The athletic directors of the men’s Hockey East conference have 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. The vote took place at the annual Fall meeting.
Currently five of the nine Hockey East schools have Division I programs. Those five are Boston College, Maine, Providence, Northeastern and New Hampshire. These five schools currently play in the ECAC Northern League.
“No organization in the country has done more for the development and growth of women’s ice hockey than the ECAC,” said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. “But 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.”
Three other Hockey East schools currently have club programs for women. Those schools are UMass-Amherst, UMass-Lowell and Boston University. Merrimack is the only school without a club or varsity program, but is currently exploring the possibility of adding a varsity program.
A task force will be established to assume responsibility for the formation of the new league’s policies and procedures.
This season, the ECAC Women’s League was split into two conferences, the Eastern and Northern Leagues. The Eastern League contains nine Division I women’s programs that also have men’s programs in the ECAC. The Northern League is comprised of the above five Hockey East schools, plus Niagara, Quinnipiac and Connecticut.