Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna is in his 36th year as a college hockey administrator. This season marks his 21st year with Hockey East, after serving in a similar capacity with the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) for 15 years. He is the longest serving commissioner in Hockey East history and is currently the longest serving hockey commissioner in the NCAA. In September of 2016, Hockey East directors extended Bertagna's contract through the 2019-20 season as a direct response to a number of triumphs for the conference, including a successful hosting of the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four in Boston, a new television contract, multiple sold-out events at Fenway Park, and the addition of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut to the conference membership.
The Distinguished Service Award was of particular satisfaction to Bertagna given that previous recipients included two of his college coaches, Tim Taylor and Bill Cleary, along with Hockey East luminaries Jerry York, Jack Parker and Ben Smith. This season, his ECAC years will be recognized when he is scheduled to be inducted into the ECAC Hall of Fame.
Bertagna has carved out a unique career in the sport he first played as a freshman goaltender at Harvard University in 1969. Since starting as a player, Bertagna has served the game as coach, administrator and journalist.
The latter role has been largely over-shadowed by his coaching and administrative accomplishments but Bertagna has authored a number of books, the most recent being, "The Hockey Coaching Bible," released in the fall of 2015 by Human Kinetics. The collection of instructional pieces includes chapters written by a number of coaches with ties to Hockey East, including Bertagna, Mike Cavanaugh, Mark Dennehy, Nate Leaman, Jack Parker and Ben Smith.
Bertagna has also written numerous books on goaltending as well as a pictorial history of Harvard University athletics. In the mid-1980's, Bertagna also edited two editions of Not The Boston Globe, a successful parody of the daily newspaper sold throughout New England.
Bertagna is best known for his administrative work in college hockey. After spending 15 years as the primary ice hockey administrator the ECAC, Bertagna became Hockey East's fourth commissioner on July 1, 1997. A native of Arlington, Massachusetts, Bertagna began working at the ECAC in 1982, when he was named Tournament Director. He was later named Executive Director of Ice Hockey before he was appointed Ice Hockey Commissioner in 1991.
Bertagna made his mark immediately at Hockey East, engineering a multi-year television deal (SportsChannel New England) in his first month on the job. Shortly thereafter, league tournament attendance rocketed upward, leading to the event's first-ever sellout in 2000. Bertagna was instrumental in bringing about the formation of the Women's Hockey East Association, just as he initiated league play for both Division I and Division III women's programs while with the ECAC. In 2013, the directors recognized his contributions to the women's game by dubbing the Women's Hockey East championship trophy the Bertagna Trophy.
Media coverage has soared under Bertagna's direction, as evidenced by his engineering numerous regional and national deals with New England Sports Network (NESN), the American Sports Network, NBC Sports Network and ESPN3.
In January of 2010, Bertagna and his staff administered the first outdoor college hockey game in the east when Boston's fabled Fenway Park played host to a Hockey East double-header. The event, which sold out on the first day of public sale in September 2009, was an unprecedented success for the conference, both financially and in terms of exposure. In January 2012, Bertagna negotiated another contract with the Red Sox, creating a double-header for January 2012 featuring the league's four Division I state universities: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
As in 2010, the event sold out, leading to the addition of third contest, BC vs. Northeastern. For the 2014 iteration, Bertagna negotiated for the inclusion of eight of Hockey East's 11 men's teams, including newcomer Notre Dame. In 2017, another pair of doubleheaders insured that all Hockey East schools have enjoyed the Fenway experience since the outdoor games began.
Nationally, Bertagna has been the Executive Director of the American Hockey Coaches Association since 1991, the only person to serve in that capacity. In this role, he has overseen the growth of AHCA membership from fewer than 300 members in 1992 to more than 1,400 members today. He has served two separate stints on the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee, chairing the committee both his first time through and currently back as chair of the committee this year. He also serves on the Board of Directors of both USA Hockey and the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation.
Another major contribution on the national stage has come in his continuing role with the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA). The commissioners of the six NCAA Division I men's ice hockey conferences have launched a number of initiatives that have helped grow the game at the national and international levels. In recent years, Bertagna was instrumental in securing funds for the formation of College Hockey, Inc., the marketing arm of the HCA.
Beyond his college hockey accomplishments, Bertagna has forged an international reputation as a student and coach of goaltending. No one in North America is respected more for his contributions to the study of the position. Last year, he celebrated his 44th year as a goalie coach, having operated his own clinics for thousands of goalies of all ages throughout New England since 1974. He continues to speak on the subject for USA Hockey throughout the United States. Through his camps, lectures, print materials and DVDs, he has influenced the teaching of young goaltenders more than any other goal- tending coach in the United States. His seventh DVD, "Goaltending Today: Traditional Values through New Techniques," was released by Championship Productions of Ames, Iowa, in 2011. He began his professional coaching career in 1985 with the Boston Bruins, remaining with the club as the goaltender coach until 1991 and rejoining the team for the 1994-95 season. He also part of the coaching staffs of the U.S. Men's National Team at the 1991 Canada Cup, the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team at the 1994 Winter Olympics, and with the Milwaukee Admirals from 1994-96.
As a player, Bertagna began at Arlington (Mass.) High School, before going on to Harvard University. During his early career, he played for and learned from four Hall of Fame coaches: Ed Burns at Arlington, and Ralph "Cooney" Weiland, Bill Cleary and Tim Taylor at Harvard. A two-year starter at Harvard (1971-72 and 1972-73), Bertagna led the Ivy League with a 2.45 GAA in 1972. After Harvard, he played professionally for the Milwau- kee Admirals and in Cortina, Italy. He helped lead his S.G. Cortina d'Ampezzo squad to the 1975 Italian Championship.
Bertagna and his wife Kathy, a two-sport athlete at Bates College, reside in Gloucester with their three children, Bobby (21), Joey (19) and Grace (16).