WAKEFIELD, Mass. - The athletic directors of the Hockey East Association recently voted to establish a Division I women's ice hockey league under the Hockey East banner to begin play no later than the fall of 2004, Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna announced Friday afternoon. The vote took place Sept. 25 during the annual Fall Meeting at the Andover Country Club in Andover, Mass. and the motion passed without opposition.
"UNH is very excited about the adoption of a Hockey East women's association," UNH athletic director Marty Scarano said. "This initiative will allow the men's and women's programs to mirror one another and to bring both under the Hockey East banner. We thank the ECAC for being the groundbreaking organization that brought women's hockey to this point. Clearly, as women's hockey has grown it became time to align both of our nationally recognized programs.
"Our men's and women's programs combined in Hockey East will only serve to strengthen the most competitive conference in collegiate hockey," Scarano added.
Hockey East will join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) as the only Division I ice hockey conferences for women.
Currently, five schools whose men's ice hockey teams play in Hockey East sponsor a varsity women's ice hockey team. In addition to New Hampshire, which is hosting the 2002 Women's Frozen Four on March 22-24 at the Whittemore Center, they are Boston College, Maine, Northeastern and Providence.
In addition to those varsity programs, three other schools in Hockey East - Boston University, UMass-Amherst and UMass-Lowell - have women's hockey club teams. Merrimack College, the other Hockey East member, is exploring the possibility of adding a varsity women's hockey program in the near future.
"This is a historical day for Division I women's ice hockey," 10th-year UNH head coach Karen Kay said. "While we thank the ECAC for all of their support, New Hampshire is extremely excited about our future membership in Hockey East. Hockey East for women has been a goal for many of our institutions and I am proud to say that UNH has been a leader in getting other institutions on board with this plan.
"Personally, I would like to recognize former UNH athletic director Dr. Judy Ray, current UNH athletic director Marty Scarano and President Dr. Joan Leitzel for their support in attaining Hockey East membership for our student-athletes," Kay added. "This will always be a very memorable day for UNH hockey."
A task force will be established to assume responsibility for the formation of the new league's policies and procedures. All schools currently affiliated with the Hockey East men's league will be afforded the opportunity to participate as charter members.
"The growth of this sport on both the men's and women's sides has created the current situation where the needs of our student-athletes and our institutions will be better served if all of our hockey programs are under the auspices of one administrative body," Bertagna stated in a Hockey East press release.
The UNH women's hockey team will compete with the men's team in the first-ever Blue-White Scrimmage on Sept. 29. The event, which also includes a skills competition, autograph session and barbecue, begins at 1 p.m. at the Whittemore Center. The women's team plays its only exhibition game of the year Oct. 7 vs. Concordia. Game time at the Whitt is 2 p.m. The regular season begins Oct. 19 (7 p.m.) at home against Ohio State .