Conference’s athletic directors vote unanimously for award’s name change
The New England Hockey Conference, after a unanimous vote of its athletic directors, has renamed its postseason championship cups the Mariano Cup in honor of Tony Mariano, Norwich University’s longtime athletics director.
The Mariano Cup will be awarded to the winning program from both the NEHC Men’s and Women’s Tournament, which starts Feb. 16.
Mariano has been Norwich’s athletic director for 30 years and has served in athletic department roles for more than four decades. He’ll retire in May when the 2021-22 academic year ends.
Beyond Norwich, Mariano has served on the New England Hockey Conference’s Executive Committee for more than 10 years, helping lead the organization’s rebranding and incorporation.
“It’s very fitting that this award is named for Tony, he is an outstanding leader, mentor, and a calm but passionate voice for the sport and all student-athletes. I congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.” Al Bean, University of Southern Maine athletic director
“I am truly humbled and honored to have the NEHC Championship Cups for men and women to be named the Mariano Cup,” Mariano said. “The NEHC and ice hockey have been a very special part of my life and the athletic directors of our member institutions have been an outstanding group to work and be associated with. Our commissioner, Katie Boldvich, has done an amazing job of administering our conference and has helped develop the NEHC into the best hockey conference in the country.”
Boldvich said, “I’d say this trophy has been the Mariano Cup for several years now, we are only making it official. Tony has left an undeniable mark on the sport of ice hockey, especially at the Division III level and within our NEHC footprint. I am proud his legacy and love of the sport will be commemorated annually with these trophies.”
The cups, standing more than 2½ feet tall and weighing more than 20 pounds, were purchased at the beginning of the 2019-20 season as legacy trophies. They’ll rotate annually and be displayed at the championship program’s home.
The men’s championship winners on the trophy date back to 1966; the women’s winners date back to 2002.
University of Southern Maine Athletic Director and New England Hockey Conference Executive Committee member Al Bean said Mariano has been NCAA Division III Hockey’s unofficial leader in New England for years and an important national voice for the sport.
“He has helped to guide us all and has been instrumental in the development of the NEHC since its inception,” Bean said. “It's very fitting that this award is named for Tony, he is an outstanding leader, mentor, and a calm but passionate voice for the sport and all student-athletes. I congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”
The quest for the Mariano Cup begins Feb. 16 with first-round games. Quarterfinals will follow on Feb. 19 and semifinals on Feb. 26.
The NEHC Men’s and Women’s Championship games will take place March 5.
Norwich University aims to defend both the men’s and women’s title after winning their 2019-20 campaigns. The Norwich men have won the conference championship 14 times overall and thrice in the last four contested seasons. The Norwich women have won the conference title 10 times including the last four in a row.
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