May 23—BOWLING GREEN — As a founding member of the storied Central Collegiate Hockey Association, the Bowling Green State University hockey program feels like it is returning home with the revival of the league.
The CCHA, which existed for 43 years from 1971-2013, is returning to action for the 2021-22 season.
Bowling Green, which had competed in the WCHA the last seven seasons, is re-joining the revamped eight-member CCHA. The Falcons were an original member of the CCHA along with Ohio, Ohio State, and St. Louis.
"We're really, really excited about it," said BG coach Ty Eigner, a former Falcon defenseman who competed in the CCHA. "For Bowling Green, the CCHA feels like home. The only league that BG hockey knew for the first 40 plus years of its existence was the CCHA. Now for us to be back in a league that means a lot to the people on our campus, our alums, and our university, it's really great that things have come full circle."
The newly revamped league will consist of four programs in the state of Michigan, three in Minnesota, and one in Ohio.
Bowling Green joins Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Tech University, Northern Michigan University, Bemidji State University, Minnesota State University, and the University of St. Thomas in the league.
"We have a nice eight-team league that allows for a consistent schedule," Eigner said. "We are all really excited about the direction and how things have gone."
Bowling Green will open CCHA play at Bemidji State on Friday, Oct. 29. The Falcons' first CCHA game at the Slater Family Ice Arena will be on Nov. 5 against St. Thomas.
The Falcons have captured a combined 12 CCHA tournament and regular-season titles. Bowling Green won the NCAA national championship in 1984 when the Falcons were a member of the CCHA.
"When you talk about the college hockey when Bowling Green made a name for itself, it was in the CCHA," Eigner said.
The CCHA officially launched a new website on Monday and league officials laid out its mission statement.
CCHA Commissioner Don Lucia said the league is committed to making substantial investments to "enhance the student-athlete and fan experience."
"The CCHA presidents, athletic directors, and coaches have all committed to competing at the highest level of NCAA hockey," Lucia said. "All eight of our universities in the CCHA are investing to improve our game day experience for all stakeholders throughout our conference."
Officials that led the mission to revive the league said the name conveys the geographic alignment of the eight members and that the CCHA brand has a tremendous amount of equity and goodwill associated with it.
The Falcons won CCHA tournament championships in 1973, '77, '78, '79, and '88 as well as regular-season titles in '76, '78, '79, '82, '83, '84, and '87.
Eigner, who enters his third season at the helm after spending the previous nine seasons as an assistant, is a 1993 BGSU graduate. Eigner, who was a defenseman for the Falcons from 1988-93, served as Bowling Green's captain for the 1992-93 season.
"The geographic footprint is familiar. You have the familiar schools," Eigner said. "It feels like home."
On Wednesday, CCHA officials announced that the league's championship trophy will be named in honor of legendary coach Ron Mason, who led the Bowling Green program for six seasons (1973-79). The CCHA trophy will be called the Mason Cup. Mason also coached at CCHA schools Lake Superior State and Michigan State and his name has appeared on the trophy a league-high 13 times.
There have been seven CCHA teams that have won the NCAA National Championship consisting of Bowling Green (1984), Michigan State (1986), Lake Superior State (1988, 1992, 1994), and Michigan (1996 and 1998).
The league dissolved after the 2012-13 season up due conference realignment. BG, Northern Michigan, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State were members of the CCHA when it disbanded. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame left when the Big Ten added varsity hockey in 2010.
BG ended up joining the WCHA along with former CCHA schools Northern Michigan, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State. Michigan Tech also had a previous stint in the CCHA from 1981 to 1984.
"Things happened that were beyond Bowling Green's control and we ended up in the WCHA," Eigner said. "We made the best of it."
CCHA officials said the league plans to increase quality for all live stream productions, will have the best-available official video review system, and make upgrades to arena lighting in select arenas to enhance TV production quality.
"We appreciated our time in the WCHA. But the upgrades they are doing in the CCHA and the commitment from Day One from the league and membership to advance things is huge," Eigner said. "They may sound like little things. But if you add them up they turn into a big deal from a perception standpoint and from a fan experience."
Eigner said televising CCHA games help promote the product.
"Our commissioner and the CCHA officials have put in a lot of thought and effort to get everything in place," he said. "It's been impressive. They put a lot of time into this and we have not played a game yet. One of the reasons that Bowling Green was one of the schools that opted to leave the WCHA and get back in and restart the CCHA was for those reasons."
The CCHA quarterfinals will be held on March 4 to 6 with the finals set for March 19.
The Falcons will kick off the 2021-22 season on Oct. 8 at RPI. Bowling Green hosts Miami in the home opener at the Slater Family Ice Arena on Oct. 23. Tickets are available now. For more info go to bgsufalcons.com.
In his two seasons, Eigner has led the Falcons to a 41-23-5 record.
"We feel like we will be a team that will be competing for regular-season and playoff championships every season," Eigner said. "The name of the league has changed but our expectations have not changed one bit."