The founding members of Atlantic Hockey formerly played hockey as members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). In 2003 core MAAC members Iona and Fairfield ended their hockey programs, leaving Canisius as the only full MAAC member playing hockey. This led to problems for the hockey schools in their attempts to get legislation approved by the MAAC, whose rules only allowed full members to vote. On June 30, 2003 the decision was made by the nine remaining schools to break with the MAAC and form a new hockey conference, the Atlantic Hockey Association, which assumed the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament formerly held by the MAAC.
Quinnipiac left Atlantic Hockey at the conclusion of the 2004-05 season, opting to play in ECAC Hockey when a vacancy opened with Vermont's departure. Late in 2004 RIT decided to elevate its hockey program to Division 1 and joined Atlantic Hockey, starting with the 2006-07 season. Air Force then announced its move to Atlantic Hockey during the 2005-06 season, entering the league with RIT in 2006-07. Further additions occurred, as both Robert Morris and Niagara became members in 2010, moving over from the defunct College Hockey America.
In NCAA Tournament action Holy Cross scored a major upset in 2006, defeating Minnesota in the first round and proving that, even if Atlantic Hockey schools lose more than win against the big schools, they should not be treated as lightweights. This improvement in play led to two teams making the NCAA Tournament in 2013, a first for the conference. Connecticut left in 2014 to join the other New England state schools in Hockey East, the most recent change in membership.
|2003-04||Conference formed by the nine remaining teams from MAAC hockey: American International, Army, Bentley, Canisius, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Quinnipiac & Sacred Heart|
|2004-05||Quinnipiac left after the season for the ECAC.|
|2006-07||Air Force joined from College Hockey America and RIT joined, previously an independent.|
|2010-11||Robert Morris and Niagara joined from College Hockey America.|
|2013-14||Connecticut left after the season for Hockey East.|
|2019-20||The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Atlantic Hockey tournament to be canceled after the first round.|
|2020-21||Final season for Robert Morris, which stopped sponsoring varsity hockey.|