The first collegiate women’s hockey team was established in 1965 at Brown University and would go on to host the first women’s ice hockey tournament in 1976, after several Ivy League schools had introduced women’s hockey teams. It was not until 2000 when the NCAA announced the national division of women’s ice hockey and hosted the first annual NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament at the conclusion of the 2000-01 season.
Today, women’s ice hockey has grown to include 108 teams across the NCAA and junior colleges. These programs are primarily located in the Northeast and upper Midwest regions. Women’s college hockey is also offered at NAIA institutions. We take a further look at women’s ice hockey colleges at the NCAA and NAIA levels in the section below.
There is a total of 112 women’s hockey programs across the NCAA and NAIA. Women’s hockey is one of the smallest women’s sports leagues with 108 NCAA teams.
Women’s college hockey is not a sponsored NAIA program, but there are four NAIA institutions that offer women’s hockey programs. These four programs were previously governed by the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), until the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association took over governance in 2018.
With a mission to reinstate ice hockey as a sponsored NAIA sport, the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association was established by a group of coaches and athletic administrators with the help of the NAIA. Starting in 2018, the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association is the sole governing body of the NAIA Division. As the governing body, the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association is dedicated to the growth of college hockey at NAIA institutions, while is maintains operations and organizes a national championship for the existing NAIA Division programs.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) governs men’s and women’s varsity and club level college hockey programs. In all, the ACHA sponsors 500 varsity and club level teams across 49 states. As hockey continues to grow in the United States, the ACHA is dedicated to supporting women’s hockey as an early supporter of the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association’s mission.
In 2017, the ACHA and NAIA Hockey Coaches Association established a new division, the NAIA Division. During the inaugural 2017-18 season, the ACHA governed the NAIA Division. Before the start of the 2018-19 season, it was announced that the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association would take over governance of the NAIA Division. This early effort by the ACHA to support NAIA hockey programs contributed to the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association’s goal to restore hockey as a championship NAIA sport.
The NCAA created the National Collegiate division, which is a women’s college hockey division that includes both Division 1 and 2 programs. There are 36 National Collegiate women’s hockey teams organized into four conferences; College Hockey America, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East and Western Collegiate Hockey Association. While these is no Division 2 championship for women’s ice hockey, the NCAA rules allow Division 2 schools to compete against Division 1 teams when a sport only offers Divisions 1 and 3 champions.
To learn about each of these schools and where they rank, visit NCSA’s Power Rankings which analyzes schools size, cost, academics, graduation rate and more. View the top D1 women’s ice hockey colleges.
The majority of NCAA women’s hockey teams are classified as Division 3 programs. Though these programs do not offer athletic scholarships, Division 3 schools are a great option for academically driven athletes who want to remain competitive athletes in college. The NCAA offers 67 Division 3 women’s college hockey programs that span the Northeast and Upper Midwest regions.
Student-athletes can check out NCSA’s Power Rankings for a look at the best D3 colleges for women’s hockey. NCSA ranks the best women’s hockey colleges by analyzing each school’s size, location, cost, athletics and academics.
Due to an increase in NAIA programs migrating to NCAA schools, the NAIA ended its sponsorship of women’s hockey in 1984.
In an effort to revive women’s hockey, the new NAIA Division was formed by the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association and ACHA leadership team. This division includes all four NAIA varsity hockey programs. The inaugural 2017-18 season was governed by the ACHA, before announcing in 2018 that the NAIA Division would continue under the sole governance of the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association at the start of the 2018-19 season. This change in governance is the next phases in the North American Intercollegiate Hockey Association (NAIHA) and the NAIA Hockey Coaches Association’s larger plan to re-establish hockey as an NAIA championship sport.
To be sponsored by the NAIA and gain national championship status, hockey must be offered at a minimum of 40 varsity institutions, complete in at least two National invitational and receive NAC approval. The NAIHA and NAIA Hockey Coaches Association aim to build upon the four existing NAIA hockey programs and ultimately achieve championship status within the NAIA.
Currently, neither men’s nor women’s hockey is not offered at junior colleges. In 2017, the NJCAA hosted the final men’s ice hockey national championship.
Division 1: 23 teams in 3 conferences
Division 2: 41 teams in 4 conferences
The American Collegiate Hockey Association governs 64 women’s club hockey programs. The majority of these programs are located in the Northeast region, but student-athletes looking to play outside of that region have options in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado and California.
ACHA rosters are generally filled with student-athletes who wish to remain competitive in college, those that are late bloomers and athletes that NCAA coaches failed to recruit. While ACHA teams are inclusive of all skill levels, they usually hold try out to fill roster spots. Practice is generally scheduled for three to four times a week with home and away competitions on the weekends.
When looking for the right college fit, student-athlete care about more than just a school’s athletic program. To help student-athletes make the most educated decision on where to attend college based on factors that are important to them, we have a ranking system that factors in location, academics, size, cost and athletics to provide athletes with a well-rounded picture of the best women’s ice hockey colleges. Athletes can see a full list of ranked colleges by visiting our NCSA Power Rankings page. Below are the top 10 women’s hockey colleges: