With his nine-season tenure as commissioner officially complete, the NCHC athletic council has awarded Josh Fenton the 2022 NCHC distinguished service award.
Fenton has departed the Conference for the same role with the Summit League, a move that was first announced in December.
All eight school coaching staffs and athletic directors were on hand for the presentation to Fenton last Monday night, April 18 in Naples, Fla. Fenton was recognized during a dinner and reception at the Naples Grande Beach Resort as part of the NCHC annual meetings.
Minnesota Duluth athletic director Josh Berlo handed out the award, along with Miami athletic director David Sayler and St. Cloud State athletic director Heather Weems, who are the three remaining athletic directors at their current institution from when the conference began play in 2013 – Fenton’s first year.
“Along with Heather and David it was an honor to present Josh with the NCHC Distinguished Service Award,” Berlo said. “I believe the NCHC is the best conference on and off the ice in men’s college hockey. The success and foundation that Josh’s tenure built has the NCHC poised for continued and sustained levels of excellence. Our conference and our sport are better off as a result of his leadership and dedication.”
Fenton’s guidance and direction played an integral role in making the NCHC one of the nation’s premier men’s collegiate hockey conferences and a leader in college hockey nationally. He took the reins as the conference’s second-ever commissioner in July of 2013, prior to any games having been played. Since then, the NCHC has achieved many tremendous accomplishments both on and off the ice.
Some of Fenton’s achievements while with the NCHC include helping to originally establish the conference, forming the NCHC Frozen Faceoff (the championship tournament weekend), creating NCHC.tv (the conference’s digital network) and being the first conference to implement 3-on-3 overtime. His big visions helped the NCHC move the Frozen Faceoff to an NHL venue at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., host a showcase game at Madison Square Garden (the College Hockey Showdown) in New York City, operate with multiple surplus positions, and negotiate numerous national and regional television partnerships, including with CBS Sports Network. Perhaps his most unique accomplishment, however, was overcoming a global pandemic by implementing and successfully executing the one-of-a-kind NCHC pod at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Neb., to start the 2020-21 season.
Fenton was presented with the Mark Rudolph Officiating Achievement Award by the NCHC officiating staff this year, as well. Along with being the first and only college hockey conference to offer its officials secondary medical insurance, something Fenton implemented, he switched the NCHC’s in-venue replay system to DV Sport to allow for better video reviews for officials. He also had the idea to have NCHC referees wear microphones, announcing penalties over the public address system similar to the NHL, and was always supportive of holding multiple officiating camps across the NCHC landscape prior to each season.
On the ice, the NCHC has also seen great success under Fenton’s watch, with 32 teams making the NCAA tournament in eight seasons, 13 teams advancing to the Frozen Four, seven teams in the last six NCAA championship games and five NCHC teams winning national championships, including Denver this past season. In addition, the NCHC has seen two Hobey Baker Award winners, two Mike Richter Award winners and two Spencer Penrose Award winners, as well as 51 All-Americans, with Fenton in charge.
“The incredible success of the NCHC has been a direct result of Josh’s leadership. He has created a national showcase for hockey, a broad market for the NCHC, and an enduring organization that will continue to produce national championships,” said chair of the NCHC Board of Directors and North Dakota president Dr. Andy Armacost. “Most importantly, Josh has been committed to our No. 1 priority – the growth of our athletes as students, leaders, and human beings.”
Fenton is the sixth recipient of the NCHC Distinguished Service Award, which is not necessarily bestowed upon someone annually, but is presented to an individual who has served, supported and promoted the goals and ideals of the NCHC and who, through personal effort and dedication, has enhanced the ability of the conference and/or its member institutions to provide a positive experience for the student-athletes enrolled at NCHC member institutions.
The NCHC is currently in the process of hiring its new commissioner.