The 2010-2011 season marks the 41st season for the Central States Collegiate Hockey League. Over the years, the size of the league has varied. The CSCHL has seven full-time members, making it, arguably, the finest American Collegiate Hockey Association Men's Division 1 hockey league in the country, including the last three ACHA Men's Division 1 National Champions, Lindenwood University (2008 & 2009) and the University of Illinois! Over the past thirteen seasons, CSCHL teams have won nine ACHA Men's Division 1 National Championships and have had a team in the Championship game 12 times. The 2001-2002, 2002-2003, and 2006-2007 seasons saw a record-tying 6 CSCHL teams qualify for the ACHA Men's Division 1 National Championships.
The league began play in the fall of 1970 with teams in three divisions. Two divisions were comprised of teams from Illinois, while the Western Division was made up of teams from Iowa. Iowa State University is an original member of the league. After a history of leaving and reentering the league, the Cyclones stayed for good from the 1983-84 season onward. The first tournament on record occurred at the end of the 1971-72 season, with Lewis College winning the round-robin tournament. It was an eight team tournament with no championship game. The 1972-73 tournament featured brackets and a championship game, which saw Iowa State defeat Chicago State University 8-3.
The CSCHL restructured itself for the 1974-75 season after losing the Western Division. The league's members all came from the state of Illinois, and for the 1975-76 season, the name of the league changed to the Illinois Collegiate Hockey League. During this season, the University of Illinois joined the league, making them the longest on-going CSCHL members. For the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons, the league had two divisions, based on team strength. The financial status of several teams helped to shrink the league to an all-time low of four teams during the 1977-78 season.
The next year marked the beginning of teams from other states joining the league. For the 1979-80 season, the league changed its name back to the Central States Collegiate Hockey League. Marquette University joined the league as the first team from Wisconsin for the 1980-81 season, a season in which the league had its only five team post-season tournament. The league continued to draw teams in from outside the state of Illinois, adding the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for the 1985-86 season.
The CSCHL began its accelerated expansion by adding Eastern Michigan University for play during the 1989-90 season. The University of Michigan-Dearborn, who had lost their varsity team the previous year, joined in 1991-92. Ohio University joined the league for the 1993-94 season, a season that saw the league split into divisions for the first time since the 1976-77 season. The divisions were based on geographical location. Kent State University joined in February of 1994 to bring the full-time membership to a total of eight. In 1997-98, long-time member Marquette University withdrew its full-time status to become an affiliate member.
With an odd number of teams, the CSCHL dropped its East-West Divisions and merged back to one division. For 1998-99 the addition of Western Michigan University brought the league back to eight full-time members, but the league remained one division. The playoffs, however, went back to a six-team format. The 1999-2000 season saw the departure of long-time member Marquette University and the addition of Saint Louis University and the University at Buffalo as affiliate members. In 2000-2001, both Saint Louis and Buffalo became full-time members, making the CSCHL a 10-team league. That lasted for two seasons until 2002-2003, when Buffalo dropped out of the league and pushed the league back to nine teams.
The 2003-2004 season saw 20-year members from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater drop out of the league due to financial reasons right before the start of the season. That left the league with 8 teams, until a hazing incident forced Eastern Michigan University to cancel the remainder of its season after Thanksgiving. This forced the league to take over the hosting of the playoffs.
The 2004-2005 season saw Robert Morris College join the league, bringing the membership back to nine teams. Robert Morris also hosted the 2005 ACHA Men's Division 1 National Championships at The Edge in Bensenville, IL.
Since the 2003 season, the playoffs have been an 8-team format.
With the addition of Lindenwood University from St. Charles, MO in 2006-2007, the CSCHL returned to 10-teams for the first time since the 2000-2001 season.
The return to 10-teams would last only one season, as Saint Louis University dropped down to ACHA Men's Division 2 for the 2007-2008 season, after 6 seasons in the CSCHL.
The 2010-2011 season saw a major change as the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Eastern Michigan University and Western Michigan University all left the CSCHL and Indiana University was added to create a 7 team league.
The 2011 playoffs will be a 7-team format and will be hosted by Robert Morris University, IL. This will be the first time hosting for RMU, IL.
Each member team is now required to play every team in the league a minimum of twice. The season series point value between opponents is 8. So if teams play only twice, the games will be worth 4 points each game. If the teams play 4 times, the games will be worth 2 points each game.
Besides being proud of its current teams, the CSCHL is proud of the teams that have moved on to varsity programs. Included here are the University of Notre Dame, University of Alabama-Huntsville, St. Norbert College, and the University of Illinois-Chicago.
With its storied past as a foundation and a promising future ahead, the CSCHL looks forward to its 41st season.