CCHA tabs ‘proven leader and winner’ Lucia as revamped conference’s first commissioner

18 Feb 12: Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers host the Bemidji State University Beavers in a WCHA matchup at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
Don Lucia wrapped up his 31-year NCAA coaching with Minnesota after the 2017-18 season (photo: Jim Rosvold).

The new-look CCHA, which will begin play in the 2021-22 season, has named Don Lucia its first commissioner.

Lucia’s appointment was announced in a Zoom conference call Wednesday afternoon.

One of the most successful coaches in college hockey history, Lucia’s head coaching tenure included stints at the Alaska Fairbanks, Colorado College and Minnesota, where he was the Golden Gophers’ winningest coach in program history.

At the helm of the Golden Gophers, Lucia won two national championships (2002 and 2003) while appearing in five NCAA tournaments. He also led CC to an NCAA runner-up finish in 1996 and an appearance in the 1997 Frozen Four semifinals.

“The member institutions of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association are pleased to announce Don Lucia as our new commissioner,” said Northern Michigan president Fritz Erickson said in a statement. “Don has a tremendous background of success in college hockey and his wealth of knowledge, vision and passion for the game was very evident and impressive throughout our search. The CCHA presidents believe Don will lead us to great success and we are excited for what’s ahead.”

The CCHA, made up of current WCHA schools Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan, announced its plans to realign in February.

Alabama Huntsville, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage will not be part of the CCHA, but will play the final season of the WCHA in 2020-21.

“We are thrilled with the addition of Don Lucia as CCHA commissioner,” said Perk Weisenburger, Ferris State director of athletics and search chair. “I would like to thank the members of our search committee who represented each of the seven institutions that will form the CCHA when we open play in October of 2021, as well as our consultant Dr. Morris Kurtz for his dedication and commitment throughout this exhaustive process. We had several extremely well qualified candidates who made thorough and in-depth presentations to our membership and we thank them for their interest, time and energy.”

Lucia coached numerous all-conference team members, All-Americans, conference players of the year and a Hobey Baker Award winner. He earned league honors as Coach of the Year on five occasions. He was also selected as recipient of the Spencer Penrose Award in 1994, awarded annually to the top collegiate coach by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

Lucia also spent time with USA Hockey, serving most recently as head coach of the U.S. World Junior team in 2013-14.

“I would like to thank all the presidents, athletic directors, and coaches who were involved in the search process for this tremendous opportunity,” Lucia said. “The seven members of the CCHA have rich hockey tradition and I am honored to lead them moving forward. I can’t wait to get started on building the foundation of the CCHA for the inaugural season in 2021-22.

“I was certainly impressed by everyone in the process. I looked at it as a way to get back into the game, and I’m just really excited to get going.”

Prior to his head coaching career, Lucia spent six seasons as an assistant at Alaska (1981-85) and Alaska Anchorage (1985-87). A 1981 graduate of Notre Dame, he served as alternate captain for the Fighting Irish during his senior season.

Lucia retired from coaching in 2018 following a 31-year career where he amassed a record of 736-403-102 (.634). He is the eighth all-time winningest men’s hockey coach in NCAA history and ranks sixth among Division I men’s coaches.

“Don is highly respected in our game and checks all the boxes with his experience, knowledge and integrity,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “There isn’t much that he hasn’t seen in nearly four decades as a college coach. He’s a proven leader and winner in college hockey.”