EDINA, Minn. – September 30, 2016 – Honoring two individuals for their exceptional efforts on behalf of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the Association announced today that it will bestow the Otto Breitenbach WCHA Distinguished Service Award to longtime Conference office employee Carol LaBelle-Ehrhardt and the late Oliver "Butch" Mousseau, a beloved Men's League official.
Renamed the Otto Breitenbach WCHA Distinguished Service Award in conjunction with the 50th anniversary season of 2001-02, the honor is presented to individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to the Association. Award recipients, who are nominated and voted upon by WCHA member institutions, have included coaches, administrators, officials and members of the media. LaBelle-Ehrhardt and Mousseau become the 40th and 41st honorees, respectively.
"The WCHA has long been recognized as one of the premier conferences in college hockey on and off the ice, and Carol LaBelle-Erhardt and Butch Mousseau both helped us reach those heights," said Greg Shepherd, the WCHA's longtime supervisor of officials and a colleague of both throughout their time with the Association.
"Carol worked tirelessly for two decades to make the Men's and Women's leagues the best in the country, and did so with the highest levels of integrity and class," continued Shepherd. "She also ran the Final Five tournament, putting it on par – if not above – the Frozen Four. On the ice, Butch was always one of our best officials, and his smile was a welcome sight at all WCHA arenas. Both are very deserving of this honor."
WCHA Associate Commissioner of Operations, 1997-2014
LaBelle-Ehrhardt enjoyed a 17-year tenure as WCHA Associate Commissioner of Operations, helping shepherd the league first through an unprecedented period of growth, and then transition. Originally hired by then-Commissioner Bruce McLeod in July 1997, she was responsible for the WCHA's finances and events, while also creating conference schedules for the men's and women's leagues.
In her role as Men's League Tournament Director, LaBelle-Ehrhardt oversaw the transition of the WCHA Final Five from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to the Target Center in Minneapolis and, finally, to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul – along with its subsequent growth as college hockey's premier conference tournament, including a record 88,900 fans in 2007. She also led the 2014 tournament at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.
LaBelle-Ehrhardt also played a key role as the Association twice underwent significant change, first with the creation of the WCHA Women's League for the 1999-2000 season, and then during the transition to the current 10-team Men's League in 2013-14. She assisted Women's League Commissioner Sara Martin in welcoming and integrating the initial seven teams of the women's WCHA, and again for North Dakota as it entered in 2004. On the men's side, she was an integral point of contact and resource as Minnesota State (1999), Bemidji State (2010) and Omaha (2010) joined the WCHA; and then, for the realignment period during which the league welcomed Alabama Huntsville, Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan for the 2013-14 season.
In her final years with the WCHA, LaBelle-Ehrhardt also launched the league's social media presence.
Oliver "Butch" Mousseau (Posthumously)
WCHA Official, 2003-16
Oliver "Butch" Mousseau, who tragically passed away March 25 stemming from critical head injuries suffered during a fall to the ice during warmups March 18, was a highly-respected official in the WCHA for 13 seasons. More importantly, he was – and is – a beloved person and figure in the sport of hockey.
The consummate professional on the ice and a wonderful, positive human being in all facets of life, Mousseau was widely-regarded as one of the league's best officials – not just at calling the game between the boards, but in his communication with players, coaches and administrators.
Mousseau joined the WCHA for the 2003-04 campaign and was nearly always rated as one of the league's top on-ice officials. The 2016 tournament was his seventh Final Five assignment, while he worked three Broadmoor Trophy championship games.
A true champion of hockey at all levels, Mousseau served as a part-time official in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) since the league's inception in 2013-14, was a USA Hockey official since 1998, worked as a referee in the East Coast Hockey League beginning with the 1999-2000 season, and also had assignments in the American Hockey League (AHL) and now-defunct Central Hockey League (CHL). As the first Native American to work a game at the top level of the sport, Mousseau's National Hockey League (NHL) officials' sweater and skates are in the league's Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.
Mousseau left an indelibly positive impact upon everyone whom he came in contact with. The WCHA is, and always will be, a better league because of Butch's involvement.
About the Otto Breitenbach WCHA Distinguished Service Award
Renamed the Otto Breitenbach WCHA Distinguished Service Award in conjunction with the 50th anniversary season of 2001-02, the honor is presented to individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to the Association. There are no restrictions concerning persons eligible for the award or the number of awards that may be presented; however, a person shall not be eligible for nomination until after completion of their service to the Association. Nominees are brought forth by WCHA member institutions, who then vote on recipients. For more information, visit: http://wcha.com/men/wcha/history.php.
About Otto Breitenbach
One of the true giants in the annals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and all of college hockey, longtime Commissioner and distinguished collegiate and high school athletic administrator Otto Breitenbach passed away in January of 2007 at the age of 82. Breitenbach served as WCHA Commissioner for 10 seasons from 1983-84 through 1993-94, helping the league continually improve upon its high caliber of competition and integrity, as well as its stature as one of the nation's premier collegiate conferences. A native of Madison, Wis., he received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin and served UW for 15 distinguished years as associate athletic director in charge of sports that included football, hockey and basketball. An inspiration to all who knew him as a champion of amateur athletics at all levels, Breitenbach was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches' Hall of Fame and the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in 1980; and then, into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.