Hockey East has awarded a three-year contract extension to commissioner Joe Bertagna, taking him through the 2019-20 season.
The deal extends his tenure as both the longest-serving commissioner in Hockey East history and the longest serving commissioner in the six NCAA Division I conferences. This season marks Bertagna’s 20th with Hockey East and 35th as an administrator at the conference level, which includes 15 years with ECAC Hockey.
“On behalf of my colleagues in Hockey East, we are pleased to announce a contract extension for Joe,” said Executive Committee chair and Massachusetts-Lowell athletic director Dana Skinner in a statement. “Since he became commissioner in 1997, Hockey East has developed into a preeminent conference. Joe’s presence in the college hockey world and his leadership are essential for the Conference to continue to achieve excellence in the years ahead.”
“My family and I are appreciative of this continued opportunity afforded me by the athletic directors,” added Bertagna. “More than ever, I see this as a vote of confidence for the work that Kathy Wynters, Brian Smith and the extended Hockey East staff have done to keep Hockey East a leader in our part of the hockey world.”
Bertagna is best known for his administrative work in college hockey. After spending 15 years as the primary ice hockey administrator the ECAC, Bertagna became Hockey East’s fourth commissioner on July 1, 1997. A native of Arlington, Mass., Bertagna began working at the ECAC in 1982 when he was named tournament director. He was later named executive director of ice hockey before he was appointed ice hockey commissioner in 1991.
Bertagna made his mark immediately at Hockey East, engineering a multi-year television deal (SportsChannel New England) in his first month on the job. Shortly thereafter, league tournament attendance rocketed upward, leading to the event’s first-ever sellout in 2000. Bertagna was instrumental in bringing about the formation of the women’s Hockey East, just as he initiated league play for both Division I and Division III women’s programs while with the ECAC.
In 2013, the directors recognized his contributions to the women’s game by dubbing the women’s Hockey East championship trophy the Bertagna Trophy.
Hockey East has enjoyed unparalleled success on the ice during Bertagna’s tenure, winning seven men’s national championships, including 2015 champion Providence and five of the last nine, and regularly enjoying postseason accolades for many of its student-athletes. Eight of the last 18 players recognized as “Hobey Hat Trick” honorees have come from Hockey East schools, including 2015’s winner, Boston University’s Jack Eichel.
Nationally, Bertagna has been the executive director of the American Hockey Coaches Association since 1991, the only person to serve in that capacity and last year, he celebrated his 42nd year as a goalie coach, having operated his own clinics for thousands of goalies of all ages throughout New England since 1974.
He began his professional coaching career in 1985 with the Boston Bruins, remaining with the club as the goaltender coach until 1991 and rejoining the team for the 1994-95 season. He also was part of the coaching staffs of the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 1991 Canada Cup, the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team at the 1994 Winter Olympics and with the Milwaukee Admirals from 1994 to 196.
Bertagna enjoyed a brief college coaching career at Harvard University in the late 1970s, serving as men’s junior varsity coach in 1976-77 and launching Harvard’s women’s hockey program in 1977-78. He served as head coach of Harvard women’s hockey for two seasons.
As a player, Bertagna began at Arlington (Mass.) High School, before going on to Harvard University. During his early career, he played for and learned from four Hall of Fame coaches: Ed Burns at Arlington and Ralph “Cooney” Weiland, Bill Cleary and Tim Taylor at Harvard. A two-year starter at Harvard (1971-72 and 1972-73), Bertagna led the Ivy League with a 2.45 GAA in 1972. After Harvard, he played professionally for the Milwaukee Admirals and in Cortina, Italy. He helped lead his S.G. Cortina d’Ampezzo squad to the 1975 Italian Championship.