership of Commissioner McLeod," said Dr. Richard Davenport, President of Minnesota State University and Chair of the WCHA Board of Directors. "His integrity, work ethic, unselfishness and enthusiasm for both the WCHA and the sport of college hockey shine through in every thing he does. Bruce has led the league to tremendous successes over his 20 years, all the while keeping the focus on the member institutions, student-athletes and staffs. We also are indebted to him for the tremendous efforts and leadership he put forth during the recent transition period in college hockey, where he was instrumental in making certain the WCHA remained a leader and a competitive and successful organization. We wish him all the best in retirement."
"On behalf of the conference's athletic directors, I want to thank Bruce for his years of service to the WCHA," said Suzanne R. Sanregret, Director of Athletics at Michigan Technological University and Chair of the WCHA. "He has been a passionate leader for the league, and his work has added to the legacy of the WCHA and the prominence of college hockey across the country."
Within the WCHA, McLeod has been the driving force behind the success of the WCHA Final Five playoff championship, having built productive, long-term relationships with the NHL's Minnesota Wild, Xcel Energy Center, the City of Saint Paul and FOX Sports North as a television partner between 2000 and 2013, and now forging new partnerships with Van Andel Arena, the City of Grand Rapids and the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins for future WCHA Final Five championships beginning this coming March. At Xcel Energy Center, the WCHA Final Five steadily grew into what's been considered by many to be the best conference hockey tournament in the land based on attendance, revenue, sponsorships and exposure. The WCHA Final Five drew attendance totals in excess of 82,000 six times in the decade of the 2000s, with a record 88,900 in attendance in 2007, 87,579 in 2006, and 87,295 in 2013.
McLeod was behind the launch of a new era for the league with the advent of an official web site at WCHA.com, the production of a weekly radio show known as 'This Week in the WCHA', a decade-by-decade video and narrative chronicle of the men's WCHA that covered the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the creation of an all-new Broadmoor Trophy that is presented to the league playoff champion each year, high quality reproductions of the MacNaughton Cup and Broadmoor Trophy that go to the championship teams each year, a striking and bold update of the league's iconic logo and a unique WCHA Style Guide created in 2013 that accentuates the WCHA brand, its history and championships and is complete with downloadable league and team logos, official colors, and usage guidelines. And now, here in 2013-14, he was a driving force in the first-ever conference-wide broadband and video streaming initiative with America ONE Sports – a successful development which has enabled fans around the world to watch men's league-member home games live and on demand.
McLeod orchestrated the WCHA's memorable 50th Anniversary Season celebration in 2000-01, which featured among the many promotions a season-long announcement of the WCHA Top 50 Players in 50 Years, a commemorative poster and commemorative merchandise, and a highlight reception and celebration of the WCHA in Saint Paul during the WCHA Final Five weekend. Among the legends in the WCHA Top 50 Players in 50 Years are the likes of John Mayasich, Bill 'Red' Hay, Keith Magnuson, Tony Esposito, Bill Masterton, Red Berenson, Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Doug Palazzari, Mark Johnson, 'Huffer' Christiansen, Bill Nyrop, Tom Kurvers, Ron Grahame and Greg Johnson.
Ever a proponent of encouraging the growth and expansion of the collegiate game, McLeod has been instrumental in the addition of new men's member teams in Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1999, Bemidji State University and University of Nebraska Omaha in 2010, and most recently, in the midst of an upheaval of the collegiate hockey landscape and the loss of eight teams during the summer of 2012, keeping the WCHA out front as a leader. The league went out and secured six new teams in University of Alabama Huntsville, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University and Northern Michigan University, and combined with University of Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Technological University and Minnesota State, give the league a highly-competitive 10-team circuit beginning with the 2013-14 season.
McLeod has always been among a select group of individuals who have had continual impact on the college hockey scene – whether the topic concerns playing rules, expansion, the national tournament, sponsorships and promotions, professional ice hockey, or television. He was instrumental in the formation of a new Division 1 college hockey league – College Hockey America – which announced in 2001 that they would name their championship trophy in his honor. He is a key contributor to the sport on national, international and professional levels and plays a lead role in the Hockey Commissioners' Association. The HCA has been a springboard of ideas for the six Div. 1 conference's, having introduced a national rookie of the year award, the Derek Hines' Unsung Hero Award, national player and rookie of the month awards, a XM Satellite radio show, and the formation of College Hockey, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Directors for both College Hockey Inc., and USA Hockey, Inc.
"Bruce has been a great colleague, and, more importantly, a mentor and friend, said Steve Hagwell, ECAC Hockey Commissioner. "From the moment we met back in the late 1990s to today, Bruce's passion for the sport and tireless efforts to enhance the game – not just the league he administers – have been evident. Hockey, not just college hockey, is losing a true advocate of the sport. It truly is my privilege and honor to call Bruce my friend."
In January of 2007, at the passing of longtime colleague and former WCHA Commissioner Otto Breitenbach, McLeod's passion could be felt in his words.
"There are really no adequate words to describe what Otto meant to all of us in the WCHA family as well as throughout athletic circles across the country," said McLeod. "Otto touched so many lives in so many positive ways over the years and so many of us owe so very much to him. Our lasting memories of his qualities as a father, grandfather, coach, leader and mentor are a fitting tribute to a truly great man. Three words always come to mind when I think of Otto – quality, class, gentleman. He has left a noteworthy legacy through everyone that ever had a chance to know him and we will all miss him dearly."
McLeod's on-going efforts on behalf of amateur ice hockey have seen him twice honored nationally – first with the United States Hockey Hall of Fame's first-ever President's Award in 2003 and second with the American Hockey Coaches' Association Jim Fullerton Award in 2004. The President's Award is presented to an individual who has made a significant and long-term commitment to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Being honored with the first President's Award was unexpected, but I'm very appreciative", said McLeod at the time. "When I work with various groups, I don't think about recognition such as this. In my many years of working with the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, the pleasure has truly been mine."
The Jim Fullerton Award, meanwhile, recognizes an individual who loves the purity of the sport of ice hockey – whether a coach, administrator, trainer, official, journalist or simply a fan – and who exemplifies Jim Fullerton, who gave as much as he received and never stopped caring about the direction in which the game was heading. McLeod has been involved with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame's annual fund-raising game since it's inception in 1974, when it was first played in the Eveleth Hippodrome, and has helped bring the game into ever bigger arenas.
"Through Bruce's efforts and commitment to help the Hall, we have this wonderful college hockey game once a year and in many cases our Faceoff Classic has opened new arenas across the country," said Jim Findley, Board of Directors and President of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Here in the 2013-14 season, commitment to the game of college hockey by the league and its teams continues as strong as ever, and McLeod could not be happier that the future of the league is bright. Covering a wide and diverse geographical area of more than 4,100 miles and across five time zones, the 10 men's and eight women's member institutions that make up the WCHA feature the best in both educational and athletic environments, administrations dedicated to the sport and the student-athlete, and enthusiastic fans across the board.
"As a group, we've had some bumps and bruises and weathered some difficult times, but the one thing that has remained constant has been our respect of each other and our collective commitment and effort to do what's best both for the WCHA and the game of ice hockey," said McLeod. "And of that I could not be more proud."
Prior to being named WCHA Commissioner, McLeod had over 25 years of service at his alma mater of Minnesota Duluth, serving as Athletic Director, assistant athletic director, business manager, and sports information director after graduating in 1969. One of the people he worked for at UMD and still admires to this day was the late Ralph Romano, former hockey coach and successful athletic director who was a major influence in the growth and success of collegiate athletics there. McLeod was a four-year hockey player for the Bulldogs, producing 81 points in 77 games as a winger between 1966-69. He ranked second in scoring in the WCHA as a sophomore and served as UMD's team captain in 1968-69.
Indeed, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association – and the entire ice hockey community – owe a debt of gratitude to Bruce McLeod. His tireless efforts in promoting the game at all levels, ensuring a memorable experience for student-athletes who play the game, and working diligently to ensure its continued growth and health, have ensured a legacy that puts him among the legends of the game.
What They're Saying about Bruce McLeod...
Dean Blais, Coach, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota: "Bruce McLeod has been a friend for over 40 years and has been instrumental in the success of the WCHA at all levels. His leadership and guidance has provided opportunities for athletes, coaches, trainers and administrators to excel at the highest level. He will be missed by everyone, but will enjoy his leisure and freedoms. Thank you Bruce!"
Keith 'Huffer' Christiansen, UMD teammate: "Bruce McLeod has been a loyal and supportive friend to me for over 50 years. I know he has devoted his life to the betterment of college hockey. For Bruce, it was never about any one school or individual, but solely what is best for the game of hockey. He will truly be missed."
Rick Comley, Former Coach – Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, Michigan State: "In many ways Bruce McLeod has been the best that college hockey has to offer. Every day his goal was to make the WCHA the best it could be. Coaches and administrators will miss his friendship and guidance. Best wishes Bruce, and thanks for all you have done."
Craig Dahl, Former Coach, St. Cloud State: "Congratulations on your retirement from a long career of service to the WCHA. You are an example of class, caring, and integrity. And you always made others feel special. My thanks to you my friend!"
Bob DeGregorio, Commissioner, Atlantic Hockey Association: "Bruce McLeod has been a catalyst in helping to improve and advance Division 1 Ice Hockey. Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with him in several capacities and he has always worked for the betterment of Division 1 Ice Hockey. We have become good friends through our many hours together attending meetings, the Ice Breaker, the Frozen Four, etc. He loves dinner in the North End in Boston and the cannoli's from Mike's. I wish Bruce a long, healthy and happy retirement."
Pat Francisco, UMD Teammate: "I've known Bruce since he came to UMD as a skinny kid from Fort Frances. From that time till now, Bruce has always shown the ability to positively connect with people and to exhibit enduring loyalty. Bruce is inclusive and the consummate team player. If one looks back at the measurable success of the WCHA, one would find these virtues to be at the heart of that success. That's his style, that's his legacy, and in my opinion, it is more rare than it ought to be in today's business world. I congratulate Bruce on his success and retirement and I am proud to call him teammate and friend."
Ron Grahame, Assistant Vice Chancellor/Senior Associate Athletics Director, University of Denver: "I have known Bruce McLeod for over 30 years and have always viewed him as a principled individual, dedicated to doing what was best for college hockey and the sport of ice hockey. He could be counted on to bring all constituents together toward a common goal while acknowledging the many different perspectives of each institution and their staff, as well as other conferences. His tireless work as the Commissioner of the WCHA was instrumental in growing the league to a position of preeminence throughout the country."
Steve Hagwell, Commissioner, ECAC Hockey: "Bruce has been a great colleague, and, more importantly, a mentor and friend. From the moment we met back in the late 1990s to today, Bruce's passion for the sport and tireless efforts to enhance the game – not just the league he administers – have been evident. Hockey, not just college hockey, is losing a true advocate of the sport. It truly is my privilege and honor to call Bruce my friend. I will miss our interaction, but certainly hope that our paths continue to cross."
Norm Jones, Longtime Hockey Television and Radio Broadcaster: "I grew up in Colorado Springs watching the WCHA and Colorado College. My first media job was broadcasting CC hockey and then later University of Denver hockey. My point is to simply focus on the great tradition of WCHA hockey through the years. In my opinion, there was no one better than Bruce McLeod in maintaining and improving upon the foundation of the best collegiate hockey league in the country. His development of the post-season tournament and WCHA Final Five made it the best in the country. What I most respect about Bruce was his steadfast and determined effort to make certain the WCHA continued on in the strongest possible manner following the recent shake-up of the college hockey landscape. I will always value his friendship and support."
Tom Kurvers, former NHL General Manager, Stanley Cup Winner, Hobey Baker Memorial Award Winner: "Bruce has been a good friend since we met in Duluth in 1980. His commitment to UMD and the WCHA have helped shape college hockey. The WCHA tournament became one of the finest hockey events in the world under his guidance. Bruce is a hockey lifer … and a genuine good guy."
Walt Kyle, Coach, Northern Michigan: "I have been fortunate to know Bruce closely for more than 30 years, from his time at Minnesota Duluth, the first era when Northern Michigan was in the WCHA, and on to him being WCHA Commissioner. His love and passion for the game of college hockey, and his dedication and commitment to the sport, have always been at the forefront. His integrity and his leadership, and the enthusiasm that comes through in every conversation I've had with him, have left no doubt that what he was doing was always in the best interest of the league and the game. I will always value his friendship and advice."
Jack Larson, General Manager, Xcel Energy Center: "Bruce McLeod leaves an incredible legacy as Commissioner of the WCHA. Under Bruce's leadership the WCHA became a conference powerhouse, and the WCHA Final Five became the most successful college hockey tournament in the nation. Bruce is the kind of guy you want to have on your team; good-natured and good-hearted. His dedication and passion for promoting collegiate hockey is immeasurable. We couldn't have asked for a better partner and we wish him all the best."
