Founded in 1951 as the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL), then renamed the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (WIHL) in 1953 and then on to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in 1959, the league has evolved on numerous occasions over seven decades, always with a mindset of growing the game and assisting developing programs however possible. Today's men's WCHA covers a wide, diverse geographical area that encompasses five time zones and more than 4,200 miles, and consists of ten top-quality institutions that offer the best in both educational and athletic environments. The 10 member teams are University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats).
No collegiate athletic conference – in any sport – can top the impressive list of national scale accomplishments of the WCHA. Since 1951, member teams have earned a record 37 men's national championships while finishing as the national runner-up 27 times. The league has produced a record 16 Hobey Baker Memorial Award Winners, has had more than 450 alums go on to the National Hockey League, and boasts of more than 350 All-Americans and 110 Olympians. Just a few of the stars who have worn WCHA team jerseys are the likes of John Mayasich, Bill 'Red' Hay, John Matchefts, Bill Reichart and Bill Steenson in the 1950s, Lou Angotti, Gordon 'Red' Berenson, Tony Esposito, 'Huffer' Christiansen and Keith Magnuson in the 1960s, Curt Giles, Doug Palazzari, Mark Johnson, Bill Nyrop, Tom Ross and Mike Zuke in the 1970s, Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Tony Hrkac, Tom Kurvers and Bill Watson in the 1980s, Scott Beattie, Brian Bonin, Derek Plante and Brian Swanson in the 1990s, and David Backes, Mark Hartigan, Matt Carle, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews and Thomas Vanek in the 2000s. In the most recent 2014 Olympic Winter Games held in Sochi, Russia, 17 former or current WCHA players competed. The group included Gold medal winners Chris Kunitz and Jonathan Toews of Canada, two alums competing for Austria in Thomas Vanek and Andreas Nodl, Ralfs Freibergs for Latvia, and USA team members David Backes, Justin Faulk, Phil Kessel, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, Ryan Suter and Blake Wheeler.
When it comes to coaching, WCHA teams and players have benefitted from the expertise of some of the best minds in the game. Consider the likes of Murray Armstrong, Amo Bessone, Herb Brooks, Rick Comley, Bob Daniels, Gino Gasparini, Vic Heyliger, Don Lucia, John Mariucci, John MacInnes, Bob Johnson, Jeff Sauer, Mike Sertich, Charles 'Lefty' Smith and Doug Woog.
Crowds at WCHA-member games are always among the most enthusiastic in all of hockey, with the league drawing in excess of one million fans over 20 consecutive seasons between 1993 and 2013. The WCHA Final Five, the league's annual playoff championship, has been among the most successful college tournaments in the country, with great crowds and media coverage that has included the tourney being telecast live by FOX Sports North. For 2015, the WCHA Final Five returns to Xcel Energy Center and Saint Paul, after being contested for the first time at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2014. The WCHA Final Five will alternate between those two premier midwestern facilities through 2017.
For the second straight season, fans around the world can also watch WCHA-member team home games live and in HD via the league's streaming partnership with America ONE Sports. College hockey's longest running weekly conference radio show, "This Week in the WCHA" has been a fixture for more than 15 seasons, and the league's official website – WCHA.com and WCHA.com/mobile will continue to bring new features and and developments to fans everywhere.