Hockey East commissioner Bertagna to step down at conclusion of ’19-20 season

Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna was in attendance. - The visiting Boston University Terriers defeated the Boston College Eagles 5-3 (EN) on Friday, November 7, 2014, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna has served in that role since 1997 (photo: Melissa Wade).

Hockey East announced Monday that the 2019-20 season will be Joe Bertagna’s final year as commissioner of the conference.

Bertagna, who began his tenure with Hockey East in July of 1997, is the longest-serving NCAA hockey commissioner in the sport’s history. The upcoming season will be his 23rd with Hockey East and 38th overall, as he served in a similar capacity with ECAC Hockey for 15 years.

A native of Arlington, Mass., Bertagna launched his hockey career there as a goaltender for legendary coach Ed Burns. He went on to play goal for three other Hall of Fame coaches at Harvard in Ralph “Cooney” Weiland, Tim Taylor and Billy Cleary. His administrative career began as an intern with the ECAC in the fall of 1976. He returned to the ECAC in 1982 as an administrator under the tutelage of Scotty Whitelaw and Clayton Chapman.

The executive director of the American Hockey Coaches Association since the position was first created in 1991, Bertagna will remain in that capacity as his agreement was recently extended through the 2022-23 season. He is also active as a nationally-recognized coach of goaltenders, having run summer programs for the past 46 years as well as serving in such high visibility roles as goalie coach for the Boston Bruins (1985-91) and the U.S. Olympic Team (1994.)

During his tenure with Hockey East, Bertagna has overseen a number of triumphs for the conference, including a successful hosting of the 2015 Frozen Four in Boston, several new television contracts, multiple sold-out events at Fenway Park, and the addition of Notre Dame, Connecticut and Holy Cross to the conference membership.

In the summer of 2017, Bertagna’s career accomplishments were recognized with a pair of prestigious honors as he was presented the Distinguished Service Award by USA Hockey and was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame. In the spring of 2018, his ECAC years were recognized when he was inducted into the ECAC Hall of Fame.

Bertagna has also served the game as a journalist and has authored a number of books, the most recent being, “The Hockey Coaching Bible,” released in the fall of 2015. The collection of instructional pieces includes chapters written by a number of coaches with ties to Hockey East, including Bertagna, Mike Cavanaugh, Mark Dennehy, Nate Leaman, Jack Parker and Ben Smith.

Bertagna has also written numerous books on goaltending as well as a pictorial history of Harvard athletics. In the mid-1980s, Bertagna also edited two editions of “Not The Boston Globe,” a successful parody of the daily newspaper sold throughout New England.

After spending 15 years as the primary hockey administrator in 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 (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.

Media coverage of Hockey East has soared under Bertagna’s direction, as evidenced by his engineering numerous regional and national deals with NESN, the American Sports Network, NBC Sports Network and ESPN3.

Bertagna has also delivered a number of high-profile special events for Hockey East member schools. During the 2015-16 season, UMass Lowell and Northeastern played in the first Friendship Four Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland, along with Brown and Colgate. Since the inaugural event, nearly every Hockey East men’s program has traveled overseas and in 2019, Bertagna was instrumental in organizing the first-ever international women’s series between Northeastern and Clarkson in Belfast.

He also serves on the Board of Directors of both USA Hockey and the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation.

Another major contribution on the national stage has come in his role with the Hockey Commissioners Association. The commissioners of the six NCAA Division I men’s hockey conferences have launched a number of initiatives that have helped grow the game at the national and international levels. In recent years, Bertagna was instrumental in securing funds for the formation of College Hockey, Inc., the marketing arm of the HCA, as well as expanding the opportunities afforded to the women’s leagues.

Bertagna 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 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 1996.

Bertagna enjoyed a brief college coaching career at Harvard University in the late 1970s, serving as men’s JV coach in 1976-77 before 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. 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.