MANKATO — Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner Bruce McLeod will retire at the end of this season, his 20th on the job, the conference announced on Friday afternoon.
McLeod, 62, oversaw an era of great success and growth for the league. WCHA teams won eight national championships, and 10 league players captured Hobey Baker Awards. Over the last 13 years, the Final Five in St. Paul became one of the most lucrative and well-attended conference championships in college hockey.
The McLeod era also included the addition of a WCHA women's league, as well as the admittance of Minnesota State as a league member in 1999.
"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," McLeod said in a statement issued by the league. "I will forever be a fan."
However, it was also under McLeod's watch that the conference broke apart with two teams going to the Big Ten and six others leaving to form the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. His final years have involved keeping the WCHA afloat amid those changes. The league absorbed five teams from the dissolving Central Collegiate Hockey Association and later added former independent Alabama Huntsville.
The new conferences, including the new-look WCHA began play this year.
In the WCHA statement, Minnesota State president Richard Davenport, chair of the WCHA board of directors said: "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."
McLeod's time with the WCHA dates back to 1965 when he was a player at Minnesota Duluth. The Fort Frances, Ontario, native was also an administrator at UMD in the 1970s, '80s and '90. He succeeded Otto Breitenbach as WCHA commissioner in 1994.
"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, whose retirement is effective June 30. “And of that I could not be more proud.”