McLeod To Retire as WCHA Commissioner
CHN Staff Report
Bruce MeLeod will step down as commissioner of the WCHA, effective June 30.
The move was largely expected following the transformation of the WCHA that took place over the last few years, with numerous top programs leaving for new conferences, and the WCHA realigned with many old CCHA teams.
This is McLeod's 20th season as WCHA commissioner. He oversaw the league through a period of tremendous prosperity, prior to the split. He also served in numerous leadership positions, through his role as commissioner, across the college hockey landscape.
"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."
McLeod, a player at Minnesota-Duluth in the 1960s, was the athletic director at his alma-mater when he was selected to succeed retiring commissioner Otto Breitenbach in 1994. In 1996, he was forced to step down as AD at Duluth after being charged with theft of $6,000 in department funds. He was not prosecuted thanks to a deal reached with authorities.
The WCHA had eight national champions in McLeod's 20 years as commissioner. The Fort Frances, Ontario, native was also a strong proponent of a women's WCHA that has won 14 consecutive national championships since its founding in 1999-2000. Conference attendance for both the men's and women's leagues has also grown throughout his tenure, with the men's WCHA exceeding the 1,000,000 mark in home attendance for 18 consecutive seasons through 2012-13. The growth of the Final Five was also impressive over the years, though that is sure to take a hit with the loss of many top programs from the league.
Among other accomplishments, McLeod was credited with helping schools like Minnesota State, Bemidji State, Nebraska-Omaha and Alabama-Huntsville join the WCHA. 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 Division I conference, introducing 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."
McLeod won the United States Hockey Hall of Fame's first-ever President's Award in 2003, and the American Hockey Coaches' Association Jim Fullerton Award in 2004.
"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," McLeod said "And of that I could not be more proud."
McLeod was a four-year hockey player at UMD, 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. He went to serve in different roles at the school — assistant athletic director, business manager, and sports information director, and athletic director.
"While all of us who serve as commissioners have passion for our jobs, no one has been more emotionally attached to the fortunes of his conference than Bruce has been to the WCHA," Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said. "His strong appreciation of history and tradition is something for which I will always remember him. He has made more contributions to our game than most people will ever realize or appreciate."
They Said It
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."
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."
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."