Cheers to Joe Bertagna, the commissioner of Hockey East, for whom the upcoming 2019-2020 college hockey season will be his last on the job. The popularity of hockey in the region -- at all levels, not just college -- owes much to his work over the past two decades.
The longtime Gloucester resident is the only commissioner Hockey East has ever known since the position was created in 1997. That makes Bertagna — a fierce advocate of both the women's and men's games — the longest tenured college hockey commish of all time.
Hockey East has grown exponentially under Bertagna's watch. He brought schools such as the University of Vermont, the University of Connecticut, the since-departed University of Notre Dame, and College of the Holy Cross (women's only) into the fold. He was able to get outdoor games played at Fenway Park, and has helped establish the Friendship Series in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in which Northeastern played the first Division 1 women's college hockey game on European soil.
Eight players from the league have won the Hobey Baker Award, given to the best male player in college hockey, during his tenure; four female players have captured the Patty Kazmaier Award for similar exploits. There have also been seven Hockey East men's NCAA champions under Bertagna's watch.
Bertagna made it clear during a conference call last week that he is not retiring, but rather is excited to see where his next adventures in the sport take him. Given his track record of success, passion for the game and engaging personality, we have no doubt he'll flourish wherever he goes.