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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Kemp named new WCHA commissioner

BEMIDJI -- The changes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association keep on coming.

Just two weeks after naming Bill Robertson as its new men's commissioner, the league announced Wednesday afternoon that Aaron Kemp would take over the women's league starting July 1.

Kemp, 38, takes over for outgoing commissioner Sarah Martin, who is retiring June 30 after 15 years on the job.

"There's a rich tradition of success in the WCHA," Kemp said during a teleconference. "I'm excited and committed to continuing that level of excellence. When I heard Ms. Martin was retiring and saw this opportunity I thought it was a good fit for me."

Kemp, the senior associate athletic director at Mercyhurst, played at Canisius from 1995-99 and was an assistant men's hockey coach at his alma mater from 2002-04.

He was hired at Mercyhurst in 2004, where he worked as an assistant women's hockey coach from 2004-08 before transitioning to administration. He's been the associate athletic director since 2011.

At Mercyhurst, Kemp was responsible for all athletics at the school's North East branch campus and was director of men's and women's hockey operations at the main campus.

During Wednesday's conference call, Kemp discussed the importance of the WCHA having a separate women's commissioner -- especially considering the varied membership in the men's and women's league.

Bemidji State and Minnesota State Mankato are the only two schools that have programs in both the men's and the women's league. Women's-only members include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and North Dakota.

"I think it's important to have a commissioner on the women's side," he said. "A big role is going to be finding new revenue sources and improving attendance for our championship series.

"I want to improve our league but also women's hockey in general."

The 2013-14 season was the first time a team from outside the WCHA won a national title. Clarkson beat Minnesota 5-4 in the championship game. Every other women's national champion since 2001 -- the first year the NCAA officially crowned a tournament champion -- came from the WCHA.

To that end, Kemp also asked what, if anything, he could do to make sure more WCHA teams make the national tournament every year. The league is widely perceived to be the strongest in women's hockey but usually only two teams make the tournament.

"That's one of the points we discussed," he said, adding he will be actively lobbying the NCAA to tweak RPI and pairwise formulas to make a more accurate representation of league strength.

"We're maybe looking how we do it in house, reducing the number of league games to get more wins outside of the league."

Kemp also plans to work closely with new WCHA men's commissioner Robertson and said they planned on sharing an office in the Twin Cities area. Previously, the men's league was headquartered in Denver while the women's league was in Madison, Wis.

"I think there is going to be a good collaborative relationship between the men's league and the women's league," he said. "As we both learn on the go it's going to be important that we're working together.

"I want a good working relationship between the men's and women's conference. We're going to work together to move the leagues forward in positive direction."

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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