Teams from the WCHA are among the best in the country, year after year. As a unit, the league has won 29 NCAA titles, as well as claiming runner-up honors 25 times. WCHA teams have appeared a total of 77 times on the national stage.
Obviously, players and coaches of member schools take pride in such success over the years. But where do the players come from, and where do they get their game experience?
Let’s take a look.
According to the 1996-97 WCHA Yearbook, there are 278 players among the 10 WCHA teams. There are 14 states and seven Canadian provinces represented, as well as five European nations.
The top geographic location for players? By a landslide, it’s Minnesota with 94. Next, but well behind the Land of 10,000 Lakes, are two Canadian provinces: Alberta with 31, and Ontario with 24. A full breakdown looks like this:
British Columbia — 20
Saskatchewan — 20
Manitoba — 15
Michigan — 15
Alaska — 11
Wisconsin — 11
Colorado — 6
Illinois — 5
North Dakota — 5
Finland — 5
Sweden — 4
Pennsylvania — 3
New York — 2
Missouri — 2
Slovakia — 2
The nations of Russia and Latvia, the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick and the states of New Jersey, California, Washington and Massachusetts each have one player currently in the WCHA.
The state of Minnesota, which far-and-away provides the most talent to the WCHA, also permeates the conference most fully. Each of the 10 WCHA teams has at least one Minnesotan; in particular, all 26 players on the Golden Gopher roster are natives, followed by St. Cloud State, where 18 of the 26 players are from the North Star State.
As for playing experience, the United States Hockey League has 92 players currently in the conference. The USHL thus outdistances high schools — all of them combined — which collectively have provided 63 current WCHA players. Several Canadian leagues are also prime sources, as follows (note: in what follows, the abbreviation “JHL” denotes “Junior Hockey League”).
Saskatchewan JHL — 25 British Columbia JHL — 24 Alberta JHL — 17 Manitoba JHL — 13 Several other Canadian leagues feature players on current WCHA teams, bringing the total for Canadian junior hockey to around 95, pretty much even with the USHL. Also, 31 players can trace their roots to other, smaller sources — transfers, European leagues, and so forth.
As noted above, the USHL leads the conference in terms of playing experience; all 10 WCHA teams have at least one player who has played in the USHL.
Team by team, Alaska-Anchorage features 16 members with USHL experience, followed by St. Cloud State with 14; North Dakota and Colorado College, 12; Minnesota-Duluth and Denver, 8; Wisconsin and Michigan Tech, 7; Northern Michigan, 6; and Minnesota, 2.
Eight of the 10 (Northern Michigan and Alaska-Anchorage being the exceptions) have players whose previous playing time came in high school.
Also, all but two teams (St. Cloud State and Minnesota) have players who last played in the British Columbia JHL. Alaska-Anchorage has the most of these, with seven players sporting experience in that league.