Winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's regular season championship, as has proven time and time again over the past 65 seasons, is traditionally one of the toughest titles to win in collegiate sports.
Since the Association's founding in 1951-52, the number of games that have made up the league's regular season championship race have fluctuated as well as the methods of determining the champions. The number of league games have ranged from a low of 12 in the founding season of 1951-52 to a high of 35 games that ran from 1986-87 through 1988-89. Since 1997-98, the conference schedule has consisted of 28 games per team.
Methods of determining the annual regular season team champion have included points accumulated (1951-58, 1973-79 and 1980-present) and winning percentage (1959-73, 1979-80). Beginning in 2016-17, the league will move to a three-points-per-game model.
The conference regular season title includes the awarding of the fabled MacNaughton Cup to the team champion.
Historic MacNaughton Cup Awarded to WCHA Regular Season Champion
Dating back 104 years to its original purchase in 1913, handcrafted of pure silver, standing three-feet high, and weighing more than 40 pounds, the MacNaughton Cup is the shining symbol of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and its distinguished tradition as a premier collegiate hockey conference since the league's founding in 1951.
The MacNaughton Cup is awarded annually to the winner of the league's regular season championship, and as a traveling trophy, is on display each season at the home of the reigning champion. Beginning in 2005-06, the WCHA also began awarding a replica MacNaughton Cup to the regular season champion each season.
The MacNaughton Cup has traveled a long and winding road since its initial purchase in 1913 by the Calumet (Michigan) and Hecla Mining Company, but officially settled into a home with the original WCHA (MCHL/WIHL) in 1951.
In 1913, James MacNaughton, then president of Calumet and Hecla, Inc., and an avid supporter of amateur ice hockey, authorized the president of the American Amateur Hockey Association to purchase a cup (he said the price didn't matter) and present it to the Association's championship team at the end of the season. The first winner was a team from the Cleveland (Ohio) Athletic Club. The MacNaughton Cup remained with the AAHA until it ceased operations in 1920.
From 1921 to 1950, the Cup was fought for by semi-pro and intermediate hockey aggregations in Michigan's Copper Country. In 1951, the cup was donated by Calumet and Hecla, Inc., through the generosity of Mr. & Mrs. Endicott R. Lovell, to the newly-founded Midwest Collegiate Hockey League, forerunner of the WCHA. Lovell, president of the company at that time and the son-in-law of James MacNaughton, was also a ardent supporter of amateur hockey.
The MCHL chose – in the original spirit – to award the trophy to its regular season champion. The MacNaughton Cup remained a part of the MCHL/WIHL until the league disbanded in March of 1958 for one year. In 1959-60, the seven original teams resumed formal competition under the name Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The MacNaughton Cup has gone to the league's regular season winner on all but seven occasions since 1951. From 1962-65, the MacNaughton Cup was presented to the league playoff winner.
In 1981-82, 1982-83 and 1983-84, the trophy left with Cup custodian Michigan Tech and was presented to the champion of the CCHA for those three seasons.