St. Thomas men’s hockey to join NCHC, leave CCHA

St. Thomas men’s hockey to join NCHC, leave CCHA

St. Thomas men's hockey to join NCHC, leave CCHA

The University of St. Thomas men’s hockey program will change conferences in 2026, and join the UMD Bulldogs.

According to Twin Cities affiliate KSTP, the Tommies announced on Wednesday that they will leave the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) after completing the next two seasons.

“The NCHC is among the premier conferences in all of college hockey and we are thrilled to announce our membership in 2026. The move aligns with our institutional and athletics trajectory and places the Tommies with the other Summit League hockey-playing members competing in the conference,” St. Thomas Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten said in a statement. “We are enthusiastic about the new strategic opportunities this will bring our University and department as we will bring new rivalries to St. Paul and compete in expanded markets nationally.”

“The NCHC is excited to welcome the University of St. Thomas to our ranks in 2026-27,” said NCHC Commissioner Heather Weems. “During our annual NCHC meetings in Naples, the athletics directors engaged in robust conversation about the conference’s vision and goals in the current NCAA landscape, including membership. St. Thomas’s institutional vision and commitment to nationally competitive hockey, as well as their central location in our footprint and new facility, make them an ideal fit. The window of opportunity arose quickly, and we worked efficiently with our Board of Directors, Athletics Council, and the University of St. Thomas to achieve expansion. I want to thank St. Thomas President Rob Vischer and Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten for their vision and investment in hockey. We expect they will compete well against our current members and only strengthen the depth and quality of the NCHC.”

The Tommies finished this past season second in the CCHA to Bemidji State. The conference also features Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Augustana starting in the 2025-26 season.

The NCHC, meanwhile, includes North Dakota, Denver, St. Cloud State, Colorado College, Omaha, Western Michigan, Minnesota Duluth and Miami of Ohio, and Arizona State is slated to join starting in July.

The strength of the NCHC was on display as recently as this past season, when Denver, North Dakota and Omaha all made the NCAA Tournament, which Denver ultimately won. Since 2016, the NCHC has won six national championships and at least one team from the conference has made the Frozen Four in nine of the past 10 seasons, excluding 2020 when the pandemic wiped out the event.

The move comes as St. Thomas is working to build a new arena that will house its basketball and hockey teams. That facility is expected to open next year.