List of NCAA Division I men's ice hockey seasons
Tournament play begins
Though U.S. colleges had been fielding men's ice hockey teams since 1895, the NCAA did not have a formal tournament in place to decide a champion until after World War II. Starting with the 1947-48 season, the NCAA tournament invited the four top-ranked teams to Colorado Springs, Colorado to compete for the NCAA Championship.
|No.||Season||Tournament||No. of teams
|1||1947–48||1948||4[a 1]||March 20||Michigan (1)||None||(20–2–1)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|2||1948–49||1949||4[a 2]||March 19||Boston College (1)||None||(21–1–0)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|3||1949–50||1950||4||March 18||Colorado College (1)||None||(18–5–1)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|4||1950–51||1951||4[a 3]||March 17||Michigan (2)||None||(22–4–1)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|5||1951–52||1952||4||March 15||Michigan (3)||MCHL||(22–4–0)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|6||1952–53||1953||4||March 14||Michigan (4)||MCHL||(22–4–0)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|7||1953–54||1954||4||March 13||Rensselaer (1)||Tri-State League||(18–5–0)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|8||1954–55||1955||4||March 12||Michigan (5)||WIHL||(18–5–1)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|9||1955–56||1956||4||March 17||Michigan (6)||WIHL||(20–2–1)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|10||1956–57||1957||4||March 16||Colorado College (2)||WIHL||(25–5–0)||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
- Tournament play begins with 4 independent Division I teams invited to participate. No formal conferences existed at this time.
- A third-place game was instituted.
- Ice hockey conferences begin to form, beginning with the Tri-State League and followed the next year by the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (precursor to the WCHA).
After spending 10 years at one location, the NCAA began to move the Division I ice hockey tournament to different sites. Over the next 14 years, the tournament was held in 11 different venues and, more importantly to the northeast teams, was held in New England eight times. While the rotations stopped briefly in 1972, they resumed after 1974 and the tournament has not been held in the same city for consecutive years since.
- Two games were played between eastern teams to determine tournament participants. Neither game is considered as part of the NCAA or ECAC tournaments.]
- The 1969–70 Cornell Big Red are thus far the only NCAA Division I men's ice hockey champion to complete a perfect season since tournament play began.
- The University of Denver's participation in the 1973 tournament was later vacated by the NCAA committee on infractions.
For the 30th season of the tournament, which had become the de facto possession of the WCHA and ECAC, the NCAA instituted a First Round game where the CCHA champion would play. The first round system stayed in place, with one or two games being played, until 1981 when a full quarterfinal round was adopted. Between 1981 and 1987 the quarterfinals consisted of two games where the team that scored the most goals in the two games would advance to the "Frozen Four". Between 1977 and 1987 Detroit, Michigan and Providence, Rhode Island would each host the tournament 4 separate times.
- Four teams leave the WCHA and join the more geographically concentrated CCHA. Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame (Michigan Tech would rejoin the WCHA 3 years later).
- Six teams leave the ECAC over disagreements about the length of the conference schedule. Boston College, Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Providence leave to form the Hockey East conference in 1984 and are joined by Division II Lowell (now known as UMass Lowell).
With 4 major conferences and a myriad of independent programs competing at the Division I level, the tournament was expanded to 12 teams beginning with the 1987-88 season. The first round followed the same pattern as the quarterfinals with teams playing two games against a single opponent and the one with a higher goal total after the series advancing. The rest of the tournament retained the earlier format. One year later the goal-total format was abandoned and replaced by a best-of-three series for the opening round and quarterfinals. In 1992 the entire tournament was switched to a single-elimination format and divided into two regional locations that would feed into the "Frozen Four". For the first time, in 1999, the championship was held in a region without a local Division I program when the championship round was awarded to Anaheim, California.
- The third-place game was discontinued.
- The University of Wisconsin's participation in the 1992 tournament was later vacated by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Further expansion and commercialization
After the addition of two more conferences around the turn of the century (MAAC and CHA, neither of which now sponsors men's hockey) bringing up the total number to 6, and with each receiving an at-large bid starting in 2001 and 2003 respectively, the tournament was again expanded by 4 teams. Two additional regional groups were added (Northeast and Midwest) and byes into the quarterfinals were eliminated. Additionally the "Frozen Four" was seen as a vehicle to increase both revenue and the popularity of college hockey, as such the apex of the tournament began to move around to non-traditional college hockey areas, usually in the buildings of NHL teams.
