Hockey East commissioner Bertagna earns USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award

Joe Bertagna - The University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks defeated the Providence College Friars 2-1 at 12:27 of the third overtime in their Hockey East semi-final meeting on Friday, March 18, 2016, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Joe Bertagna has been Hockey East commissioner since 1991 (photo: Melissa Wade).

USA Hockey announced Tuesday that Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna will be awarded the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award, one of the national governing body’s most prestigious accolades, at the 2017 Annual Congress in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Created in 1991, the award is presented annually to a United States citizen who has made hockey his or her profession and has made outstanding contributions, on or off the ice, to the sport in America.

The 2017-18 season marks Bertagna’s 20th with Hockey East and 35th as an administrator at the conference level, which includes 15 years with ECAC Hockey. Bertagna recently signed a contract extension that runs through the 2019-20 season, extending his tenure as both the longest-serving commissioner in Hockey East history and the longest-serving commissioner in the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences.

On May 16, he was named to the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

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. He 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 commissioner in 1991.

Bertagna made his mark immediately at Hockey East, engineering a multi-year television deal with 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 Association, 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.

As a player, Bertagna began at Arlington (Mass.) High School, before going on to Harvard. 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.