College ice hockey

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College ice hockey is ice hockey played between colleges with their teams composed of enrolled students. College hockey is played in Canada and the United States, though leagues outside of North America exist.

In Canada, the term "college hockey" refers to community college and small college ice hockey that operates under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA). It consists of two conferences, being the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference (ACAC) and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA).[1] "University hockey" is the term used for hockey played at four-year institutions; that level of the sport is governed by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).

In the United States, college hockey refers to ice hockey played between colleges and universities with the competitive governance structure established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).


Bowling Green vs. Michigan hockey game

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has conducted national championships for men's ice hockey since 1948, and women's ice hockey since 2001.

U.S. college hockey players must be deemed eligible for NCAA competition by the NCAA Eligibility Center, a process that examines a student-athlete's academic qualifications and amateur status. Players who have participated in the Canadian Hockey League or any professional hockey league are considered ineligible.[2]

Men's U.S. college hockey is a feeder system to the National Hockey League. As of the 2010–11 season, 30 percent of NHL players (a total of 294) had U.S. college hockey experience prior to turning professional, an increase of 35 percent from the previous 10 years.[3] That percentage has been maintained the past three seasons, with a record 301 NHL players coming from college hockey in 2011-12.[4]


A map of all NCAA Division I men's hockey teams.

One hundred thirty-eight colleges and universities sponsor men's ice hockey in the NCAA's three divisions.[5]

Division I[edit]

The NCAA's top level has 59 teams. Twenty-one schools are Division II or III athletic programs that "play up" to Division I in hockey, and 15 schools that are full Division I members are in the Football Bowl Subdivision, 6 of which compete in the Big Ten Conference. The NCAA Division I Championship is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament, divided into four, 4-team regional tournaments. The winner of each regional advances to the Frozen Four to compete for the national championship. For many years, 5 teams earned automatic bids through winning conference tournament championships, while 11 earned at-large berths through a selection committee. With the addition of the Big Ten Hockey Conference for the 2013-2014 season, the tournament will now feature 6 automatic qualifiers, and 10 at-large bids.

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award honors the top player in men's Division I hockey.

59 programs play in six conferences. The conferences are:

The Ivy League recognizes ice hockey champions for both sexes, but it does not sponsor the sport; it instead uses the results of regular-season ECAC Hockey matches involving two Ivy League schools to extrapolate an Ivy champion (all six Ivy League schools that sponsor varsity hockey do so for both men and women, and compete in ECAC Hockey). The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference sponsored D-I men's hockey, but dropped the sport in 2003.

Division II[edit]

The NCAA does not currently sponsor a championship in Division II, as there is only one conference that currently sponsors hockey, the Northeast-10 Conference. Several other schools that normally compete in Division II play up to the Division I level in hockey. The NCAA conducted a Division II national championship from 1978 to 1984 and also from 1993 to 1999.

Division III[edit]

The 74 programs in Division III hockey are part of 9 conferences.

The NCAA has conducted a Division III national championship since 1984. The current championship format is an 11-team, single-elimination bracket.


A map of all NCAA Division I women's hockey teams.

Eighty-eight colleges and universities sponsor women's ice hockey in two divisions: National Collegiate and Division III.

National Collegiate[edit]

There are 39 teams in the National Collegiate division (commonly referred to as Division I). Thirty-nine teams play in four conferences, with one team playing as an independent.

The National Collegiate championship is an 8-team, single-elimination tournament to determine the national champion.

The Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is awarded annually by USA Hockey to the top player in women's Division I hockey.

Division III[edit]

There are 49 teams in Division III, plus three other programs from Divisions I and II, in five conferences:

The Division III championship is an 8-team, single-elimination tournament to determine the national champion.


Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs during 2013 CIS playoffs.

University hockey teams in Canada compete in leagues as part of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the national governing body for Canadian university athletics (in Canadian English, the term "college" is reserved for schools that would be called "junior", "community", or "technical" colleges in the U.S.). The CIS sponsors both men's and women's hockey.

Like in the United States, teams compete in athletic conferences based on geographical locations of the schools. Unlike the NCAA, the CIS does not award players with athletic scholarships, resulting in a lack of divisional separation such as found between NCAA divisions. Individual conferences hold postseason tournaments, followed by the round-robin CIS Championship tournament in late March.[6]


The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) is a sanctioning body for non-NCAA club ice hockey in the United States. The organization provides structure, regulations and promotes the quality of collegiate ice hockey.

Teams separated into three men's and two women's divisions with over 300 teams from across the United States.


The National Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) was established in 2011 as an alternative to the ACHA.[7] The organization is made up of 22 non-ACHA and non-NCAA ice hockey teams located in the Northeastern United States. Beginning with the 2014-15 season, the league is now sanctioned by the United Hockey Union.

National Junior College Athletic Association[edit]

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) sponsors men's ice hockey at the NJCAA Division I level. Eight schools play hockey as members of the NJCAA, many also playing games against members of the ACHA. NJCAA ice hockey schools are: Anoka-Ramsey Community College, County College of Morris, Dakota College at Bottineau, Erie Community College, Hudson Valley Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, SUNY Broome Community College, Williston State College.

Outdoor games in the 21st century[edit]

A record 104,173 fans watch Michigan vs Michigan State at The Big Chill at the Big House



Longest-running annual international rivalry[edit]

A rivalry between the United States Military Academy (Army) Black Knights and the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Paladins resulted in an annual West Point Weekend hockey game.[14] The series was first played in 1923, and was claimed to be the longest-running annual international sporting event in the world.[15] Army and RMC played continuously from 1949 until 2007, when scheduling conflicts forced the academies to abandon the scheduled game.[16] The series will resume in 2011–12 and continue for the next two seasons at least.[17]

Leagues outside Northern America[edit]

In Europe the first college hockey league called EUHL was founded in 2013.[18]

In the United Kingdom, college hockey league is operated by BUIHA (British Universities Ice Hockey Association). It was founded in 2003 and currently includes 23 clubs across the UK.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]