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WCHA commissioner McLeod advises BSU hockey fans to be patient

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod watches game action between Bemidji State and Minnesota-Duluth Friday night at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Bruce McLeod had some advice for a room full of Bemidji State men's hockey fans Friday: Be patient.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner was in Bemidji to get a look at the Bemidji Regional Event Center and visit with school officials about the Beavers' entry into the league next fall.

Bemidji State officials and McLeod toured the event center construction site Friday afternoon. He also watched Friday night's game at the John Glas Fieldhouse that matched his alma mater, Minnesota-Duluth, against the Beavers.

"We want to get a sense of the (BREC) building and how it will work from our standpoint," McLeod said after addressing a Beaver Pride luncheon on campus. "We want to make sure we have a smooth transition."

The commissioner cautioned Beaver fans not to expect instant success when the team joins the WCHA next season.

"The WCHA is so darned competitive week in and week out," McLeod told the Beaver Pride crowd. "I hope you will have a little patience with that. You have a fantastic foundation in place, but you're going to have to have some patience along the way. If the wins and losses don't work out the way you want, you can still enjoy some great hockey."

BSU head coach Tom Serratore credited McLeod with saving the program last year when the school applied for membership in the WCHA. Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha were accepted into the league in June.

"We would be toast right now if it wasn't for Bruce McLeod." Serratore said at the luncheon. You can't be an independent in college hockey. Players don't want to play for an independent, and fans don't want to watch an independent. Bruce stuck his neck out for us."

McLeod downplayed his role, saying, "It was the right thing to do. It was best for the league, best for college hockey and best for Bemidji State. The WCHA was in great shape, and change is always difficult. But I knew if we could get BSU in the league, they would be an asset to the WCHA. As good as we were, these two schools were going to make us even better."