The CCHA announced former University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia as the conference’s new commissioner via a virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Lucia coached 31 seasons at the men’s Division I level, spending six years at Alaska-Fairbanks and six years at Colorado College before spending the final 19 years of his coaching career at Minnesota. In total, he won 736 career games behind the bench, including back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003.
He makes an interesting choice for the league that will begin play in 2021-2022. Two of the league’s head coaches, Mike Hastings at Minnesota State and Grant Potulny at Northern Michigan, worked as assistant coaches under Lucia at Minnesota.
One of the first challenges Lucia will face as commissioner is finding a potential eighth member for the seven-team league. The likely favorite is the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, whose proposal to move their athletic program from Division III to Division I is being considered by the NCAA this week. Lucia lives in the Twin Cities area and adding another member in that geographic footprint makes a lot of sense for the league. He also has close ties to Alaska schools, specifically Fairbanks, and they will be looking for a new conference.
But beyond that, Lucia is taking over a group of seven teams that were running a fairly functional conference despite some of their geographic challenges, and that will no longer be burdened with some of their biggest geographic challenges. There are likely to be some major short-term challenges throughout college hockey caused by the uncertainty of Covid-19. But his respect in the college hockey world is unquestioned, and he puts the CCHA in a strong position to navigate their way through them.