The first decade of the 21st century saw significant changes to hockey's conference landscape. After the 2002–03 season, the MAAC hockey programs split from the league to form Atlantic Hockey. CHA stopped sponsoring men's hockey after the 2009–10 season, but still operates as a women's league.
|No.||Season||Tournament||No. of teams
|56||2002–03||2003||16||October 4||April 12||Minnesota (5)||WCHA||(28–8–9)||Buffalo, New York|
|57||2003–04||2004||16[e 1]||October 3||April 10||Denver (6)||WCHA||(27–12–5)||Boston, Massachusetts|
|58||2004–05||2005||16||October 3||April 9||Denver (7)||WCHA||(32–9–2)||Columbus, Ohio|
|59||2005–06||2006||16||October 7||April 8||Wisconsin (6)||WCHA||(30–10–3)||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|60||2006–07||2007||16||October 6||April 7||Michigan State (3)||CCHA||(26–13–3)||St. Louis, Missouri|
|61||2007–08||2008||16||October 7||April 12||Boston College (3)||Hockey East||(25–11–8)||Denver, Colorado|
|62||2008–09||2009||16||October 10||April 11||Boston University (5)||Hockey East||(35–6–4)||Washington, D.C.|
|63||2009–10||2010||16||October 8||April 10||Boston College (4)||Hockey East||(29–10–3)||Detroit, Michigan[e 2]|
|64||2010–11||2011||16[e 3]||October 2||April 9||Minnesota-Duluth (1)||WCHA||(26–10–6)||St. Paul, Minnesota|
|65||2011–12||2012||16||October 1||April 7||Boston College (5)||Hockey East||(33–10–1)||Tampa, Florida|
|66||2012–13||2013||16||October 6||April 13||Yale (1)||ECAC||(22–12–3)||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|
- The MAAC's hockey programs break away to form Atlantic Hockey.
- The Frozen Four was held at Ford Field in Detroit. This was the first championship in NCAA ice hockey history held at a venue designed for field sports.
- College Hockey America ceases sponsoring men's hockey after all of its four remaining programs either joined other conferences or went independent. The conference remains in operation to this day as a women's-only league.
Conference realignment and dissolution
In 2010, Terrence Pegula, an alumnus of Pennsylvania State University, donated $102 million to his alma mater for the express purpose of building a brand-new hockey arena and to fund the upgrade of both the men's and women's ice hockey programs from club level to Division I. This began a chain of events that caused a massive amount of conference realignment, the founding of two new conferences, and the ending of one of the oldest conferences in the NCAA. Penn State's rise to the D-I ranks gave the Big Ten its sixth university that sponsored varsity men's ice hockey, a number significant for two reasons. First, Big Ten bylaws dictate that the conference can only sponsor a sport if it has at least six participating members. More significantly, NCAA rules on conference formation dictate that at least six teams must be present for a conference to receive an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. In short order the other five teams announced their intention to leave their current conferences (WCHA and CCHA). In response several members of the WCHA, including traditional powerhouses Denver and North Dakota, split to form a new conference, the NCHC. The NCHC quickly grew to 8 member teams, leaving the WCHA with only 4 remaining schools and the CCHA with 6. Five of the remaining CCHA schools then proceeded to join the WCHA, along with the Independent Alabama-Huntsville, bringing the WCHA up to 10 member schools. The remaining CCHA team, Notre Dame, joined Hockey East. In essence all of the universities that changed conferences were not significantly harmed by the changes because no team was left without a conference by the start of the 2013–14 season, but the shift did create one more automatic qualifier for the tournament, reducing the chance to receive an at-large bid for all schools across the nation.
|No.||Season||Tournament||No. of teams
|67||2013–14||2014||16[f 1]||October 4||April 12||Union (1)||ECAC||(30–6–4)||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|68||2014–15||2015||16||October 4||April 13||Providence (1)||Hockey East||(26–13–2)||Boston, Massachusetts|
|69||2015–16||2016||16||October 3||April 9||North Dakota (8)||NCHC||(34–6–4)||Tampa, Florida|
|70||2016–17||2017||16||October 1||April 8||Denver (8)||NCHC||(33–7–4)||Chicago, Illinois|
- Major conference realignment shook the Division I men's hockey landscape, with the following changes:
- The Big Ten became the first Division I all-sports conference to sponsor men's ice hockey since the MAAC ceased sponsorship of the sport in 2003. Before 2013–14, the six Big Ten hockey schools consisted of three WCHA members, two CCHA members, and one independent.
- Five WCHA members and one CCHA member announced in 2011 that they would form the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, with play to start in 2013–14. Several months after the NCHC was formed, two more schools joined, one from the CCHA and one from the WCHA.
- The CCHA folded at the end of the 2012–13 season. In addition to the previously mentioned conference moves, one school (Notre Dame) joined Hockey East (becoming that conference's first non-New England member) and five either joined or rejoined the WCHA.
- In addition to the five former CCHA members, the WCHA added former independent Alabama–Huntsville.
- "Yale Men's Hockey Team History". USCHO.com. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- "NCAA Division I Tournament". College Hockey Historical Archives. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- "History of the Tri-State League". College Hockey Historical Archives. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- "History of the WCHA". College Hockey Historical Archives. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- "NCAA Puts Denver on Two Year Probation". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- "Penn State Makes it Official: Varsity Programs on the Way". USCHO.com. 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
- "The CCHA is going away, but its history will have a final resting place". USCHO.com. 2013-03-06. Retrieved 2013-07-23.