Don Lucia, Coach, Minnesota and Colorado College: "When I arrived at Colorado College in 1993 and spent the next 20 years coaching in the WCHA, there was no greater mentor for me than Bruce McLeod. He is someone I have always greatly respected and nobody gave more to the WCHA as a player and administrator, or cared more about the league, than Bruce. I want to thank him for all his service to help grow college hockey during his time and wish him all the best in retirement."
Joel Maturi, Former Athletic Director, Minnesota: "I have always stated that being the Commissioner of a one-sport conference is extremely challenging because of the membership make-up. Bruce McLeod has done an unbelievable job of responding to the needs of the WCHA membership, whether they be Division I, II or III institutions. The success of the WCHA on and off the ice is second to none in college hockey. We have been the envy of all due to Bruce's ability to add institutions, improve the play-off system and develop the successful WCHA Final Five. Bruce is respected by his colleagues for his love of the game, his ability to communicate and his desire to do what is best for the sport. His imprint on the league and the game are immeasurable. Bruce has been a colleague, commissioner, confidant and friend. I treasure our relationship and am thankful that he and his wife, Sande, have been in our lives."
Dave Ogrean, Executive Director, USA Hockey, Inc.: "Bruce has always had the best interests of the game at heart," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "He's had such a positive impact on the sport overall and in particular at the college level. We wish him nothing but the best in retirement."
Doug Palazzari, Executive Director, US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum: "Bruce has contributed so much to college hockey over the years. His love for the game and calm demeanor in approaching problems and opportunities will be sorely missed by everyone. What a great career! Thanks Bruce."
Bob Peters, Former Coach, Bemidji State and Commissioner, College Hockey America: "Bruce McLeod has had a profound and positive impact on U.S. collegiate hockey over his 20-year tenure as Commissioner of the WCHA. His tireless efforts on behalf of the sport, for both men and women, are legendary. McLeod played a major role in establishing the WCHA's women's league, an excellent display of his foresight. In addition, his strong guidance is evident in the very successful WCHA Final Five, long regarded as the most prominent post-season championship tournament in the history of collegiate hockey. A person of unfailing dedication, he truly ranks as a collegiate hockey legend."
Jeff Sauer, Former Coach, Wisconsin and Colorado College: "Bruce McLeod has both continued and enhanced the long-standing traditions and financial success of the WCHA in his time as Commissioner. Under his leadership, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association was – without reservation – the best collegiate hockey conference in the country."
Tom Serratore, Coach, Bemidji State: "Bruce McLeod has been a steady presence in the world of college hockey, helping shape one of the most prestigious college hockey conferences in the nation. His commitment to the game, its players, fans and institution members is evident in the great successes of the WCHA and its tremendous fan following. His vision and integrity will be greatly missed."
Greg Shepherd, WCHA Supervisor of Officials, College Referee: "For more than 20 years as a colleague and over 30 years as a friend, Bruce McLeod has always been a person I looked up to. This is a sad day for our sport. We are losing a true mentor. A person that cares about everyone more then himself; a person that works 365 days a year to make college hockey the best. I have learned so much from Bruce. How to treat people, how to deal with upset coaches, and just life in general. Because of him, I am a better man, a better supervisor and a better person. The WCHA and all of college will miss him and what he has done."
Mike Snee, Executive Director, College Hockey, Inc.: "Bruce McLeod has contributed so much to college hockey since his playing career began at Minnesota Duluth in 1966. It will be hard to imagine him not being commissioner of the WCHA next fall. I've been fortunate to work with Bruce in a variety of roles for nearly 15 years now and have enjoyed all of it. His love for college hockey is evident the moment you meet him. Bruce is a true legend of college hockey!"
Rick Yeo, Former Athletic Director, Michigan Tech: "I was honored to have been the Chair of the Selection Committee when Bruce McLeod was chosen as WCHA Commissioner. During his tenure, he exhibited the fine qualities that we expected from him in making our decision. Bruce was considered the leading Commissioner in NCAA hockey, due to his keen knowledge of the game, tireless efforts to do whatever was best for the sport, and willingness to communicate with all levels to improve the game. One of his major accomplishments, I believe, is the growth of the WCHA Final Five, which brought about capacity attendance and helped league member institutions considerably financially. Bruce was 100% committed to his task and will be a difficult man to replace. He is a dear friend and I wish him well in his much-deserved retirement."