Nobody will likely mistake Don Lucia for Indiana Jones anytime soon, not even if the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner buys one of those cool brown fedoras and starts carrying a bullwhip.
But as we approach the first puck drop for the latest incarnation of the CCHA, Lucia and his staff have completed their quest to find a historic chalice that had been lost to the mists of college hockey history, for a time anyway. And they found it in, of all places, Indiana.
On Wednesday, the CCHA revealed the trophy that will go to their annual playoff champion. The Mason Cup was a familiar sight for those who followed the previous version of the CCHA. From 2001 until the old conference’s end in 2013, the Mason Cup went to the CCHA’s playoff champion each year.
Named after legendary coach Ron Mason, who collected 924 wins at Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Michigan State, the trophy was last won by Notre Dame in 2013. That year, the Irish beat Michigan at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, to win the final playoff title in the old CCHA.
Mason, who died in 2016 at age 76, started the Lake Superior State program and coached the Lakers to a NAIA national title in 1972. At Michigan State, he led the Spartans to the 1986 national championship. He retired from coaching in 2002 and was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.
Flash forward to 2021, when the higher-ups in the new CCHA were looking for trophies. With Michigan Tech bringing the MacNaughton Cup to the new conference, they had a regular season prize covered. They needed a playoff trophy.
Lucia called St. Thomas coach Rico Blasi, whose Miami team had won the CCHA’s regular season title in 2013. Blasi didn’t know what had happened to the playoff trophy. Then Lucia recalled that his son, Mario, had played for Notre Dame in 2013. So the father and son had actually hoisted the Mason Cup in celebration the last time it was won on the ice, that Sunday in Detroit. Lucia called a friend in Notre Dame’s hockey office.
“He said, ‘Yeah we have it, we’re the seven-time defending champions, apparently,’ because they’d had the trophy for seven years,” Lucia said, with a laugh. The next chore was finding out a way to get it into the hands of the CCHA officials.
As luck would have it, Bob Moosbrugger — the athletic director at CCHA member Bowling Green — was driving back to Ohio from Omaha, where last month he had attended the NCAA volleyball finals. About an hour outside of South Bend on Interstate 80, Moosbrugger called Lucia and offered to stop by Compton Family Ice Arena and grab the hardware.
“So we ended up with two pretty good trophies, and we’re pretty happy about it,” Lucia said.