COLLEGE HOCKEY: Robertson named new WCHA men’s commissioner
ST. PAUL -- The WCHA officially introduced former Minnesota Wild Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting Bill Robertson as its next commissioner Tuesday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center.
Robertson, 53, will take over for outgoing commissioner Bruce McLeod, who is retiring June 30 after 20 years running the league.
Robertson will begin working for the league in the middle of May.
“I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to help lead and guide the WCHA for many years to come,” Robertson said in a statement. “It is truly an honor to serve this iconic sports and collegiate hockey conference, while showcasing some of the top student-athletes and institutions in the country.”
Robertson will take the reins of the new-look league just a year after some drastic changes in the college hockey.
The WCHA, now 10 teams, looks much different than when McLeod took over in 1994.
Only four members of the old league remain (Bemidji State, Minnesota State Mankato, Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage) while six new schools joined this past season (Alabama Huntsville, Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan).
Robertson has extensive background in sports communications. He was one of the Wild's first employees when he was hired in 1998 -- three years before the franchise even played a game. With the Wild and the franchise's parent company, Minnesota Sports and Entertainment, Robertson was responsible for media and community relations, publications and broadcasting.
He left the organization in the summer of 2011 and now works as a communications consultant in the Twin Cities.
Prior to joining the Wild, Robertson was the director of communications for the expansion Walt Disney Company-owned Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now the Ducks) and later added the California Angels to his duties when Disney purchased the MLB team in 1996.
During a press conference announcing his induction Tuesday, Robertson said promotion of the league and the Final Five are the biggest challenges down the road.
"The business of college hockey is changing," Robertson said during the press conference. "With conference realignments, promotion of the game, the television, the digital content that goes on and all the revenue streams that are possibilities for the future. I will do my best as commissioner to stay on top of these trends on college hockey and use my vast relationships to help continue to build this conference over the years.
“I am a huge college hockey fan and I have a passion for this game. I want people to know that I will do my best to serve this conference.”
The Final Five will return to the Xcel Energy Center in 2015 after being held on Grand Rapids, Mich., this year.
“The hope is to make this tournament even grander on so many different scales,” he said. “My job will be to help lead those efforts with the staff of the WCHA.”
Robertson briefly touched on his “vision” for the conference during the press conference, which was streamed live on the internet.
“I want to gain strong focused promotion of the WCHA using all the media platforms we can possibly use,” he said. “I want this tournament (Final Five), as it grows, to be a staple point and a place where people want to come and watch the best college hockey in the country.
“I’ll also be seeking and looking for new revenue streams and sponsorship opportunities for this league, and I’ll work diligently to help push that effort.”
McLeod, who was at the press conference along with Minnesota State president Richard Davenport, Wild owner Craig Leipold and St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman, said he thought Robertson was the right man for the job.
“It’s a home run,” McLeod said. "You're the right person at the right time to lead this historic organization into a new era.
“There's tons of potential here and you're the perfect guy to mine that potential. You’ve got a real good vision for the league and you’re the right person to carry that vision to fruition.”
Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said he thought Robertson brought a lot to the table.
“He’s got a very good resume and he’s very strong on the business side of things,” Serratore said by phone Tuesday. “He has a hockey background and he’s very experienced in the pro sports world so he’s a good fit for our league.”
Robertson did not take any questions during the press conference. He did interviews after the press conference, but there was no conference call for those who couldn’t be in St. Paul.
The league is still looking for a women’s commissioner; current commissioner Sarah Martin is also stepping down effective June 30. Her successor has not yet been named.