1940s – First NCAA Tournament

Previous: 1930s – West Coast Rises and the East Coast Goes International

In May 1947, fifteen college representatives created the American Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA). Their focus was to organize the amateur hockey game by encouraging NCAA rules, organizing hockey officials, promoting the construction of indoor rinks, and creating a code of ethics. The ACHA pushed hard on the NCAA to establish a national tournament to promote the game and bring order to a bunch of leagues that felt like separate entities. While the ACHA was trying to determine the perfect location of a future tournament, Thayer Tutt, owner of the Broadmoor Hotel and Broadmoor Ice Palace (later renamed the Broadmoor World Arena), made his pitch. He proposed to pick up all expenses if the ACHA and NCAA agreed to play the tournament at his ice arena for the first ten years. It was a win-win situation for everyone. Even the coaches and players who participated in the tournament exclaimed how lavish the accommodations were.

The first tournament to crown a national champion was held there the very next year in 1948. Four teams took part in the single-game elimination tournament. This four-team tournament format would continue until 1977. The first NCAA national champion was crowned when a 20-2-1 Michigan Wolverine team defeated Dartmouth 8-4 in the 1948 title game. It’s only fitting that Michigan won the first tournament considering they are tied with Denver for most NCAA Division I men’s championships with a total of nine. The other two teams that participated in the inaugural tournament were Boston College and the hosts, Colorado College. Joe Riley from Dartmouth was crowned the first-ever Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

The following year in 1949, the same four teams participated in the tournament. Once again, Dartmouth was the national runner-up when they were defeated by a score of 4-3 by Boston College. This was Boston College’s first of five national championships they’ve won over the years.

Colorado College hosts Dartmouth at the Broadmoor Ice Palace January 4, 1947.
The Broadmoor Ice Palace was the home rink of the Colorado College Tigers and served as host of the first ten NCAA national tournaments beginning in 1948.

With all the hockey excitement on the West Coast in the 1930s, it proved to be short lived. Loyola fired their football coach, Tom Lieb, in 1938, which coincidentally was also their hockey coach. When he left Loyola, his Minnesota recruiting left as well. Only seven students tried out for the Loyola hockey team the following year. USC won the Pacific Coast League titles in 1940 and 1941. Both teams ended their hockey programs in 1941; seven years before the first NCAA national tournament began. Cal continued onward with their hockey program. However, by 1949, they were the last California hockey program left and the team no longer had a home arena. Cal folded its hockey program two years later in 1951; thus ending NCAA hockey in the Golden State.

Next: 1950s – Founding of WCHA and a Michigan Dynasty