Hockey East announced via press release Monday afternoon that longtime commissioner Joe Bertagna will be stepping down from his position effective at the end of the 2019-20 hockey season.
Bertagna’s final season will be his 23rd with the league, and 38th in a leadership capacity, as he worked for ECAC Hockey prior to the schism in 1984.
Bertagna’s tenure was one of ups and downs. On the one hand, under Bertagna’s leadership, Hockey East developed into one of the premier collegiate hockey conferences in the nation, with various programs constantly in the mix for hardware each year. Additionally, under Bertagana’s tutelage, the Hockey East tournament became a premier event in Boston, and the conference additionally hosted various events at Fenway Park with varying degrees of success. Finally, Hockey East established a women’s hockey league, growing opportunity in the realm of a fast growing sport.
With that said, Bertagna’s tenure was not without flaws. Bertagana leaves a conference that, despite his efforts, greatly lags behind other collegiate hockey conferences in the country in media deals. While individual programs (including BC) have been able negotiate solid broadcasting contracts, the league lags behind in terms of a global broadcasting contract. Additionally, the league faces a crisis of confidence in the realm of officiating, as Hockey East referees have been roundly criticized, reaching fever pitch the past two season, though that tends to follow a larger problem that exists in collegiate hockey. Finally, it’s impossible to ignore the seas of empty seats during Hockey East regular season match-ups, and especially tournament games including games at TD Garden.
Some of these problems fall at the feet of Bertagna. Some problems are not his fault. Frankly it is unclear exactly what responsibility Bertagana had during his tenure at the helm of Hockey East. However, whoever replaces Bertagna has a league with good bones, and that’s thanks to Bertagana. And yet, they also will inherit a league with problems, and that, unfortunately, can be blamed somewhat on Bertagana as well.