About Hockey East


Hockey East

The Hockey East women’s league celebrates its 22nd season of play in 2023-24. Over the first 21 years, the league has emerged as one of the top women’s ice hockey conferences in the nation, having sent 13 teams to the Frozen Four and 28 teams to the NCAA Tournament. In 2011 and 2013, both Boston College and Boston University advanced to the women’s Frozen Four, and the Terriers moved on to the NCAA championship game on both occasions.

As women’s ice hockey steadily expanded from its original status as an emerging sport to its current position as an established NCAA championship sport, it became apparent that Hockey East needed to consider sponsoring a separate league to accommodate its five member schools that initially had varsity programs for women: Boston College, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Providence. Discussions about this proposed league continued until a split in the Eastern College Athletic Conference grouped the five aforementioned programs into a separate league alongside three other unaffiliated programs. This newly formed eight-team division was dubbed the ECAC Women’s Eastern League. Seeking league solidarity, administrators from the five Hockey East institutions acted almost immediately to create a new conference.

In September of 2001, the long-incubated idea became a reality when the athletic directors voted to found the new women’s league under the existing Hockey East banner, with play scheduled to begin no later than the 2004-05 season. The five schools with varsity programs entered as charter members with the stipulation that any other Hockey East school that added a varsity women’s program in the future would be freely admitted to the league. In 2015-16, Hockey East welcomed Merrimack to the women’s ranks under that clause, before adding Holy Cross as its 10th member in 2018-19.

Expediting the process in the interest of the participating teams, the league, and the sport itself, Commissioner Joe Bertagna worked with a selected task force to successfully prepare the Hockey East women’s league for launch in the 2002-03 season, two years ahead of schedule. An important part of that process was the acceptance of an invitation extended to the University of Connecticut to join the newly formed league as its sixth active member.

The triumphant effort immediately afforded the participating administrators a stronger voice in the advancement of their women’s ice hockey programs and alleviated the ECAC of continuing the maintenance of the ECAC Women’s Eastern League. Players, fans, coaches and administrators alike anticipated the intensified competition created by a new circle of teams that had already been such familiar rivals.

In 2005, the Hockey East women’s league welcomed the addition of two additional teams to its growing family: Boston University and the University of Vermont. For BU, it marked the inaugural season for women’s hockey as a varsity sport. The league athletic directors voted in June of 2012 to expand the playoff format, allowing all eight teams within the conference to qualify for the playoffs beginning after the 2012-13 regular season. The significant jump was contrasted with six teams and four teams in previous seasons.

In February 2007, the league debuted its inaugural “Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer”. The one-day event was hosted by Hockey East schools as a way to establish a greater fan base, to raise needed funds, and to work with the specific charities to raise awareness for both the league and the specific cause. In the initial year, close to $20,000 was donated back to local breast cancer charities Friends of Mel’s Foundation and the American Cancer Society, vastly exceeding expectations. In the 2018-19 season, the league raised over $30,000 to bring the 10-year total to nearly $400,000. “Skating Strides” has won two national awards at NACMA in the “Single Day Attendance Promotion” category in 2007 and 2009, and in 2016 former Associate Commissioner Kathy Wynters was honored at the one hundred, a fundraising and awareness initiative that honors those that have displayed a commitment to fighting cancer.

In 2020, the Northeastern Huskies captured their third consecutive Hockey East Tournament title. As the Hockey East Tournament Champion, Northeastern was presented with the renamed Bertagna Trophy in honor of the Women’s Hockey East conference’s founding commissioner Joe Bertagna.

A near record 167 student-athletes were named to the league’s 2020-21 All-Academic Team. Each student-athlete achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or better in each of the two academic periods during which she was actively competing. Additionally, nine players, including one goaltenders, three defenders, and five forwards, earned the prestigious honor of being named Hockey East’s Top Scholar-Athlete, compiling a perfect 4.0 GPA for the season. Those players have been selected to the 2020-21 Hockey East Academic All-Star Team.

Nineteen players reached “Distinguished Scholar” status in 2020-21, having qualified for the All-Academic team in each of four seasons of varsity play, while another 35 are three-time honorees. While the Hockey East women’s league continues to grow, adding Holy Cross as its 10th member in 2018-19, its member programs have storied histories that include several championships and individual awards at the highest levels of play. The first 13 ECAC championships were shared among New Hampshire, Northeastern and Providence, all charter members of the Women’s Hockey East Association. Northeastern forward Brooke Whitney was named the recipient of the 2002 Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s top female collegiate player, an honor first won by New Hampshire’s Brandy Fisher in 1998. Had the award been in existence beforehand, it surely would have been won at some point by Cammi Granato, a three-time ECAC Player of the Year who led Providence to back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993. Five years later, in 1998, alongside nine other alums of what are now Hockey East women’s league programs, Granato captained Team USA to the Olympic gold medal during the first Olympic tournament that featured women’s ice hockey as a medal sport. Granato was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in October of 2010 for her contributions to the sport. Beginning in 2009, the HEA athletic directors voted to honor the league Player of the Year with the Cammi Granato Award.

Perhaps the proudest legacy that the Hockey East women’s league has established is the Hockey Humanitarian Award. The most prestigious off-ice honor, and arguably the highest overall honor in the sport, the Hockey Humanitarian Award recognizes college hockey’s finest citizen each year and encompasses both male and female athletes in all divisions. Its winners have demonstrated outstanding contributions to society through leadership in charity work and volunteerism. Northeastern senior forward Missy Elumba was the 2009 recipient, as the fifth Hockey East student-athlete to receive the prestigious honor. Elumba was the 14th all-time recipient and joined former Husky goaltender Chanda Gunn, who received the award in 2004, as the second athlete in Northeastern women’s hockey history. BC’s Sarah Carlson received the award in 2005, making Women’s Hockey East the first league to boast back-to-back winners.


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