ECAC Hockey, “Where Hockey's More Than Another Tradition."
One of the nation’s premier Division I Men’s Hockey Conferences, ECAC Hockey burst into the spotlight recently at the NCAA Frozen Four when two of its teams - Yale and Union - claimed college hockey’s top prize in consecutive years (2013 & 2014).
In 2013 the Bulldogs denied top-seeded and fellow ECAC Hockey foe Quinnipiac in the championship game, 4-0, at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, claiming the nation’s oldest hockey program’s first NCAA title.
In the 2014 Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Union down 2-1 to Minnesota midway through the first period, scored three consecutive goals in a span of 1:54 to gain a 4-2 lead. The Dutchmen would go on to win their first NCAA championship in their fourth tournament appearance - all of which occurred in the last four years - with a 7-4 victory.
As a result, another dynamic chapter was framed in the storied conference’s history known for its unmatched traditions, legendary student-athletes, influential coaches and distinguished administrators.
Today, ECAC Hockey boasts elite student-athletes and teams from 12 of the nation's most prestigious institutions - Brown University, Clarkson University, Colgate University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, Quinnipiac University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, St. Lawrence University, Union College and Yale University.
The folklore of the league was pioneered February 1, 1896 in Baltimore, Maryland, Yale faced Johns Hopkins in the first collegiate ice hockey game. Two years later on January 19, 1898, Brown defeated Harvard in Boston in the first college hockey game between schools still sponsoring the sport.
Back in the initial phases of structured college hockey, ECAC Hockey was largely created between schools from New England and New York. According to the College Hockey Historical Archives, "for the 1961 NCAA Tournament, the selection committee chose St. Lawrence and Rensselaer to represent the East, bypassing the Boston area schools. In the disputes that followed, it was decided to hold an eastern tournament the following season, with the tournament champion given the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament." This caused an informal league to be formed in 1961, which at first had 28 teams.
The league has undergone its share of changes through the years, but has been instrumental in supporting the growth of college hockey as we know it today, while maintaining its conventional stability. ECAC Hockey was the only Division I men's hockey conference that neither gained nor lost members during the major conference realignment in 2011 and 2012 that followed the Big Ten conference’s announcement that it would launch a men's hockey league during the 2013–14 campaign.
The winner of its regular-season title is awarded the Cleary Cup, named after Bill Cleary, a former Harvard student-athlete, coach and administrator, who was the driving force behind the conference structure of ECAC Hockey. The tournament championship game winner receives the Whitelaw Cup, named for long-time former commissioner Robert M. ‘Scotty’ Whitelaw, who was the architect of the annual ECAC Hockey tournament.
The league is also home to some of the most signifiant moments in college hockey history, including: the 1969-70 Cornell team, who stands as the only team in NCAA ice hockey history to produce a perfect unbeaten and untied record (29-0) en route to the Division I men's title; Harvard's Mark Fusco became the first defenseman to win the Hobey Baker award in 1983; in 1994, the first program to compile 1,000 wins was Clarkson; in 2007, St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh reached 400 wins at the same institution, the third DI college hockey coach to do so; and in 2010, Quinnipiac beat Union in what was then the longest game in NCAA hockey history 3-2. Greg Holt netted the game-winner after 150 minutes, 22 seconds of play at 1:03 a.m.
The conference's tradition and history are not limited to the playing surface. A wealth of legendary coaches have called the conference home, including Harkness, Dartmouth's Eddie Jeremiah, whose instructional book on the game was the hockey bible for a generation; Army's Jack Riley, who led the 1960 U.S. Olympic squad to the gold medal at Squaw Valley; and Yale's Tim Taylor, who led the 1994 U.S. Olympic Team in Lillehammer, Norway.
Lest anyone think ECAC Hockey is about yesterday, the NHL draft annually features a wealth of conference draftees. Since the conference's inception in 1961-62, nearly 700 players have been drafted by NHL teams, including more than 50 the past five years and more than 150 over the last 15.
Beyond the playing surface, a plethora of former league standouts occupy such roles as general managers, coaches, scouts and administrators in the National Hockey League. In addition, the NHL’s Commissioner Gary Bettman is a Cornell graduate and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is a graduate of Dartmouth.
Success and traditions aside it is clear that ECAC Hockey shall continue to occupy its spot not only among college hockey's elite conferences, but in the world of hockey.
For more information about ECAC Hockey, log on www.ecachockey.com. Friend ECAC Hockey on Facebook and follow on Twitter @ecachockeyMWD1.