McLeod resigning as WCHA commissioner after 2013-14 season

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod will resign when his contract expires at the end of this, his 20th season leading the league in which he once played, the league announced Friday.

The move wasn’t unexpected: McLeod hinted to administrators at last season’s American Hockey Coaches Association meetings that this season likely would be his last.

Since succeeding Otto Breitenbach in 1994, McLeod has presided over the addition of Minnesota State, Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha as well as the development in the most-attended college postseason tournament.

But he also saw the WCHA membership splinter in the summer of 2011 after Minnesota and Wisconsin departed for the new Big Ten. Six other schools broke off from the WCHA to form the NCHC, and the WCHA absorbed remaining members from the CCHA and independent Alabama-Huntsville to create the current 10-team league.

A former Minnesota-Duluth player and administrator, McLeod said he has been associated with the league since 1965.

“The opportunity to get to know and to work alongside so many outstanding coaches and administrators, to become acquainted with so many marvelous student-athletes, and watch our sport grow and prosper has been a blessing,” McLeod said in a statement released by the league. “I will forever be a fan.”

The WCHA announced last month that women’s commissioner Sara Martin was retiring. Both retirements are effective when contracts expire on June 30, 2014, and the league plans to hire two new leaders.

During McLeod’s tenure, the WCHA developed the Final Five format that drew attendance totals greater than 82,000 six times during the 2000s at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Last season, the final for the WCHA in its pre-breakup team arrangement, the tournament drew 87,295 fans.

The WCHA went through a drastic change last offseason when it lost eight former members and added six new ones.

After the Big Ten announced it would sponsor hockey and take Minnesota and Wisconsin with it, five league teams — Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota — joined with Miami of the CCHA to form the NCHC. The WCHA’s St. Cloud State and the CCHA’s Western Michigan later joined them.

In the aftermath of that breakup, McLeod and the WCHA invited members of the dissolving CCHA to join, which led to the addition of Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan. Alabama-Huntsville also found a home in the new-look WCHA after three seasons as an indepenent.

“As a group, we’ve had some bumps and bruises and weathered some difficult times, but the one thing that has remained constant has been our respect of each other and our collective commitment and effort to do what’s best both for the WCHA and the game of ice hockey,” McLeod said in a statement. “And of that I could not be more proud.”

McLeod was the first recipient of the President’s Award from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 and received the Jim Fullerton Award from the ACHA in 2004.

In the first 19 years of his time as WCHA commissioner, league teams won the national championship eight times. The Hobey Baker Award winner came from the WCHA 10 times.

McLeod joined the WCHA office after serving as athletic director, assistant athletic director, business manager and sports information director at Minnesota-Duluth after a period of over 25 years.

McLeod resigned as Minnesota-Duluth’s athletic director in 1996 amid a financial scandal. McLeod was charged with three counts of felony theft later that year but entered a program for first-time offenders.

As a winger at Minnesota-Duluth from 1966 to 1969, he had 81 points in 77 games.