Over Steve Metcalf’s first two years working in athletic administration at the University of New Hampshire, the Wildcats women’s hockey team won a national championship, the men’s hockey team reached the NCAA Division I championship game and both programs captured a player of the year award.
The UNH women’s team won the inaugural American Women’s Hockey Alliance championship in 1998, the same year Brandy Fisher won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. The UNH men’s team reached the Frozen Four in 1998 and finished runner-up to Maine in 1999, the same year Jason Krog received the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.
That is the kind of success Metcalf wants Hockey East programs to consistently enjoy over his tenure as the league’s fifth commissioner.
Hockey East announced on Monday that Metcalf, who has worked as UNH’s deputy director of athletics for the past 10 years, will succeed 23-year commissioner Joe Bertagna. Metcalf will take over the position ahead of league and national college hockey meetings in Naples, Fla., the week after the NCAA Frozen Four in April.
Drew Marrochello, the current chairman of the Hockey East men’s executive committee and director of athletics at Boston University, told reporters during a teleconference call Tuesday that about 60 people expressed interest in the position. Eleven had in-person interviews last month with a six-person league sub-committee that included both a member men’s and women’s head coach, Marrochello said. Metcalf and his fellow finalists had additional interviews with the sub-committee last Wednesday, Marrochello said.
“Going through the process over these last couple months, quite frankly, I’ve gotten more excited about the possibility of becoming the next commissioner and taking over,” Metcalf said on the teleconference call. “I’ve had a lot of chances to think about ideas that we could implement and so many things I think we can put in place to try to make some improvements to all the business that we do in the league and some of those things we can implement as soon as this fall.”
Metcalf, who has been a member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee since 2015 and is its current chairman, said he wants to expand Hockey East’s exposure and brand. The league announced a new multi-year television deal with NESN last September.
“That’s given us great exposure but I think it’s something that we can expand on and we can expand on that as soon as next season,” Metcalf said.
Among Metcalf’s initial priorities is to fix the unbalanced schedule the men’s side of Hockey East has dealt with as an 11-team league. Since Notre Dame left for the Big Ten after the 2016-17 season, Hockey East teams have played four in-conference opponents three times and the rest twice during the regular season.
“We need to look at the unbalanced schedule that we currently have and there’s more than one way to solve the unbalance that we currently have,” Metcalf said. “Obviously, one of them is adding a 12th team but there are other solutions. As a league, those are the things we’ll be talking about over the next couple months because I do think we need to address that unbalance that we have.”
At the national level, Metcalf said allowing each league to have its own set of overtime formats is incredibly and unnecessarily confusing. Metcalf said there should be a universal format across the nation that leads to more decisions and fewer ties.
“This being a rulebook year, this issue will come to a head certainly in Naples and then the annual meetings with all the committees and the rules committee,” Metcalf said. “I’d be shocked if we didn’t come out of the summer with a format throughout college hockey and, I think, most likely a format where there’s a different overtime format where we’re getting more winners and losers in the games and less ties.”
Marrochello said Metcalf’s plan for the league and his experience both in the league and in college hockey impressed throughout the interview process.
“I think of all the candidates, he was the one who capitalized on his knowledge but also talked about where we are knowledgeably and where we could go strategically,” Marrochello said. “I think Steve will appropriately get us out of our comfort zone and move us forward while still being the same person that he’s always been.”