2016 Recipient: Joe Bertagna

Hockey East Commissioner, Joe Bertagna is in his 34th year as a college hockey administrator. This season marks his 19th year with Hockey East, after serving in a similar capacity with the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) for 15 years. He is the longest serving commissioner in Hockey East history and is currently the longest serving hockey commissioner in the NCAA.

Bertagna has carved out a unique career in the sport he first played as a freshman goaltender at Harvard University in 1969. Since starting as a player, Bertagna has served the game as player, coach, administrator and journalist. The latter role has been largely overshadowed by his coaching and administrative accomplishments but Bertagna has authored a number of books, the most recent being The Hockey Coaching Bible. Bertagna has written numerous books on goaltending as well as a pictorial history of Harvard University athletics.

Bertagna is probably best known for his administrative work in college hockey. After spending 15 years as the primary ice hockey administrator the ECAC, he became Hockey East’s fourth commissioner in 1997. A native of Arlington, Massachusetts, Bertagna began working at the ECAC in 1982, when he was named Tournament Director. He was later named Executive Director of Ice Hockey before he was appointed Ice Hockey Commissioner in 1991.

Bertagna has delivered a number of high profile special events for Hockey East member schools. During the 2015-16 season, UMass Lowell and Northeastern University played in the Friendship Four Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in Belfast Northern Ireland, along with Brown University and Colgate University. One of two Notre Dame at UConn games scheduled for the upcoming season were moved from Hartford to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on November 1.

In January of 2010, Bertagna and his staff administered the first outdoor college hockey game in the east when Boston’s fabled Fenway Park played host to a Hockey East doubleheader. The event was an unprecedented success for the conference. In January 2012, Bertagna negotiated another contract with the Red Sox, creating a doubleheader for January 2012 featuring the league’s four Division I state universities: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. As in 2010, the event sold out, leading to the addition of third contest, BC vs. Northeastern. For the 2014 iteration, Bertagna negotiated for the inclusion of eight of Hockey East’s 11 men’s teams, including newcomer Notre Dame. The two doubleheaders attracted more than 57,000 fans to Fenway Park.

Nationally, Bertagna has been the Executive Director of the American Hockey Coaches Association since 1991, the only person to serve in that capacity. In this role, he has overseen the growth of AHCA membership from fewer than 300 members in 1992 to more than 1,400 members today. He has served two separate stints on the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee, chairing the committee is first time through and currently back as a committee member this year. He also serves on the Board of Directors of both USA Hockey and the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation.

Another major contribution on the national stage has come in his continuing role with the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA). The commissioners of the six NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey conferences have launched a number of initiatives that have helped grow the game at the national and international levels. In recent years, Bertagna was instrumental in securing funds for the formation of College Hockey, Inc., the marketing arm of the HCA.