WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod announces intention to retire after 2013-14 season

MARQUETTE – The WCHA announced Friday afternoon commissioner Bruce McLeod intends to retire after the 2013-14 season following 20 years as head of a league that won eight national championships and 10 Hobey Baker Awards during his tenure.

McLeod’s contract expires June 30, 2014, at which time, he said he will be stepping down.

“I didn’t want to put the league in the position of having to make a decision on whether to re-hire me or not at the end of the contract,” said McLeod, who turns 67 in January. “It’s a new day and it’s a new situation and if they wanted to move on, I respect that. If they wanted to keep me around, they would say so one way or the other.

“Having said that about giving them a choice, as the weeks have gone on, I’ve really felt much better about it personally, kind of almost looking forward to it. Like most people, I have some anxiety – I can’t sit at home, what am I going to do? – that kind of thing. But I do feel better about it. I feel real good.”

The WCHA hired Parker Executive Search out of Atlanta to find McLeod’s replacement with a deadline of March 14 set by the firm. According to the job posting at ParkerSearch.com, the league is looking for someone who has coached or administered at the NCAA Division I level.

Echoing the opinion of McLeod, Northern Michigan University athletic director Forrest Karr said it’s important the next commissioner of the WCHA is someone who understands the unique culture of hockey.

“I want the next commissioner to be someone that is truly passionate about the sport,” Karr said. “I think that’s important in a single sport conference, so someone when they walk in to the rink or into the locker room, the sounds and smells take them back to playing hockey growing up and the joys of hockey growing up.”

The WCHA underwent major changes in McLeod’s final years as head of the league, including the departure of two teams to the Big Ten and six others to the NCHC following the 2012-13 season.

Only four schools from 2012-13 carried over into McLeod’s final season, but the league did welcome five new teams from the now-defunct CCHA and one independent in Alabama-Huntsville.

“Once we started to play, everything seemed to fall into place pretty good,” McLeod said. “I feel way better than I did a year ago about the state of the WCHA. That just leads me to believe (the change is) a good thing for me and for the league.

“I think we’re heading in a good direction. I think the league is getting more cohesive and their vision for the future is getting better. I do feel good about where the league is at.”

McLeod was hired by the WCHA to replace retiring commissioner Otto Breitenbach starting with the 1994-95 season.

Following the 1996-97 season, NMU left the WCHA for the CCHA, then returned with four other CCHA members this season following the fall of the CCHA.

Prior to taking over as commissioner of the WCHA, McLeod spent 25 years at Minnesota Duluth as the athletic director, assistant athletic director, business manager and sports information director.

“I have been fortunate to know Bruce closely for more than 30 years, from his time at Minnesota Duluth, the first era when Northern Michigan was in the WCHA, and on to him being WCHA commissioner,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said in a statement. “His love and passion for the game of college hockey, and his dedication and commitment to the sport, have always been at the forefront. His integrity and his leadership, and the enthusiasm that comes through in every conversation I’ve had with him, have left no doubt that what he was doing was always in the best interest of the league and the game. I will always value his friendship and advice.”

In addition to McLeod, WCHA women’s hockey commissioner Sara Martin will also step down on June 30. She announced her retirement on Nov. 13 and a separate search is underway for her replacement.