The 2002-03 season marked the end of an era and the start of a new legacy. On April 21, 2002, The Western Pennsylvania College Hockey Association (WPCHA) was officially renamed to College Hockey East (CHE). Under the guidance of Commissioner Chuck Kuzniewski, the WPCHA became CHE in an effort to forge new relationships with a broader scale of colleges and universities. While the 2002-03 season was technically the associations 32nd year of operation, CHE is only beginning a long and storied road.
CHE, originally named the Western Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Hockey Association (WPIHA), was organized following a dinner meeting hosted by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) at Skibo Hall on March 26, 1971. The first meeting was organized and hosted by Robert W. McCurdy who then was serving as the Director of Student Activities at CMU.
The first meeting was attended by Team Representatives of the following colleges and universities: Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, Gannon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University-West, University of Pittsburgh, St. Vincent College, and Slippery Rock University. Representatives from St. Francis-Loretto did not attend the first organizational meeting but their team joined in the fall of 1971 when the WPIHA started the first official intercollegiate competition in Western Pennsylvania. Gannon University (then college) did not join the WPIHA until a few years later. Robert W. McCurdy who organized the original association meetings was officially elected the first Commissioner of the WPIHA in 1971. McCurdy served as a WPIHA Official with Clifford C. Wise who was elected the first WPIHA Secretary.
McCurdy served as the WPIHA Commissioner for the first three seasons of the association. Following his tenure, Sam Orr commissioned the WPIHA for one season before handing the reigns over to Jack McKinnon who served as Commissioner from 1975-1979. It was during McKinnon's commissionership that the WPIHA officially became the WPCHA.
On August 8, 1979, Michael G. Kaleina of Greensburg was elected the fourth Commissioner of the WPCHA. Kaleina was originally serving a management position with St. Vincent College Hockey when he started in the WPCHA. In fact, Kaleina attended the aforementioned organizational meeting in 1971. There, his roots began to grow within the league. It was during his 20-plus years that the WPCHA and Western Pennsylvania, under the leadership of Kaleina, saw the greatest growth of college hockey in the region. Although Westminster College and Lock Haven University are now defunct programs, they along with Penn State University-DII, Washington & Jefferson College, and Robert Morris University have all been a part of the WPCHA and have since moved on. Kaleina is responsible for those programs entering the league. Now, Kaleina serves as the Executive Assistant for CHE.
The current elected Commissioner of CHE is Bethel Park, PA native Charles R. Kuzniewski II who was first elected on April 7, 2001. Kuzniewski is the fifth person to become Commissioner and is expected to lead the organization to bigger and better heights. Already, Kuzniewski has opened the doors to a wealth of opportunity for growth and he is committed to elevating CHE to heights no one in the past would have guessed could happed.